I quit my highly paying Job to start a manufacturing plant – Joseph Kawombe – Part Two

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Joseph kawombe (Right) CEO Adexxa manufacturing plant for ceramic and porcelain tiles as well as marble.

Transcript for Video – 20 November 2020

DM: A bit of the challenges. It all looks rosy and nice when you come and see things going on, but what challenges. Is it power? Is it employees? What challenges would we anticipate?
JK: The moment you start, you have started a journey of solving one problem after another. That is the way it is. Just like any other business, we also have challenges and they keep on coming. The biggest challenge is power. In this area, if you have looked around, it is not an area of many factories.
DM: This is Nagalama?
JK: This is Nagalama. It is so much of residential, farming. Currently here we are the only people who use 3-phase power. It tends not to be stable; the unreliability. That’s why you saw a generator, a backup generator there.
The other issue is the cost. The cost of power is still high. That makes the cost of manufacturing a little high making our product not very competitive when it comes to pricing.
The other challenge is the turnover of our workers. There is a mentality of our young people – we are using mostly young people on a wage basis. There is a tendency for them to love what they call ‘kagwirawo’.
DM: GIve me today and I go.
JK: Sometimes you’re hard up. You know in business sometimes the sales are good sometimes they are not good. You end up [00:16:00] – sometimes you’re hard up and there are issues with employees. The one who worked yesterday since you hadn’t paid him, he won’t turn up today.
DM: I like this because this is normal day to day business. It happens everywhere in businesses. Look at this. You are going to supply all these hardware shops in the city, they haven’t paid you upfront but you must keep this thing running. I hear you. Any other challenges?
JK: The other challenge is what you have just talked about. The issue of making sure that you are liquid. Not to make things stop here just because you have supplied somewhere on credit. That is the issue to do with easy access to finances for such small businesses – cheap loans. It is still a big challenge. When you go to a bank or small financial institution they’ll need either securities, they’ll need for you to put some upfront deposit. It becomes a challenge for you to get those finances that would keep you running as you supply people on credit as you wait for your payment to come in.
DM: Talking about tiling, grout and adhesive, what happens when you’re going to tile your house. Let’s not assume that everyone knows what we’re talking about. Break it down for us; the process of tiling.
JK: After constructing your house, for the case of tiling we are talking about the floor. After construction, that floor has to be prepared to receive tiles. When I say it has to be prepared to receive tiles, it means [00:18:00] they have to put screed; it’s called screeding. It is a rough flat surface that is done by mortar; sand and cement.
After it has dried, that is when you come in with your adhesive. That means your surface is ready to receive the tiles.
Our adhesive is just for mixing in water. Nothing else. The instructions are there. Just mixing water, leaving it to set after sometime according to instructions. Then, apply it on that surface where you want to put the tiles. Apply it as per our instructions and then you can be able to place your tiles on top of that adhesive. Do it for the entire area you want to do it then leave it for 24 hours to settle. After 24 hours, it will have hardened. That means your tile is attached to the floor.
When you’re putting the tiles, there are normally some gaps which remain where the tiles join. Those gaps can easily allow water to seep through and when water seeps through, then it will damage whatever you have installed. To be able to seal off those joints, we use tile grout.
DM: Which you also manufacture here?
JK: Which we also manufacture here. So the use of grout is to seal off any joint which can allow water to seep through into the tile that you have placed. In a nutshell that is what we call tiling and how we apply.
DM: Tell us about the quality. Recently I was walking in someone’s house and you know [00:20:00] when you step on a tile and you feel something and it makes some noise. What’s that?
JK: That is normally brought about by many things but the major one being the quality of the adhesive that you have used. After tiling your floor, 3 months, 4 months down the road you can easily start hearing those noises in certain parts. That means that the adhesive that was used was either substandard or poor quality. What brings that is it normally originates from the way the different ingredients that make up this were applied during the manufacturing process. That’s what normally brings that.
On our side when it comes to quality, there is no compromise.
DM: Are there any standards that you follow?
JK: At the moment we are following the National Bureau of Standards.
DM: Are you certified by UNBS?
JK: Yes. We are certified. So we are following UNBS standards and guidelines in the manufacturing of our grout and tile adhesive.
DM: Starting a business is one thing, growing it is another and making it move from one generation to another is another. So, thanks for starting. Where do you see yourself in the next five, three years?
JK: That is what drives us. That is what drives me every day to come and see that this is… As I told you in the beginning, we normally dream big before we start. [00:22:00] I told you I had a dream of starting with a very automated plant. One of my future plans is to see to it that we move to a bigger capacity kind of plant. Right now as we talk, these machines that are installed have a capacity of 9.5 Tonnes per day. That is approximately 500 bags of Adexxa a day. But when you look at the demand, as I told you the gap we are trying to fill, the demand is still big. Among the plans I have is one, to bring in machines of higher capacity. I’m looking at installing a machine that will have capacity of 6 Tonnes per hour which translates to around 48 tonnes per day. That is the kind of machine I would want to install.
Since we have tested the market, there are certain clients who have very big demands especially construction companies and Real Estate developers. I’m sure you have heard of the big names in the constructing in Najjera, Naalya. When someone like that gives you an order, you really need capacity to be able to service him. That is one of my very ambitious future plans. I know we shall have it.
The other is to ensure that this product Adexxa reaches every corner of this country. That is also a very big ambitious plan I have. Ensuring that it can be distributed to all the hardwares in the country. At the moment we are covering Kampala and the [00:24:00] neighbouring areas. Kampala, Mukono…
DM: I want to bring you to one critical point. You’ve been employed and you left. You would wake up in in ties, in A.C. but here you are in adhesives and dust. How is the transition? Because I know there is someone out there who has been trying to leave their job to either go and start a business or do manufacturing, or do anything. But, one leg is there and the other is here and it’s three years down the road, they don’t know whether to move out or continue. There is too much comfort on the other side. How did you transit from employment to business? And how do you find it and how would you advise someone who is at the crossroads of transiting?
JK: That is the question that is lingering around so many people who are still in what I was. The employed bit but with a desire to come and start something of their own. What drove me, one was to take the decision to start after realising that the only way you can do what they call sustainable business is by having something to offer, something to put on the shelf.
[26:05]
Compared to my colleagues who are still there, yes, I understand that we all begin from there. But, there is no better satisfaction that you can ever achieve in a day out of your struggles, out of whatever stress you’re going through but at the end of the day, you are counting for example in my case I measure my daily output from the number of bags I’ve produced. Sometimes when you are on the other side, [00:26:00] someone will want to ask you: Today, what has been your output?
Some of the outputs that side are very difficult to measure. Very difficult. I don’t know whether you will say: I’ve sat in so many meetings, I’ve been able to write so many reports. I don’t know if you can derive satisfaction more from that than someone who says today I have produced 3,000 bags or 1,000 bags of adhesive.
DM: And I’m going to the market to hustle them.
JK: That satisfaction alone is what should drive someone from that side because this is measurable satisfaction. It is tangible and you can be able to easily plan and figure out where you want to be than in this kind of setting where you….
[27:09]
DM: The challenge is that the guys who are in employment fear that: what if I go and set up Adexxa and things don’t work out. That’s the fear. How did you overcome it?
JK: When you’re going to begin something or when you’re entering into something that you really don’t know or you’re not very conversant with, you need to do a lot of market research. A lot of it. There is nothing really that is so new that you would need professors or scientists from way out of Uganda.…. They are all here. People are doing these things here. There are people who are manufacturing adhesive. When you do enough research, you can get to a point where at least, there is that degree of comfort and confidence that it will work. That is what you need to [00:28:00] hold on. Put faith in that, the rest you leave to God. I’m going in. with the research I have made, the chances of this thing sliding back will be very low.
As I told you, the gap is there. That means the market is there.
What you need to do, the moment you go in, make sure you maintain quality, supplies, production, and hustle.

DM: Basically, give it your 100%. Maybe the 100% you were giving the other side, give it here. If it means waking up…
JK: At the same time; the way you used to go to office, do the same here. I can assure you you won’t go wrong. The beginning can be very hard if the mindset is thinking big. Think big but start humble, small.
DM: Thank you so much. What message do you have for someone who is starting a business today? I have found you at your manufacturing plant. You are a young man, you started your hustle. What advice do you give to someone starting today or who is just about to start?
JK: The advice I can give to someone who is starting or who is just thinking to start. One, as I earlier told you, make your research about what you want to get into. Make sure that you have enough information.
After getting to that, I’m sure the issues of starting capital, yes it can be very challenging but I know that by the time you take it up that you want to go into manufacturing, you already have something to begin with in terms of [00:30:00] capital.
The major step that you need to take is to start. Don’t postpone, don’t say: I’m waiting for when this happens. Take a step and start. The hardships will be there in the beginning but the moment you start – you can only solve problems when you’ve started. You can only get to know that there is a problem, you can only know that these machines break down a lot when they are running. You can only get to know that it is not easy to market Adexxa when you take it to the market. You can’t sit there and say: I would have started manufacturing A,B,C,D but those things don’t have market or those things are very hard to manufacture.
If you haven’t started, you can’t be sure.
DM: Let not your fears withhold you from your success.
JK: Make sure you start. That is when you will find ways of solving whatever will come your way. Because you have decided: I’m going, I’m not going back. That is the kind of advice I would give.
DM: You have heard from Joseph, a young entrepreneur at Adexxa Adhesive and Grout in Nagalama?
JK: Nagalama along Kalagi Road.
DM: By the way, if you didn’t know, this guy is my OB. We’ve been through the struggle together. I am happy that the people of our age are now manufacturers. I now know someone who is my age and he is a manufacturer.
JK: And if you are to talk about UMA, we are soon enlisting for Uganda Manufacturers Association to be members.
DM: Exactly. That’s wonderful. Thank you for the great work. I’m inspired. I hope some other person out there is inspired by your story. We shall [00:32:00] visit you again one day when you have the automated line. With the Business Mirror, we follow you up. As you start and grow we want to be able to know how you’ve been able to do it so that we learn with you along the way.
JK: Thank you.
DM: We have enough followers. We have many followers who are yearning for information on business growth. This is one we are going to showcase and follow up in the future and see your progress. Please, don’t die.
JK: No, I cannot die. One humble request. The viewers of the Business Mirror. This is Adexxa. It is a high performance tile adhesive and grout. It is used in the fixing of tiles. The uniqueness of our product is one. When you hear about other tilers, they tell you – Whenever you say I want to tile my house, they will say: Get me adhesive, get me cement, get me sand. Our adhesive you don’t need to add anything like cement or sand. Just mix our adhesive in water as per our instructions and apply. That’s one.
Two, it takes a maximum of 24 hours to set. What does setting mean? If you tile your house today, using Adexxa, right now it’s midday; tomorrow at midday you should be able to put in your furniture and your beddings and start going around your business in your house. That means it is hard enough for you to step on. There are people you have heard telling you: You know, I tiled my house but you give it like one week. Ours, 24 hours.
Our adhesive can be applied for ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles and [00:34:00] marble. It works for both floor tiles and wall. That means it can tile the floor of your house, it can tile the walls of your bathroom and kitchen.
The other very interesting bit also is the cost cutting one.When it comes to cost cutting, this 20kg bag fixes approximately up to 5 sq. metres. 5 sq. metres if I`m to explain it to a layman You hear people talking about rentals; bedroom and sitting room. So 2 of these bags can tile a bedroom and sitting room. If the surface is well prepared, you only need 2 bags.
Adexxa is found in most of the hardwares. Go to Nakasero and all the big hardwares that you know of around Kampala, Mukono. We have moved our supply chain up to Lugazi, Kyengera, Nabbingo. We are trying to expand. Our product is readily available. Both the adhesive and grout.
We do deliveries for those who have orders of 30 bags and above in Kampala and around.
DM: Thank you so much. Well done, man. I’m happy to be here and it’s [00:36:00] encouraging for every entrepreneur out there. We are going to follow your story.

[END OF PART TWO]