Maria E. Auma is the founder of Blue Luxury Investments, an investment management company that provides finance and capacity building services to African businesses. This young entrepreneur started her business in 2014 and has since worked closely with African entrepreneurs and private investors in developing strategy, business plans and fundraising.
Maria desires to inspire women out there who are thinking of venturing into business or who are simply looking for the strength to persevere in their business. She currently lives in Kampala, Uganda and enjoys learning about investments, interacting with businesses and investors and finding suitable matches for businesses.
Can you tell us more about your business and how long it has been in existence?
Blue Luxury Investments is an investment management company that focuses on deal sourcing and subsequent investment in viable ventures. The business demonstrates a clear return on equity whilst leaving a positive social impact on the sector in which the project is operating.
Our primary market is Africa, promoting areas of infrastructural development, clean energy, and technology advancement among others. We are passionate about developmental projects and align ourselves with key stakeholders in relevant economic sectors.
What has been your favourite goal that you have achieved so far and which one are you most excited to complete in the future?
I have to say that becoming self-employed is one of my favorite goals. This means that I get to grow-up. I am more aware of life and its challenges, and I take responsibility for my actions and the ripple effect it has on people around me. Having a business gives you some clarity on management and the oh-so-exciting experience of wooing a client. Close to that is graduating college and pursuing my Masters Degree.
For the future, we are spending all our energy setting up a fund for African businesses at the moment. We are optimistic that this fund will contribute to the economic growth of Africa as a whole while socially impacting lives of people that their businesses get funded.
You help people turn their dream business to reality, what would you say are the main fears that stop people from chasing their dreams?
Fear of failure (risking everything with no guarantees): People are first of all afraid to dip their toes in the water because they have a well-paying job that takes care of all the bills and then some. Making that decision to say good bye to a salary is a very bold and mature move and not to be taken lightly, because the odds of you succeeding are really zero to one, if any.
Fear of the unknown: It’s hard to determine whether the business you are running now will not be disrupted by some new generation idea, technology, or nationalization. The only advice that can be given is to be in constant flux. Always be ready for change and able to change.
What would you reckon are the three skills that successful entrepreneurs possess?
Each entrepreneur is unique in their own right and may have a set of skills they are good at and those that they are in less abundance of. However, to be successful it helps if you practice the following skills:
It is important to note that time wasted is like spilled milk. You can never get it back. Even before your business kicks off, you need to practice the art of managing and taking control of your time.
Do not let others set your schedule for you, otherwise you become their employee and not your own. Your business needs you to take care of, and nurture it, the same way a growing child needs its parents to be there and shower them with affection.
Know your worth
It’s nice to give charity and offer your time to good causes when you have the extra time to spare and when you can afford it. But when you get down to business, do not let anyone boss you around about how much they think you are worth for your services or products.
Perhaps the first step is to determine your worth, and then bill accordingly. If you keep on giving away tiny bits of yourself for free in business, you will eventually have nothing to give, and will wonder why all the time you have invested into growing your business is not bearing significant fruit.
Stand up for what you believe to be right, whether it is your morals and beliefs or simply the way you conduct your business. It’s okay to not always follow the straight road, as long as you are comfortable with it.
This is business, anything goes all the time. There are no rules set in stone that people follow. So try not to beat yourself about certain decisions you make, or worry much about consequences. Life is meant to have mistakes, and we are meant to learn from them.
What three tips would you give someone starting a business?
Plan and Research: It’s important to have a business plan for whatever business you are getting into. Feasibility studies and SWOT analyses help businesses determine the viability of their businesses in competitive environments, so take them seriously.
Adequate finances: Make sure to have saved up enough to start your business. You may decide to fund-raise from close family and friends, which is alright. However create an estimated budget of how much you will need to get the business starting at least, and then may be look at breaking even.
Surround yourself with positive thinkers: It is important to interact with others who are doing business but who are thinking positively and creatively. You do not want to dampen your spirits and drive for the business in its early days by being around people that only complain about one challenge after another.
What excites you most about what you do?
The fact that we get to meet new people, opportunity to travel a little, work with different types of businesses and constantly learning something new, excites us. The thought of being part of a successful business, creating employment opportunities and economic growth gives us passion to get up every morning to face the day.
What is your memorable day?
My memorable day was when I finally got a partner to share the workload with. Previously I would run the business by myself with a few consultants and independent partner companies, but this did not help the stress of having to run a company and deal with the pressure of deadlines.
Now that I have a partner, it is such a relief to know that they can share that anxiety and dream of direction with me, and that I am finally not alone on my journey.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.