13 Jan

Hi my name is Shirley.

Please keep in mind that this is a Work in progress. In Cameroon there’s a saying that goes “A building of Sand Falls as you build it.” I hope and pray that some of my little nuggets of wisdom will allow you to get started on building your creative business in the least painful way possible.

It’s hard for me to admit, but the first iterations of the icreate Project were the proverbial buildings of sand and what’s even harder for me to comprehend is that I have been involved in setting up and managing accelerators, I have been a participant and yet still I failed. Thankfully I was able to keep trying and I have to admit I am luckier than most because I have a good support system to keep me going even. I’m not going just leave it at support system. I don’t want to be one of those motivational speakers who somehow started out by selling one shoe and now miraculously own half a city.

By Support System, I mean for the three years as I built the icreate project or maybe more I never incurred any rental expense like many people my age. I received or actually still receive a World Remit Deposit from my mother twice, thrice sometimes even four times a month. 

My Mother also buys most of the things I need from Like Car, Clothing, Shoes, Fragrances, Electrical Appliances, Homeware, Phone iPad, sometimes I think she goes a bit overboard. Like why do I own a toast holder (And no it’s not a normal plate. It's a thing where you put the toast after it comes out of the toaster. Not to mention I charge Hotel stays to her card. (Omg I can already feel the judgement). 

But go right ahead I promised to be painfully honest and religiously transparent with the hope that someone who doesn’t have the same support I have can navigate building their creative enterprise less painfully. Also, please note for the second iteration of the icreate Project. I had a Co-Founder who had been down the same road.

This support system is what has enabled me to make painful financial losses and yet still come out with some semblance of sanity Anyways enough of my so called “Painful story” that actually doesn’t sound so painful anymore. Let’s actually get into how you can build your Creative Business. 

I will be using the icreate Project and its three iterations over the years as a Case Study. Through it all I will try to be as rigorously transparent as possible and will try not skip the difficult and uncomfortable parts even the ones that give me some form of PTSD

Case Study - The icreate Project

Version One

Launched; 2018 

Initial Cost; Ugx 25,000,000/= Where did I get 25M? Breakdown Loan Ugx 10,000,000/= This was a no hustle loan and I took my sweet time to pay this back the rest came from Personal Savings

Revenue; 0

Loss; Ugx 25,000,000 (Yes, I lost everything)

Status; Failed in 6 Months 

The idea 

icreate is a social initiative that seeks to redefine the unemployment problem in Uganda by introducing the concept of a Makerspace. The icreate makerspace provides a creative space and tools to foster and facilitate creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship amongst the burgeoning portion of Uganda’s youthful unproductive workforce. We seek to disseminate entrepreneurial, innovation-based skills to underrepresented demographics. Our efforts of to drive social change are based on a new innovative and robust environment in-form of four skill specific studios which include; Arts and Culture, Textiles and Fabrication, Metal and Wood Work for inspirational expression.

Version Two;

Launched; 2019

Initial Cost; < Ugx 5,000,000

Revenue; > Ugx 10,000,000 (As an accountant it pains me to say I don’t know. But I did not square up the figures for revenue I know we actually made money with Version 2 but we also made quite a number of losses)

Profit; 0

Status; Pivot

The idea 

The icreate Project a platform that works to skill and connect low income makers to market opportunities whilst providing inclusive financial products such as payments, savings & credit. By working towards creating sustainable livelihoods we hope to provide a decent standard of living for grass root makers across Africa – one that covers basic needs and supports an existence worthy of human dignity.

Version Three


Dec 2022

Cost; 0 (Yes you read right I did not spend any money to launch Version 3) 

Revenue Ugx 1,000,000 

Status; Ongoing

Profit Ugx 200,000

The idea
Curating Low Income Maker Stories, Traditions and Sharing Our Love for Handmade Products. We hope that everyone who buys handmade gets to experience the love and warmth of maker and artisan communities they seek to build, 

I will be using the different versions as points of reference throughout the painful lesson’s series with the hope that you will be able to draw some inspiration to skip to the good parts of building a sustainable creative business. 

Businesses fail all the time because we let our dreams, fantasies, and ideas outpace our financial resources and yet it is much wiser to err on the side of conservatism.

In my case perhaps if only I had  spent some extra time asking myself whether the different iterations of the icreate Project were a Good Business Idea or just a Good idea I would have saved myself so much wastage. 

The objective word to note in this instance is “Business” and I am going to go ahead and define it because this is where we all get tripped up. 

A business is a combination of effort and activities to produce goods or offer services with the intent to make a profit. I am going to stop here for this week to give you time ponder about whether you have a Good Business Idea or Just a Good Idea. 

I am in a new city (No this trip is not sponsored by mother) and it’s a Friday so I am taking some time to go explore.

Good luck , I hope you take some time to actually think about my question as you work towards a less painful experience.

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