Sherifah Tumusiime: I love betting on women

Sometimes, the best reason to start a store is because you’re a shopaholic. At least that’s what Sherifah Tumusiime says. Computer scientist turned entrepreneur, Sherifah’s Baby Store UG is the first specialty retail e-commerce website for baby products and apparel in Uganda.

In addition to this hustle, Sherifah is also the CEO of  Zimba Group, an AdTech company that provides technical and software solutions for SMEs. When SLA caught up with Sherifah, we learned what skills multi-taskers need to thrive and what retirement looks like for the Motherland Mogul.

How did you find your way into entrepreneurship?

I’ve always had an affinity for entrepreneurship I think. My first ever venture was selling breakfast waffles to people in my mum’s office. I was 16 at the time.

I’d asked her for an increase in my allowance and she challenged me to think of a way to use whatever I had at my disposal in the house to make money. We had an idle waffle maker so I got cooking and she got selling.

Tell us more about Baby Store UG. Why start a store selling baby products and apparel?

I started the Baby Store in 2012, I have always wanted to have a store —I am a shopaholic. I love shopping. Having a baby informed the decision to make it a baby store.

I started out selling on Facebook and delivering out of the boot of my car in 2012, but that got hectic. I was overwhelmed by orders, so I set up a physical store in a mall in the middle of town. I was still fully employed as well.

Then the overhead costs of the physical location got too high, I was hardly available, and the shop wasn’t really making money. I closed it and moved everything to storage but orders still came in, so I went back to delivering. Then I had the brilliant idea to move from Facebook to a space I could control, my own website.

Why do you think the shop wasn’t making money even as orders still came in?

It was a problem of mismanagement.

I didn’t have enough time to do things like stock taking and inventory sourcing since I was still working full time.

How do you manage running all your hustles?

Honestly, extreme multitasking. I am always doing many things at a go.

It also helps that most of them are aligned in a way and that I am extremely passionate about them. I believe that if you have the will, there is always a way.

Diaper cakes are Baby Store UG’s specialty

What three skills does a woman need to be an extreme multitasker?

  • Time management and punctuality. That is really key. If you are not in charge of your time then everything will fall apart easily.
  • Discipline, ensure that you complete a task when you set out to do it.
  • Attitude, which is not a skill per say but one needs to maintain a positive disposition always. Otherwise, it’s easy to get bogged down by everything that will come your way.

What cheers you up during the days when you’re down?

That’s a no-brainer. My daughter.

As Zimba Women provides business capacity for women entrepreneurs, what have you found women entrepreneurs get wrong when it comes to technology?

It is not what women get wrong but rather a lack of awareness. Most women just simply do not know how technology can be used to better their businesses and I’m not talking about complex things.

For example, just using excel for your book keeping. There are even templates for all sorts of businesses but few people know this and this is an issue that cuts across both sexes but more so for women.

There is also a fear of tech. We are afraid of what we do not understand so most women who don’t understand technology are inherently afraid of it.

I think because tech is still a mystery to most. There’s a lot of work to be done demystifying technology and it’s workings to women.

When do you see yourself retiring?

I don’t think I can “retire” or at least, not in the way most people do it. There’s still so much work to be done. Especially uplifting the women on this continent.

I see myself still working with women entrepreneurs. At the end of it all, I’ll probably end up as a Venture Capitalist, investing in women-owned businesses. I love betting on women.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

4 simple hacks for combining motherhood & entrepreneurship

Having been an entrepreneur running a market research firm for eight years, I did not give too much thought to how I would handle motherhood and work. Juggling, creating value, and keeping a keen eye on productivity were already familiar hurdles I had already crossed — or so I thought!

Very early into a somewhat complicated pregnancy, I knew that I would have to change certain aspects of my orientation if I was ever to be productive again; I don’t mean that as a hyperbole. Along with warmly welcoming motherhood, I was left wondering whether I could continue the business I had built. 

While it has been and still continues to be a wobbly journey to finding my footing as a CEO mommy, here are several tips I’ve picked up along the way, which can help to keep the lights on even as your little bub requires more and more from you.

1. Compartmentalize your life

Divide your days and hours into blocks and devote 100% of your time within any specific block to whatever task you’ve assigned it. One of the great things about being a business owner is the flexibility it allows — you are not restricted to a strict schedule of work.

If you have to make dinner by 6pm, play peek-a-boo with bubba till 8pm, and then hit that laptop till 11pm, then do it. Trying to answer emails while playing peek-a-boo is the key to being frustrated and burning out. Whatever you set out to do, try to be present for the time assigned to it.

2. Delegate with gusto

It will not be perfect and it may take longer, but it will be done and sometimes that’s what’s most important. At work, break tasks into little bits and ask colleagues, friends, family  — anyone—  to help you get those little bits done.

At home, take the time to build a support system and don’t be shy to accept help from loved ones or to voice requests for domestic help  — even if help doesn’t come in exactly the same format as it would if the task were completed by you.

There will be times when your spouse does not buy exactly the same diapers baby wears or the nanny does not feed the little one at the right time, but at least those tasks are done, and that truly is the big picture. motherhood

3. Ditch perfectionism

You will drop the ball. You will drop the ball more than once. There will be very little explanation (outside of yelling, “Can’t you see how busy my life is right now?”). Give yourself a little time to get back to your old levels of productivity.

Allow some lax time for deadlines and let those depending on you know that there will be just a little give or take. It is perhaps more important than ever to set yourself a task list except this time, success will look like crossing off two-thirds (or maybe even half?) of your list rather than the 100% get it done amazon that you are.

4. Prioritize Sleep

In this crazy world were everyone seems to be rushing to and fro, and there are incredibly much more tasks getting added than getting done, it may seem frivolous to be rigid about your beauty sleep. It is not.

Many studies have shown that sleep is one of the best ways to clear the mind (thereby increasing productivity), reduce stress, replenish depleted energy, and more (another is exercise). It can even help with weight loss!

If you are lucky and able, schedule in power naps and let everyone in your office know that you are not available during those hours. If you cannot, try to schedule in catch up naps during the weekend. Try just 20 minutes at a go for starters, and then increase gradually as you feel more confident about your sleep priority.

In the final analysis, what truly matters to all of us is that our loved ones are proud of us and proud of the person we’ve become along the way. No matter what your choices, your child will most likely look over your body of work and be proud of the courage it took to follow your dreams and fulfill your potential.

So don’t be afraid to explore and find your own rhythm —in whatever quirky combination— so long as it works for you and your family, then you will already be quite a success and inspiration!


Gloria Barasa: Balancing my baby with my startup

It was my last day at work and the first day of the next phase of my life. I had decided to become a full time entrepreneur and solely focus on building my own business.

My 10-month-old baby daughter would be my constant companion since my nanny was going away on leave at that time. This meant that it would take me longer than expected to get my business up and running.

Several weeks later, I now realize that setting up a business is a gradual process that requires time and dedication. Things also don’t always go as planned. Here is what I have learnt from my journey:

Have short, medium and long term goals

Dividing your goals into these categories will help you to focus while managing your time effectively. A popular acronym developed by George T. Doran is S.M.A.R.T. This means that all goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Practising this approach can be beneficial if adopted at the initial stages of business development. Overlooking any of the criteria could hamper progress and create frustration.

I, for example, wanted to have my company up and running in two weeks. However, this was not possible given my home situation. I was able to adjust accordingly and establish my company within a more realistic time frame.

In taking this approach, I quickly learnt that focusing on gaining a large customer base and revenue without fully building and understanding my business model would not work.

Adapt quickly

According to Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler in their Harvard Business Review article, Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage, a company must have its antennae tuned to signals of change from the external environment, decode them, and quickly act to refine or reinvent its business model, and even reshape the information landscape of its industry.

Going into the same industry as my previous employer, I initially believed that developing a similar work structure would lead to business success.  However, I realized that this approach would not be ideal given the lack of human and financial capital on my end.

I chose to adopt the most relevant aspects for my business such as customer relations. I opted to take a different approach on other aspects such as marketing.

Goals are moving targets

Business goals are moving targets.  You can’t afford to get comfortable as this leads to stagnation. It is important to be open to providing current market needs. Keep abreast of the happenings in your industry as well as related industries.

This can be done through reading business journals and articles, attending conferences with industry peers, or simply carrying out research to understand the latest developments in the market. As an entrepreneur you need to keep up with the ever-changing market needs.

Enjoy the ride

Make the most of your experiences. Learn from each of them. Don’t be consumed by the business, however, as this will result in stress. In order to avoid frustration devise various coping mechanisms.

According to Forbes magazine, this could be as simple as scheduling breaks throughout the day or focusing on other interests that are unrelated to your business. Most importantly, appreciate your family in this moment. In my case, being with my baby daughter was the best stress reliever I had and probably will ever have.

At the end of the day, my nanny being away turned out to be a blessing in disguise.