Mbabazi: The perfect loctician and florist
“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads,” ― Erica Jong
This quote is what probably best describes Charlotte Mbabazi, a loctician and florist. Mbabazi runs Simply September where she makes floral bouquets and arrangements, fruit baskets, cash bouquets, gift hampers for companies and individual’s special days. “I also sell potted plants for homes and offices and have recently ventured into compound design. As a loctician, I install and maintain dreadlocks and sister locks,” she shares.
The journey of being a loctician started in 2017 and all she needed was the skill and a locking tool which cost Shs10,000. The first heads she worked on were her daughters’. Needless to say, their hair is now grown past their shoulders. Going commercial started with Eva Turyashemererwa, the CEO of Eden Farms though Mbabazi cannot quite recall what she charged her.
“I gladly locked her hair. However, I had never thought of doing it commercially until she contacted me so it was a ‘beyond the moon’ feeling. Unfortunately, the excitement made me put pricing at the back seat,” she laughs. Today, installation charges range between Shs700,000 to Shs1 million, depending on one’s hair density, length and size of locks they desire.
On the other hand, the florist journey started in 2020 with a loan of Shs80,000 from Emily Esabu, a friend. “With this, I bought rose flowers and ribbons. My first client was a lovely gentleman, Mr Kataza, who on seeing a flier someone posted in a WhatsApp group contacted me and placed an order for Valentine’s Day. His package was worth Shs800,000 and I am thankful that he has been my client since.”
Mbabazi’s first clients believed in her, literally forcing her to think out of the box because they paid their money for her talent, hence teaching her that all it takes is faith. With them, Simply September was able to kick off.
Juggling two or more businesses oftentimes gets tricky but Mbabazi says the start was easy because she loves what she does and is good at it. That said, talent must be married with business principles if it is to bring in any profit. Some of the things Mbabazi had to learn were costing and pricing, which she learned from her cousin, Teddy Sondota of Raintree Farms.
“Teddy runs really large businesses that he started from scratch. With that experience, he taught me to price while factoring in costs such as transport, the energy I use, airtime, and purchase costs in order to make a profit. While it was very basic, that lesson impacts the way I price everything,” she shares.
Mbabazi has also got mentorship in various fields. For instance, she took a floristry class with Fugee Tumwesigye of Apt Media. That was coupled with a decor masterclass with Lonah Birungi of Balloons Up Décor for which she parted with Shs250,000. These broadened her view and added greater insight into floristry. Recently, Mbabazi completed a SFFG (Straight Forward Financial Growth) class from the Harvest Institute.
“It cost me Shs800,000 but was worth every penny,” she says. It bettered her relevance in the business world because she got nuggets on how to save and be prudent in her business dealing using the separation principle. For instance, as a loctician, there are many that have been there and basically done that. Therefore, her contribution to the trade is to make herself available for home visits.
“This way, a client is endeared to me because I sell them the service in a comfortable and familiar environment,” she shares.
Currently, she operates her floral business at home. As for the locks, she is mobile, going to people’s houses on appointments. However, she is also planning to open a permanent working space soon.
As a florist, every one that loves floral arrangements, plants, gifts and events is her client. For the locks, everyone with dreadlocks, micro locks and sister locks that needs a retightening, one who desires to lock their hair or just needs to have a conversation about locks is her client.
At the moment, Mbabazi gets clients for both businesses through word of mouth, referrals from existing clients and having an online presence on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Her monthly sales and expenses vary month to month, depending on whether the season is peak or low.
Without a business location, it is not easy to get her floristry work done. “I also have not yet found a permanent employee to work with and it is really challenging because I carry all the business load. The ever-changing prices of commodities has also made pricing hard lately,” Mbabazi shares.
Getting a referral from an existing client is always an exciting win for Mbabazi. “Every time a client returns, I am happy because I know they are pleased with my work and are loyal enough to return,” she says.
Her saddest moment was when an order to deliver a huge bouquet of red roses to a new mother got botched. She says it was during the 2020 lockdown and boda-bodas were the only means of transportation. “The client had preferred Kenyan roses, which I was glad to finally lay my hands on owing to their scarcity. However, the calamity was that the boda-man claims the flowers and ribbons “fell off” the motorbike on his way from the suppliers. To add salt to injury, he did not inform me until I called him later in the day,” she says.
Unable to get another bouquet of the same roses, Mbabazi improvised with the smaller Ugandan roses and the outcome was way different from what the client had ordered. “I called the client to explain the situation. He was extremely unhappy that he did not even accept my apology. That experience stressed me so much and I always feel sad that I lost him as a client,” she adds.
I wish I had known…
About the business principles that I later learnt through the SFFG class. I believe I would be further by now.
Future Mbabazi has a lot in mind and like every other business, seeks to expand and grow. “Most of all, I desire to impact the world positively through everything God has graciously gifted me to do,” she share