Susan Oyella’s dream to become a journalist changed when her father died in 2002 during her O-Level exams.
After her father’s death in 2002, she opted for a job as a receptionist at Hotel Pearl Afrique, Gulu in 2003 to raise school fees and look after her mother.
“I would study during the day and work at night having agreed with the management of the hotel. However, it was not easy. As a young girl, I was being targeted by many men at the hotel but I knew what I wanted,” she says
Having worked for one year, she was set to sit her Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education. It was then that she became pregnant and was subsequently married to the father of her child for three years before the marriage broke down.
When she returned to Gulu in 2007, she was given her old job as the receptionist at Hotel Pearl Afrique.
“Following the hard work and dedication I had exhibited while working with them, the proprietor of the hotel asked me to return and resume my work. But things were tough for the young mother and bread winner.
The 2007 Lord Resistance Army peace negotiation was Oyella’s turning point. She open a mini-forex bureau at the hotel when she noticed that the delegates who came to witness the peace agreement were having challenges getting Uganda shillings.
“I used my saving of Shs300,000 to start a small exchange business with the purpose of curbing customers’ stress of running to the forex bureau within Gulu town,” She said.
She served at least three clients a day and made profits of Shs 50,000 to Shs 100,000 depending on the currency and rates attached to it.
After three months of hard work, she made Shs2m. In 2008, she enrolled for adult learning at Gulu Central Adult Learning Centre to reignite her dreams. She completed her A-Level education in one year.
During her Senior Six vacation, a friend linked her to a person who had just opened a mobile money business
“Owing to my passion for investment, I took up the challenge to operate the mobile money business with the aim of gaining experience to unlock my investment potential,” she says.
was earning Shs100,000 monthly but it was tough to handle given her challenges as a single mother who also desired good things.
She says, “After six months of work, my boss introduced payment based on percentage of commission accrued and I was given a target to register at least 50 clients for mobile money. If you did not meet the target, you risked not being paid; to me that was exploitation, which prompted me to quit and open my own mobile money business,”
“The first three months were not easy; I was making between Shs30, 000 and Shs70,000 monthly. It was so discouraging. However the business began growing slowly,” she recalls.
Oyella regrets abandoning her business to marry her perfect match that resulted into separation after just one year together
“I fell prey to another man who promised me heaven on earth but did the opposite. I did my best until we parted ways and I decided to return to Gulu although I was preoccupied with finding a solution for my broken relationship,” the entrepreneur says.
Out of Shs5m in savings, she spent Shs3.2m relocating from Kampala to Gulu and trying to mend her broken relationship.
“I realised I had wasted Shs3.2m; so I decided to use the remaining Shs1.8m to get back to business since I had the mobile money transaction lines,” she adds
Oyella spent Shs170, 000 on a table, chair and umbrella. She soon began operating her mobile money business again with capital of Shs1.6m.
After three months’ struggle, Wilfred Olum Oguti, a renowned businessman in Gulu town gave her a fully equipped house at Gulu Bus Park with all bills paid.
Within three months, Oyella had accumulated capital of Shs2.8m.
Misfortune struck again when Oyella was conned out of Shs2m of her capital by a man who claimed to be a priest and an entrepreneur in the timber business. Left with just Shs800,000 left to run the business, Oyella felt like committing suicide.
She was, however, saved by her little daughter who entered the house and found her holding drugs which she was about to swallow.
“She rushed and called a neighbour who counselled me and since that day I have been hearing a voice challenging me to work very hard; if I am to solve my problems,” she says.
Oyella is grateful that she has been able to regain lost hope and impact the lives of people around her.
Besides buying a 30mx120m piece of land on the outskirts of Gulu town last year, she has been able to fend for her family with ease.
Oyella has also managed to open seven other mobile money stations within Gulu town. She employs seven people and has one business partner who manages the business in her absence.
Oyella laments that mobile money business operators are suffering from the onslaught of new taxes by the government thus deterring the growth the business.
She adds “ I have lost a lot of money to conmen. Dealing in money always attracts all sorts of theft and that has been haunting us since the start but I have learnt to manage it accordingly.”
What others say
Carolyn Akello, a business partner says, “She is a trustworthy, dedicated and hardworking business partner who motivates you to work as hard. I think partnering with her was the best decision I have ever made.”
Ms Oyella started her education at Rock View Primary School Tororo in 1992 to 1998. She joined Sacred Heart Secondary School, Gulu for O’Level from 1999 to 2002 and later joined Gulu Central High School in 2003 for A’ Level where she studied only Senior Five before dropping out owing to pregnancy.
She later joined Gulu Central Adult Learning Center and completed her A’ Level in 2008 and joined Gulu University in August 2009 where she graduated with Diploma in Development studies in 2011
Susan Oyella went to Rock View Primary School Tororo in 1992 to 1998. She joined Sacred Heart Secondary School, Gulu for O-Level from 1999 to 2002 and later Gulu Central High School before dropping out in Senior Five owing to pregnancy. She joined Gulu Central Adult Learning Center and completed her A-Level in 2008. She holds a Diploma in Development Studies from Gulu University.