By Ivan Rugambwa
In 2007 DFCU Bank started an initiative known as the DFCU Women in Business program, the idea was that the bank would pioneer in creating a business enabling environment for women entrepreneurs with a special focus on small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) to flourish.
But not even the brains behind the program would have anticipated the kind of impact it has had on women businesses countrywide. Six years down the road, the program boasts of over 4000 women both groups and individuals who have been trained in business management with a majority now proud business owners with prospering businesses.
Miss Loy Ssenkole is one of the beneficiaries of the DFCU Women in Business program. She sells organic body Oils, which she personally manufactures under her company, – Miss Loy Beauty Cream products. Originally with a stock of only shs.2million, with a market base limited to Kampala alone, Miss Loy now boasts of shs.6 million worth business, and a market base extending to upcountry areas like Mbarara and Gulu, a remarkable improvement in a span of only two years.
She confesses that but for DFCU’s intervention, she could have probably have given up on what is now a prosperous business. She says that she started attending DFCU bank’s women in business trainings, which equipped her with business skills like saving, networking, and a lot of mentoring which has re-energized her business zeal.
“By the time I started attending the DFCU Women in Business trainings, I was thinking of quitting my business because things were not going well, But now, am very happy because my business is expanding every day.” She says before adding, “I thank DFCU very much.”
According to Mrs. Barbra Assiimwe, the head of SMEs and the Women in Business (WiB) program at DFCU bank, the WiB program targets women entrepreneurs under the categories of Agri-business, traders and professionals.
Barbra noted that as DFCU, they were cognizant of the fact that women were rarely successful business people because of particular barriers like their motherhood roles, less education compared to their male counterparts and that they were less likely to access credit because they most often luck collateral security, unlike their male counterparts.
She said that as a bank, they hoped that this initiative would help their female clients become successful business people.
She says that the bank trains prospective women entrepreneurs in various skills like building a relationship with their banker, saving, networking and business opportunities among others. She says that the bank also occasionally facilitates a number of women entrepreneurs for an overseas business trip, so as to share experiences and learn from other countries.
But the Bank does not only do training according to Mrs. Assimwe. It also provides ‘special’ loans to women entrepreneurs at their prime lending rate (21%), to enable their clients expand their business. She says that up to Shs. 250million can be given out to women entrepreneurs as long as they have a clear business plan, approved by the bank.
Miss Rachael Kemirembe another member of the WiB program says that after failing to secure a loan from the government’s youth fund, she was able to successfully secure a loan which she has used to expand her crafts business. She says, “I was very frustrated after fulfilling all the conditions to secure the youth fund, when I couldn’t get it.
Then as luck would have it, I was introduced to the DFCU special loan, which I acquired, and now my business is going places.” Now Rachel runs a successful crafts business, which she says she has started to export outside Uganda.
As such the bank on August 30th facilitated the inaugural DFCU women in business expo, comprising of over 40 women participants showcasing their various products to a bigger audience at Garden City-Kampala. According to Mrs. Assimwe, the expo was a networking opportunity for all entrepreneurs, those already established, those starting and the ones aspiring to get in business.
The bank’s efforts have also not gone unnoticed. As the only bank promoting women entrepreneurs, the bank has already won 2 international global words including the Global Banking Alliance award for 2009. The bank also early this year hosted other African banks in Kampala as a case study of a successful initiative of promoting women entrepreneurs.