When we speak about Ubuntu, we mean people looking out for each other and giving support any way they can. That’s exactly what Shamim Nabuuma did when she introduced us to Rhona.
Hi, Rhona. It is wonderful to have you join us today
Hi Winnie, thank you for having me.
Briefly introduce yourself to our audience
My name is Rhona Brooks Birabwa from Uganda. I am a Co-founder & CEO of OnaChil Food Store, a social business that makes, sells/ rents solar-powered cold chain technologies to farmers which they use to safely preserve their produce after harvest as we link them directly to buyers using our E-commerce AI Conversational chatbot.
Wow! That is some cool stuff you are doing with technology and agriculture. How did you find your purpose?
I grew up in rural Uganda where I and my family grew tomatoes for a livelihood. After harvest, there always came a man called Kyaka who wanted to buy our tomatoes but because we had no ways of safely preserving our produce we sold to Kyaka cheaply. We were scared of facing post-harvest loss. Furthermore, we didn’t know the prices of the tomatoes in urban areas so we sold them to him cheaply. This left us poor as we gained very little from our sweat. This experience made me come up with OnaChil Food Store. Our mission is to make sure all farmers are able to sell their food without Middlemen manipulation. This is their only way of gaining from their sweat.
Let’s talk about the challenges you have faced while walking this journey
It hasn’t been easy to establish the Social Business because I’ve had challenges of my own friends not believing in me, some not even supporting me because they think I can’t do it. I’ve even met people who are a bit older than me but never saw a young girl do this. They think a 23year old girl can’t think better than them, especially when it comes to running a business. One thing they forget is that my graduation from Business School immensely impacted my life. My other challenge is looking for investment. Being a woman, it has been extremely hard to convince people that I can actually do this.
How have you been able to win during such challenging times?
To be honest, the people who have doubted my ability to get to the top push me to move forward. Each morning I wake up I want to show them that this local girl can do better, she can be better. Another factor that pushes me is the faith I have in myself; I believe I can make it to the top. The thought of even being in Forbes magazine pushes me, I really want to be recognized through the change I am able to make. I also want to inspire the younger generation to do anything that they put their mind to. I want to leave a legacy.
Tell us about some of your prestigious moments of recognition and achievements in life
Starting OnaChil is one of my biggest achievements because it took a lot to start believing in myself and putting a positive mentality in my head on a daily basis. I have recently received a Yunus & Youth Global Fellowship for 2021 making me a Y&Y Fellow. This is an amazing opportunity and I do not take it for granted. This experience has allowed me to learn from different mentors and meet entrepreneurs from different countries. I was also recently recognised among the winners of the RUFORUM Young African Entrepreneurs Competition 2021.
I have also made it to the Fifth Edition of the Social & Inclusive Business Camp (SIBC) a French program that trains entrepreneurs all over the world. I’ve gotten the opportunity to be trained by good mentors about social businesses. This has confirmed my passion and ability for what I do; I am meant to do this in every way.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I am a normal girl who loves beautiful things, so being an independent woman, I love working to get all the beautiful things I love. When am not working I love spending time with my family, loved ones, and friends. I also enjoy listening to nice soul music and probably swimming or looking at the water.
What is your favourite quote?
My favorite quote is, “you can’t wait for life not to be hard anymore before you decide to be happy” ~ Jane Marczewski
That quote simply means that in everything you do whether in tough situations you ought to bring happiness to your soul. Therefore I encourage young girls in STEM to stand up for what they want and remain loyal to themselves, I’ve learned that if you believe in yourself and what you bring to the table, no one can show or tell you otherwise. I urge them to know that whatever a man can do, a woman can do better. So they shouldn’t be scared of joining the fields much known as men’s fields and lastly, they should never settle for less, Just know your worth, girls.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Rhona! You are one resilient woman, and we wish you the very best in your career ahead.