Yei Gwilkolo began her business center of the same name in 2004 by selling oranges and roasted corn, but she wanted to do more. Using savings and rent from one of the apartments she owns, Yei purchased used clothes, cement and other construction materials and received additional goods on credit. Yet, she was unable to build relationships with large buyers in Nimba County, such as international development organizations.
During one of Building Markets trips to Nimba County in December 2012, Yei verified her business. In February 2013 Building Markets returned to Nimba to host a matchmaking event and training courses. Yei participated in both.
“We learned a lot from the training, especially how to prepare bid documents and…how to treat customers,” said Yei. “Their satisfaction should be our concern.”
Moreover, Building Markets’ training taught her how to speak with potential clients and pitch her business. These skills proved useful during the matchmaking event, where Yei met international buyers she previously could not reach. As a direct result of the matchmaking event, Yei Gwilkolo Business Center won a contract to supply 100 bags of cement worth $1,025 to the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“Since then USAID/FED and Save the Children have been doing supplementary purchases of construction materials from our business,” Yei said. These small purchases increased the Business Center’s profit margins by approximately 6% of its quarterly turnover. She met both USAID/FED and Save the Children at the matchmaking event.
“Building Markets linked us to bigger buyers in the county who are now transacting business with us regularly” said Yei. Due to the increase in turnover, the business hired two full-time employees.
“This business is very important to me and my entire family,” said Yei. “I got into business because of poverty. I never had the opportunity to educate myself and find an office job. The business has sustained my family for the past nine years.” The Business Center enabled Yei to pay her children’s school fees through high school and two children’s university fees.
The business still faces barriers for expanding. In the future, Yei wants to build a cement depot, but her business is not yet ready to access the required finance. First, she needs to write a business plan and set aside additional savings. Luckily, Building Markets can help her with both of those things, too.
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