Rusia Bariho, Founder & Managing Director, Oribags Innovations Ltd., Uganda

Words of Wisdom:  “Commitment. We often make promises by we are not committed to them.” – Rusia Bario

Interview with Rusia Bariho, Founder & Managing Director, Oribags Innovations Ltd., Uganda

Rusia Bariho, Founder & Managing Director, Oribags Innovations Ltd., Uganda

Rusia Bariho is Founder and Managing Director of Oribags Innovations Ltd, is a social and environmental enterprise dealing in the manufacture of eco paper bags from agricultural fibers and wastes. Rusia is also the Executive Director and cofounder of United Foundation of Entrepreneurial Skills for Development (UFED Uganda) a non-profit community based organization that promotes the spirit of entrepreneurship among youth and women. She represents young female entrepreneurs at the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association (UWEAL).

Rusia is a renowned, youth/women entrepreneurial advocate, environmentalist among many other things.  She scooped the Ugandan young entrepreneur achievers’ award of 2010. Rusia has won many international awards for her entrepreneurship over the last five years. More recently she received The International Alliance of Women – World of Difference Award as a young woman leader in the category of under 25 years of age, which was awarded in October 2011.

Rusia Bariho ~ YouTube promo video (approx. 4 min.)

Oribags Innovations website

Rusia Bariho, Founder & Managing Director, Oribags Innovations Ltd., Uganda

Note: The key messages in the interview have been transcribed and slightly altered for legibility and succinctness. More information is provided in the audio and video version above. Please comment on the site, we want to hear your wisdom!

[ Suzanne F Stevens ]: What was the catalyst for starting Oribags?

[ Rusia Bariho ]: Being young I wanted to start a business that was unique and could be sustainable for years.

  • I wanted to create a business where I could apply myself, and that would help me to look after my siblings, as my father and mother have been peasants for years.
  • I wanted to transforming the family and create an address for my family
  • Starting something on my own that would be environmentally friendly, while considering the market in Uganda. I am happy to be in fifth year.
  • It is great to start a business young when you have the energy and motivation.

[ Suzanne ]: What impact did your parents have on you?

[ Rusia ]:

  • My parents grew up in a rural setting
  • My entire family is invested in the business, and it is not because of our parents as they where not very educated and they did not have a lot of land. Without education and land in Uganda you are not recognized.
  • Because of Oribags I have been able to establish a network, which is extremely important in growing a business. Oribags has helped us with the Del – Agro Business –the farm we are on.
  • I do believe you can start young regardless of your family background. By the time I am 40 I will have accomplished so much.

You are 26 now, and started Oribags at 21?

  • Yes, although I started many retail and wholesale businesses, it is not until I became focused on one line of business, and study my business to see what could sustain me over the years did I start to flourish.
  • Also I had help from my mentors. My grandfather funded my education and looked after me. He guided me.
  • As a lady from the village, to ‘break it’ internationally – although I haven’t ‘made it’ internationally I know I will make it, because I know where I am going.

What gave you so much confidence at such a young age to start this business?

  • Based on my experience in my village a woman was to be in the kitchen, look after the babies. She never had a strong voice. She never had the respect in the community. Watching my mom looking after us and the environment I grew up in motivated me. Also being a rural lady that went to a modern school forced me to be shrewd and tell people that I also exist. The history of mom, and the community setting I grew up in shaped me to be who I am today.
  • I believe when you are a woman and you are sharp and have information you can make it better then a man.
  • My shrewdness, confidence and hard work has made me successful.

What were some of the challenges you had when you started your business, and how did you overcome them?

  1. Financial because I had no collateral security.
  2. Getting to know government officials. We needed the government to assist. So since I wasn’t well connected it was difficult to deal with the bureaucrats. Sometimes the aspirations of the government are different then your private motives. Sometimes we would need things quickly and the government would take too long to assist.
  3. Not having many successful women in business to learn from. The few available are not accessible. I need people to connect me. I would like to work with women, but often the ones that are successful are rarely seen.
  4. There are few women in science and technology. I run a business that needs more research and development to be more successful. I need intellectual capacity, so when I seek it, I would get suffocated by a man.

I need connects. You will die with your idea if you don’t have strong networks. We need strong networks to succeed.

How do you add value to a product if you’re not informed? Or if you don’t have a network to help you, you will have difficulty succeeding.

To be successful you need:

  1. To know what you want, because you need to know what to ask for.
  2. You need networks to connect to the right people to assist with learning, cutting through the bureaucracy.

How did you deal with bureaucracy?

I was very shrewd. Once you find a contact in the government you have to find the information to assist you. I would get to learn about the contact and find out what their priorities are in government. I incorporated what they wanted into my project.

  • They contact needs to know you are very serious and they need to know what you want is inline with what they want to achieve.
  • You cannot take long to get the information needed by the government or someone else will come in and take your opportunity.
  • You need to show that your idea is unique and inline with their priorities.
  • I want to assist them with their objectives by becoming the leading research institution in the country.

What continues to motivate you?

  1. Personal development
  2. Employing many people
  3. Seeing my family transform over the last few years.

How did you find a husband so focused and determined as you?

  • I could have inspired him, but I don’t know.
  • If you are moral lady, you have dignity and you are shrewd to what you want and respect the concept of a family, there is no man that would not identify with you.
  • Because I am from a poor family, and if I stayed the way I was, I probably would not have attracted the man I married.
  • The fact that I was successful in business, I was hard working and I am sure he studied me.
  • To be successful in business I believe we need our husbands. We need love.

What advice would give to young people in school?

  1. To enhance your individual talents.
  2. Identify what you want and make sure you have the passion for it and you excel at it.
  • Most of the people I employ are not educated, but what is interesting is they have high output. They tend to output more than the graduates.
  • If you have a lower education, use that education to help you produce a service or product.
  • Education without output is useless. The education should help to tap existing resources according to what is available in the country you live. That is when you will be an asset to the economy.

You became an entrepreneur right from school, would that be your recommendation?

Yes, if you sit down and take time to invest in critical thinking and decide what can you do according to the existing opportunities in the community and the environment that you live and what can last for many generations.

How do you manage people that are your elders?

  • It is not a challenge because once they join the organization they see we have a system that is successful and they need to follow it.  If they know you are an achiever, they will embrace what you do. They too want to make a difference and if you can help them do that, they are open to your business practices.
  • I have trained them in some skill development.

What type of person do you hire?

  • Papermaking – I look for someone who has tertiary education. We look to countries and peoples who have advanced technology.
  • Many of our people do not have a lot of education so we also look for:
  1. Skills to produce and create output.
  2. Communication skills.
  3. Marketing skills.
  4. Are they are trustworthy. You can’t buy it.
  5. Dignity of the person. Do they respect themselves?

What are some associations that you belong to make connections?

What do you think is the most significant impact you have made in your career to date?

Self-employment and empowering other people through what I know.

If you could attribute your success to one thing, what would it be?

Commitment and hard work. Hard work will be able to achieve your vision while empowering someone else. Hard work is patience and diligence.

Edgeness Insight (An enhanced version of you when you push the edge of your comfort zone). What is something that you are uncomfortable doing, but you need to continue to do, in order to make you as successful as you are?

Dealing with bureaucrats. I have had a challenge accessing finances such as loans and grants. I need the bureaucrats, as practitioner in private sector I need them although they make me uncomfortable. Because I am a going to be an agent for transformation, I have to take those uncomfortable moments and make them positive realities.

What has been the most significant decision you have made in your career?

Economically empower and create employment opportunities for others. And stand up and make a difference as a woman. Not to seek public employment.

Leadership Lessons Learned – Rusia Bariho

  1. To be an example. When your are exemplary the results will be realistic
  2. Commitment. We often make promises but we are not committed to them.
  3. As a women we offer a lot, we need to earn a lot. We need to benefit from our initiative. That is when we will be leading agents of transformations.

If there were one thing you would do differently in pursuit of your success, what would it be?

Women as the greatest givers of humanity, we must embrace entrepreneurship if economically empower ourselves.

I would have taken entrepreneurship at the bachelors level.

What is next for you?

I am now focusing on how to be a transformer to other people’s lives. Money is not an end in itself. Develop my business in other countries. And develop with my family – as I need love to change others lives.

Given the chance what would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?

Travel the world and meeting women associations and see how women address the world. What activities are they doing for women empowerment? See how they embrace change and perceive leadership. See how other women are implementing their transformation.

Reflective Realizations from Rusia Bariho

Q. What advice would you give to your 10 yr. old daughter?

Encourage her to develop her individual talent. I would not dictate to her.

Q What do you wish you were told at 11yrs?

Encourage me and participate in what I do.

Words of Wisdom by Rusia Bariho

 Work hard and network. As individual woman we cannot do it ourselves. Have patience and be trustworthy, as you cannot buy either of them.

 


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    1 Response to "Rusia Bariho"

    • Specioza Suruma

      Good Job Rusia, hang in there .

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