Having just the equivalent of USD$23 in her pocket as the last money she had, two small kids and a husband studying abroad, Florence Okot decided to take a big risk to start her now very great business .
Florence walked bravely on Gulu-Karuma road, a war zone at that time down to a market in Northern Uganda.
This was all her savings from her job as a social worker. She used this money to purchase 70kg of millet which she hoped to grind and sell.
Behold, Florence is now the CEO of Yellow star; a cereal packaging company. At the moment, she can boast of more than 250 clients including supermarket chains as shoprite, big hotels and schools in Uganda.
Who would have imagined that one woman’s effort to break the yokes of poverty over her family would evolve into employment opportunities for over 3,000 farmers, women cooperatives and 20 other workers? Florence Okot started with pure millet four, soya millet for porridge and roasted millet with cassava for food. Now she deals with a diverse line of foods and farmers to grow them for her. Her line of foods range from rice and soya beverage to peanut and butter honey.
Florence literally risked her life on a regular basis to ensure that her business stood the test of time. She went to the market in Northern Uganda frequently; narrowly escaping rebels on Gulu-Karuma road. That was in 1997. This is 2018 and Florence has been widely recognized for her achievements.
Florence works with a sense of purpose.
In her own words, “Building the capacity of those we work with is key for our business. As a social worker who’s been involved in community development programs for more than 20 years, I’m committed to bridging the economic success of Yellow Star with support for the war-ravaged women of Northern Uganda, enabling them to gain knowledge and develop a fair market for their produce. The onus is on the woman to improve the standard of living of the entire household. My goal is empower them with training, skills and materials so they can move beyond pure subsistence farming and create a more sustainable economy for themselves and their families.”
Florence Okot was nominated for Entrepreneur of the year at Ugandan Women Enterpreneurs’ Association.
Florence Okot has faced her fair share of challenges in business.”We faced a number of challenges stemming mostly from insufficient capital to run the cost of activities but also delays in supply and payment from buyers who have differing credit arrangements, but I’m undeterred. All these hurdles have been more like milestones, as we get over them, we get a step closer towards achieving our vision of becoming the leading producer of quality organic, nutritious products in East Africa,” Florence said.
She is not stopping at this level. Florence is looking to explore the whole of East Africa; countries like Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Florence is now a market leader in food production and frankly, she deserves it. How many people risk their lives for a business?