3 or 4 days after Phase 1 of the lockdown, I bumped into a friend at Shoprite Acacia Mall. I was doing shopping for our Keto food deliveries when they quipped “Kati mwe muliko. All you guys in the food delivery business are swimming in money right now.”
I smiled and shrugged like it was an accurate observation, even when it couldn’t be much further from the truth. At least not in my case.
I know they didn’t mean to mock me because they were not in any position to know that just 4 days after the lockdown was declared, about 40% of our Keto customers had already cancelled or put their food deliveries on hold, and this number would rise to about 70% a week later. Many people were not certain about their cash flow anymore, either because of the nature of their jobs or because their businesses had been forced to shut down, and in cases like that no one prioritizes diet. It was December all over again (no one goes on a diet in December).
A month before Covid 19 became a Ugandan problem, we were operating at full capacity, with a small waiting list of customers waiting to join the diet as soon as slots opened up, and here we were now; receiving one cancellation phone call after another which lead to a 60% plunge in our business revenue projections for the months of March and April.
This gave me a lot of sleepless nights for the first few weeks, wondering what we were going to do next, what if this lingers on for months, where are the salaries and rent going to come from, should we even hold onto the office at Acacia Mall or eat humble pie and get tfo? We still had some keto customers we had to feed, but most of these had already paid for the service and without new ones joining, we were burning through savings on a daily just to keep the business going, and keto food is not cheap. But I told myself this shall pass, and decided to stay positive and put my focus on survival.
I am very grateful though for the fact that we have the bbq business because it has managed to keep us afloat. The revenue from selling pork and chicken is considerably small in comparison to the keto product line, but it has bootstrapped us during this lockdown, supporting the keto business, paying staff salaries, and keeping our heads above the water during these really difficult days.
Of course it has come at a cost to the whole team. We are all working longer hours now. We don’t even have any days off anymore. We just can’t afford them because if this was a double engine boat, we are operating with a single-engine now (the smaller one at that) and trusting it to sail us to our destination.
Fortunately they all understand why they work on their off days, but on good days like Easter get a bonus at the end of the day. ?
The undeniable truth is times are really difficult; companies are furloughing employees, some are getting salary cuts, and many are not even sure they’ll find their jobs when this is all over. But because of you our customers, all of you who have been buying our pork, chicken, goat and kikalayi during this lockdown, we are still operating. We are still small, but we haven’t had to let go of any of our permanent employees, and neither of them has had to take salary cuts.
Thank you for standing with us, we appreciate your support and don’t take it for granted. ??