A Look at Our Incredible Women: Meet Florence Ssebukyu

By Simon Kiragu and Davina Ngei 

Edited by Linda Davis PhD and Maureen Onyango

Florence is the founder of Empathy Uganda, an NGO based in Luwero District in central Uganda. The organization was built on the concept of sustainable agriculture; promoting food security, seed multiplication and clean energy adoption within the Luwero community. While working as a social worker in Caritas – a social services and economic development department of the Catholic church – Florence observed conflict amongst neighbours caused by the scarcity of firewood, at which point she realized the critical need for women to access affordable fuel to replace firewood and charcoal use. Since late-2017, Florence, through Empathy Uganda, on average trains a women’s group every month on briquette production for household use. She also provides training in marketing, customer care, record keeping and packaging. Currently, Florence works with 15 women’s groups, providing them with a reliable source of alternative fuels while opening new opportunities for income generation.

Even with her impressive reach of over 300 women briquette makers, Florence was faced with challenges in generating awareness and sales of briquettes within her community. Her current mentorship program with wPOWER is tailored towards developing a sales and marketing strategy.

Florence Ssebukyu (centre), with Production Manager Jane Nansukusa (left) and Empathy Member Jane Nabunya (right) at the Empathy Uganda workshop

Mentorship

Florence is working closely with her mentor, Mussie from Germany, to refine her marketing strategy in order to increase her sales. Before her mentorship engagement begun, she had restricted the packaging of her briquettes to 1 kg packets, but following guidance and advice from Mussie, she is now selling briquettes packaged into a variety of quantities ranging from 0.5 kgs to 25 kgs, meeting the demand of a variety of end users. In addition to selling these briquettes at a weekly market, Florence has begun employing door-to-door sales techniques through which customers who do not visit the market and have not interacted with the briquettes are engaged. These two changes have led to a substantial increase in sales, from 20-50 kgs of briquettes sold per month to 250 kgs per month, in a span of just 4 months.

Moreover, by embracing social media platforms to target additional markets, Empathy Uganda has has now extended its services to customers in Fort Portal which is approximately 300 kms away from Luwero. Moving forward, Florence has plans to expand beyond Uganda’s borders and venture into markets in Kenya and Rwanda. Additionally, she plans to start a sensitization campaign against domestic violence. This she believes is crucial for women who are victims of violence from spouses who feel ‘threatened’ when their wives engage in income generating activities.

“Whenever I am done with my mentorship session, I always ensure that I transfer what I’ve learnt to my colleagues and women’s groups. I implore other women in business to always endeavor to develop business connections and gather and share knowledge that will help propel their business to the next level. Mentorship provides the resilience and commitment necessary to face the challenges of business.”