Sherifah Tumusiime is one woman who is passionate about growth in her environs. This has led her, over the years, to provide support for not only SMEs, but also female entrepreneurs around her. In this interview, she talks about her drive as a leading lady and aspirations. Do enjoy it.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am the CEO and Co-founder of Zimba Group LTD, a start-up tech company based in East Africa providing technical and software solutions for SME’s that enable them to manage and scale their businesses more professionally. Zimba Group Ltd.’s flagship project, Zimba Women seeks to establish a business environment that provides full support of women entrepreneurs using technology. We are currently working with over 300 female entrepreneurs from the East African region (Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda)
With over 8 years of technology experience, I am also the founder of thebabystoreug.com, the first specialty retail e-commerce site for baby products and apparel in Uganda. Prior to this, I worked for Wipro Technologies, a global information technology, consulting and outsourcing company with 170,000+ workforce serving clients in 175+ cities across 6 continents as a Tools and Data Center Monitoring Team Lead as well as for MTN Uganda as a service desk administrator and NOC Engineer.
I have spoken at numerous international conferences like RightsCon in Silicon Valley and the Shoko Digital Festival in Harare. I am a certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow and a 2016 African School of Internet Governance Fellow.
I am passionate about entrepreneurship in Africa and using technology to build strong SME’s. As a woman and entrepreneur, one of my goals is to encourage more women to pursue their business ideas through the Zimba Women platform.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you chose to be one?
I think being an entrepreneur is difficult in spite of whatever gender you are really. I’ve always been enterprising so to speak so I don’t think there was a moment where I chose entrepreneurship. It’s something that I’ve always done.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
Zimba Women provides market information via digital channels and tools to engage in global trade. We provide expertise on accessing and using online platforms for trade. We focuses on delivering tailor made technical support adapted to the innovation needs of each individual entrepreneur.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Resilience and focus. There have been quite a number of highs and lows and the only way that my team and I have been able to get through all of them is by being resilient and never losing sight of our long term goals.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
As females, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and I can authoritatively say this having worked with hundreds of them now, our biggest unique challenge is having to balance between being the primary caregivers and running a business. We have to fit in many moulds and are expected to excel at all of them.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Humility: to always be able to empathize with others and walk in their shoes is extremely important to me. Integrity: to always to be able to tell the truth in all situations. Courage: to be able to take risks and go where others have never gone before to ensure the success of my team and ventures.
I believe that to lead is to serve for in organizational life, the goal of serving isn’t just service, its results. I have daring aspirations for both my teams because I know that the growth of the organizations I lead depend on the growth of the individual team members within.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I’ve always been intrigued by technology from a young age. My mother works in tech as well so I guess that largely influenced me as well.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what kept you going?
Challenges unique to online businesses faced in the beginning. Trust: People don’t trust the internet. They think items are fake, that
delivery won’t happen or that they will be stuck with items yet we have a return policy. Overcoming that challenge: It was a matter of winning over customer by customer. We have been building this name for years. Also it helps to try to build a personal relationship with my customers. Juggling different roles: I simply prioritize. My child comes first, and then the other roles fall
into place. I’m super organized as well- I have three notebooks, two diaries and consistently keep track of everything. We also grew last year. I hired an operations manager in charge of the daily operations and development so I can focus on strategy.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
In five years, we want to have covered the entire East African region and have physical presence in at least 3 countries, insha Allah. We would like to increase the quantity and improve the quality of our tech projects.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Be bold and daring. Be resilient.