Audrey Kahara-Kawuki, Founder &  Director, Zebra Solutions Ltd, Kampala, Uganda

Words of Wisdom: “Believe in yourself, then others will believe in you and follow you.” – Audrey Kahara-Kawuki

Interview with Audrey Kahara-Kawuki, Founder &  Director, Zebra Solutions Ltd., Kampala, Uganda

Audrey Kahara-Kawuki, Founder &  Director, Zebra Solutions Ltd., Kampala, Uganda

Audrey is a professional trainer with a focus on enterprise development trainings for women. She has designed training programs, developed training materials and carried out training in different areas including Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Loan Management, Book Keeping, Entrepreneurship Development, Business Planning, Human Resource Management Export training etc. 

While a lecturer at Masters and Bachelors degree levels in Makerere University Business School, where she has seen thousands of women graduate, she started the Entrepreneurship Centre in the in 1998 which focuses on SMEs development with special attention to women.

Audrey has received recognition in many of her initiatives. Two of the most recent acknowledgements are:
Meritorious award from the School Council in recognition of her outstanding contribution of major impact to the School and Society May 2011. The international Alliance of Women – World of difference Award for – in education, which will be awarded in Oct 2011.

Audrey Kahara-Kawuki, Founder &  Director, Zebra Solutions Ltd., Kampala, 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 do you see as some of the big knowledge gaps for women in business?

[ Audrey Kahara-Kawuki ]:

  1. There is a belief that it is financial, but it actually is not.
  • Most women have access to finances; the bigger challenge is the way they run their business. Management is the most important.
  • As women we have multiple roles. So we need to know how to manage our time. Prioritize your tasks. This is important to manage your business and your home.

[ Suzanne ]: What are some of the skills and techniques women should employ to become better managers?

[ Audrey ]:

  1. Learn time management
    • Need to write a to do list every day. Decide how much time you will allocate to each item on that list.
  2. Women need to learn how to manage their own books. Women often hire an accountant to manage their books, and when they do, they hire a man. It is important that you know what is happening in your business. If you are going to hire an accountant, hire a woman.

How do you manage the extensive to do list?

It is important to prioritize.

  • You need know what is important to you and what is urgent.
  • Some things may be urgent, but not important.
  • Focus on the things that are important and make sure you do those first.
  • In the African content, there are too many things that are urgent, but not important.
    • For example: your friend has lost a grandmother and you feel the pressure to go to the burial. Your attendance is not important. You may have other important and urgent things to do. You can go a different day to sympathize. As a woman we have to make these choses, travel to days or meet other commitments.

Once a woman is successful in business what do you see as some of the skills still required to grow their business?

Many women get to the top, the bigger issue is how to manage that success is very critical.

  • Many never get the opportunity to learn how to manage success. Power gets to you. Many women miss manage money, mistreat workers, they start stepping back from their businesses.
  • This is where they need to master the management skills more, not less.
  • One-way to do that is have systems in their business to help their business get better and better. For Example:
    • How to keep your records. Everyone in the chain knows exactly what to do. How we write receipts, how money is accounted for, who balances books.
    • In a service business if a customer comes in there is a process. If there is a customer inquiry, there is a process on how to document it and manage it.
    • Everything should be document – both production side and financial side of the business.

Where do people learn how to but a processes to put into place?

There are many consultants that can assist. We do this at Zebra Solutions.

  1. Have a mentor. Some women have put processes in place very successfully.
  2. Business development providers.

What do you feel it would take to take to get a woman owned small and mid size business to the next level?

As women we are unfortunate, men have many places they may network, golf coursed, go for a drink. While men are doing that we are rushing home to take care the children.

  • It is critical for women to build strong networks. Be part of professional associations; Don’t miss those meetings as they are important.
  • Use the internet, Facebook, linked in or twitter to connect with other women.
  • Any social event, create the time to be there. This will help build your business.  You need to create customers and you do that by attending networking activities. 

What are some strategies for “Creating a Customer?”

  1. Telling them what you sell.
  2. Explain the benefits of what you sell. The uniqueness of what you sell.
  3. Once you get the customer, never let them go!

                                     i.       Pamper them,

                                    ii.       Follow up with them. Never let them go.

                                   iii.       By making one customer happy you will get 10 more customers. By annoying one customer you will loose 100 customers.

What are some of the positive characteristics of successful entrepreneurs?

  1. All entrepreneurs set Goals. No matter where they are from in the world, they all are goal setters.
  2. They are persistent
  3. They are moderate risk takers
  4. There self-confidence is so high
  5. They are good at networking. You will not find them hiding. They are out there socializing, talking to people, that is how they get opportunities and how they are able to create customers.
  6. Very good at seeking opportunities. They are looking for opportunities; they find opportunities not by copying others, but by looking at problems that exist in the market- place. What is the gap in the market?
  7. Entrepreneurs are also persuasive.

There are a few more characteristics.

The Dark side of Entrepreneurs

  1. Sometimes they persist too much, which means they can loose a lot of money.
  2. When it comes to persuasion, some miss use it.

What skills would help women become better leaders?

  1. To succeed as a leader, you need to allow others to work with you. You need to know how to build a team.
  • It is good to go out with your staff. Remove yourself from the work environment. People open up outside the work environment, and you will learn how to relate with them better.
  1. Interpersonal skills
  • Sometimes people take advantage of our empathy. We need to know where to draw the line. We need to ensure we are always being a good leader, while at the same time of being good to our staff.

Do you have any advice on how to be an affective networker?

I read a book that suggested that you go to a shopping mall with the objective of meeting 5 people. Greet them by smiling and tell them something about what you do. You can get over the nervous of networking. Great way to get over your fear. Do that for five Saturdays.

What are two suggestions you have for sustainability in agriculture & post harvest handling?

  1. Post harvest handling – this starts when your crops are still in the field. Example: maize, It is important to get it at the right moisture content. Make sure it handled in a good way. Don’t throw it on the ground and it gets dirty, or this will cause crop losses. The handling needs to start right from the time you are harvesting from the garden, so it is done in a clean way. When you are drying it, you are doing it on a clean surface. When you are keeping it you are storing it in the right moisture content. It should be raised off the floor.  All are key steps.
  2. Pest Control – In Africa a crop rotation works best. If you plant beans in this plot this year, then next year plant something else. Don’t plant something that is the family of beans. Perhaps plant potatoes. So the pests that feed on beans will go down the following season. Because the pests wont have anything to feed on, the population will die. That is the best way to control pests. Then you can plant beans the following year.
  • Another way is to plant cotton and maize. This is more the biology approach where by intercrop planting, one pests feeds on the other pests of the other crop you are growing.

      3. Agriculture sustainability – Crop rotation is one way of dealing with sustainability.

  • Another is by growing crops and rearing cattle. You get dung from the animals and use it as manure and it sustains the fertility of the soil. Then the crop feeds the cattle. It is circular.

What do you feel is the most significant impact you have made on your career?

Wherever I have been, I left a mark. I coordinated initiatives with the main objective of empowering women and such projects included the Jinja Women’s Heifer Project with the main objective of “Enhancing Women’s Status through Dairy Heifer Farming and Ownership” This project is has helped with sustainability in agriculture, provided family life education and home hygiene. This is still running.

Also working with a lot of women that are now successful entrepreneurs.

When training people, how do you prepare for it?

  • There is no short cut. I prepare, prepare, prepare.
  • I like to know at least two weeks in advance. I need to prepare psychology, consult with others.
  • Make sure my examples are relevant to the group.
  • Learn what will offend them, and make sure I avoid those words or topics.
  • You should go to the training room a day before. Make sure everyone can see. Lighting is right for room.Know when the breaks are to be. Sounds small, but very important.

How do you measure success of a program when you are complete?

  • Many people evaluate their success on the feedback forms, but I measure it based on my feeling. How I feel at the end to the program is critical to me. If your participants engage with you at break you know you are doing well.
  • I like to get an evaluation every day so you can adjust your training techniques prior to the end of the program.

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?

When presented with audience that I am not use to. I am more comfortable with business people. These are good challenges, however, because it stretches outside my comfortable zone,  but still they are uncomfortable.

Sometimes presenting to people whom have more experience.

Did you ever feel an initiative that didn’t work and what did you learn from it.

I was asked to consulting on training skills and find out to see what organizations are training in and I was to come up with a report.  I confirmed with others if the objectives where met. I gave it a draft to my client, who circulated it. One of the team of my client was very vocal about the incompetency of the report.  Used very vocal and vulgar language that affected me.

The rest of the feedback was positive, however I seemed to be consumed with the negative feedback. Apparently this gentleman was often negative.

I didn’t deal with it very well, as I didn’t sleep. I still, however, prefer to continue to have feedback.

What are some suggestions on how to provide feedback?

When giving feedback make sure it is clear, so other person knows whom it is coming from.

How do you deal with negative feedback?

Know where someone is coming from when you are getting feedback.  Asking question when face-to-face can help.

What is the most significant thing that has happened to you or for you that had the most impacted on you career.

  • I do not give excuses for not doing something.
  • I consult with people a lot and I am not embarrassed to say I don’t know.
  • Read, evaluate yourself, and don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.

Two books you would recommend

  • Million Dollar Happiness by Brian Tracy – fantastic book.
  • The Munk who sold their Ferrari

What is the biggest obstacle that you have on your career to date?

Balance family and my work. I am still working on stop working late a night. I work better in the night.  

How do you define leadership?

Having people that follow you that believe in you.

Leadership Lessons Learned – Audrey Kahara-Kawuki

  1. Do not micro manage. Let everyone be clear of their tasks and what you expect from them. Provide a time frame so you don’t have to ask every day where they are. Trust them to do the task and they will do it.
  2. You need to have four hands to hold you up. You need to have a strong team. One of those ways is to meet your staff outside of the work environment to help you bond the team.
  3. To be receptive to feedback.  We have something at the entrepreneur centre called “start, stop and maintain.”  Every person writes about another person about what they want you to start doing, stop doing and maintain doing. You don’t know who gave the feedback, but you are still receiving it. Sometimes you can’t change your weakness, as it can be difficult, but at least you can learn how to manage your weakness. You can mention to your team that you are aware of your specific weakness as it came out in the last “stop, start and maintain” and I would appreciate your assistance to manage it. 

What is next for you?

Helping mentor women in UWEAL (Uganda Women Entrepreneur Association Ltd.), as well as starting Zebra Solutions.

Given the chance, what would you like to do that you have not done yet?

Climb a mountain.

Reflective Realizations from Audrey Kahara-Kawuki

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

People shouldn’t describe who you are;  you should do that. You can do what you want to do. Being a woman should never stop you.

Q What do you wish you were told at 10 years old?

The same thing, others shouldn’t define who you are. 

Words of Wisdom by Audrey Kahara-Kawuki

 Believe in yourself, than others will believe in you and then follow you.
Have a mentor for different aspects of your life, family, work and social aspects life.



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    4 replies to "Audrey Kahara-Kawuki"

    • Ellen Boyko

      Hi Suzanne,
      Congratulations on another stellar interview! Question – what were the 2 books that Audrey recommends?

      Thanks! Ellen

      • Suzanne F Stevens

        Ellen, thanks for your comments! She does mention the books in the interview. Also they are listed on the pdf download too. Under the interview you will see a link to the pdf – they are there. I personally have read one of the books – The monk who stole the Ferrari, and a book by Brian Tracey.

    • Jacqueline

      hey Audrey!
      I hadn’t seen your face or heard your voice since high school and I was floored listening to this interview. What a pleasant surprise….so many words of wisdom for all women!!!! You are a blessing to your family and workmates and an inspiration for all African women.

    • Jane Agwaru

      What an educative interview! Audrey you summarised what many entrepreneur
      advice books do in under an hour.
      I loved your key note – Believe in yourself-as women what we lack most is control over ourselves and not prioritising. As you said; do what is important first not necessarily the urgent-this is one trait sometimes referred to as ‘being selfish’ in men. Perhaps this is one reason men are far ahead.
      Your advice Audrey applies to women for their day to day activities not just business-women must develop a business state of mind: be in control be positive and yes that to do list is very important.
      Congratulations on your achievements and best wishes for the future!

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