By Mark Kawalya
Jennifer Tumukunde is a jolly, soft-spoken lady who describes herself as ‘a friend to many’ yet within her modest demeanor lies a woman with strong business acumen and razor-sharp focus that propels her to get things done. The mother of six is the CEO of Klick Investments, an enterprise located in Naalya market that offers a grocery delivery service for a range of clientele such as households, hospitals, hotels, and schools.
She is also the author of a book titled ‘Just Start, which documents her business journey and answers many of the questions that people normally have in relation to the con caption of Klick Investments and the growth that the business has experienced.
The demographic the company serves is mainly individuals who are often too busy to do their own shopping, or organizations that require fresh produce that is delivered using a straightforward yet well documented system.
How the business works
Clients typically place their orders using WhatsApp, text, or phone, while others prefer to call in. For WhatsApp and text orders, customer service personnel call the client and confirm the order specifics, such as the exact variety of groceries that the client needs.
“A customer may, for instance, need green organic oranges, and if you are not keen to seek this information, you may deliver exotic oranges. So being specific enables us to get the client’s orders right to the last dot.” Tumukunde says.
After confirmation, the order is sent to the packaging team, who sort and measure out the right fresh produce amounts that the client requires. An invoice and delivery note are prepared, which are dispatched with the groceries using either motorcycles, vans, or trucks, depending on the order size.
“Many of our household clients are busy parents who work on Saturdays and have no time for grocery shopping. Another category are people who do not have a means of transporting large goods, such as sacks of charcoal.”
One distinguishing aspect of the manner in which Klick operates is that the firm does not demand initial payment until they have fulfilled the order and the client is satisfied. In the event that a customer is unhappy with vegetables that have, for instance, been bruised during delivery, the company returns them and sends out a replacement.
The firm also has a beverage department that makes fresh juices that are prepared for events like weddings and parties. Jennifer started out selling passion fruits, and she was given the moniker Mama Butunda (Ms. Passion Fruits) due to the popularity of her flavorful Kisoro grown passion fruits. “The business was based at my home in Bweyogere, where clients picked up the fruits. We also made deliveries to clients in town who could not pick them up.”
Growing up in Jinja
Jennifer Tumukunde hails from Kisoro, although she was raised in Jinja. Her father was a lawyer, while her mother run a clothes business that was located in Jinja central market.
“I am the middle child, so I have two older brothers and a younger sister and brother. We grew up in a fairly decent family that was extended, so we had cousins living with us, as was the case in many homes at the time.”
Jennifer attended Victoria Nile Primary School and fondly remembers walking to and from school with her siblings, a time in her life that was marked with a lot of games and fun. Although her mother’s clothes stall in the market contributed to the family’s financial pool, Tumukunde did not envision herself working in the market as an adult.
“I find it funny now that I have stationed Klick Investments in a market, but the environment plays a key role in sourcing the produce that we supply to our clients. I think working in the market must be something that is in our destiny as a family.” She adds, chuckling.
Many times, her mother would go off to buy new stock and leave the young Jennifer manning the clothes stall, giving her an opportunity to learn critical people skills. She later joined St.Kalemba in Kayunga district, where she did both her Ordinary and Advanced-level education.
Moving to Kampala
After her A-levels, she had dreams of joining Makerere University for a law degree. But as fate would have it, she failed to get the entry points for either government or private sponsorship for the course. “I was devastated, and I think my father was disappointed. He wanted one of his children to pursue a career in law. I ended up taking on a degree in Education with a pathway to becoming a secondary school teacher.”
In her second year of university, she was scheduled to start her teacher training and was taken on by Mbogo High School in Kawempe. The school was impressed with her teaching style and how this translated to good performance by the students. Tumukunde was hired even as she continued taking her evening classes at the university.
After graduating in 2008, Tumukunde continued her teaching at Mbogo High, something that she had grown to love. However, she had to leave the job after getting married as the commute from her new home in Bweyogerere to the school was long.
Her husband, David, encouraged her to enroll for a postgraduate course in Project Planning at the Uganda Management Institute.
The transition to Mama Butunda
“I later got a job with International Business Machines (IBM), which had a contract to handle Airtel Uganda’s Customer care and IT. I worked as a call center personnel, and within six months I had been promoted to a Quality Assessor position. I had a team I was leading and even had my own office. I was living the full corporate life,” Tumukunde says.
She later took maternity leave after giving birth to her second child and struggled with the idea of leaving her baby in the hands of a house help when she returned to work. Yet she knew it was unfair to fully place all the family’s financial needs on her husband if she chose not to go back to work.
A relative in Kisoro sent three sacks of passion fruit for her and for two other cousins. As fate would have it, one cousin was out of the country while the other was working out of town, leaving Jennifer stuck with the three sacks of passion fruit.
“There were so many passion fruits, I didn’t know what to do with them. But on tasting them, I was pleasantly surprised at how aromatic and refreshingly rich in taste they were.”
Desperate to sell them off, Tumukunde made a post on a mothers Facebook group she was in, and by a surprising turn of events, she was able to sell most of the passion fruit in about two days. This was mainly due to the good reviews and referrals that the initial buyers gave.
“I was in shock at how quickly the money came in and how fast the passion fruit had been moving. I had made about half of my salary in a very short time. Soon I had a number of people asking for the passion fruits, and this was a lightbulb moment for me. This is how the business started. After a few years, the business had grown to such an extent that, at one point, she was bringing in as many as one hundred sacks of passion fruit. Mama Butunda ran this passion fruit business from 2012 to 2017.
How Klick Investments started
At the peak of the passion fruit business, Tumukunde’s husband, David, expressed security concerns about the hordes of people showing up at her family home asking to buy the fruits. He advised that it might be the right time for to move the business from the family home into its own premises. “I got space at Naalya Market and later realized that our clients needed different types of farm produce, besides passion fruits. I started supplying those, and this is how I transitioned from ‘Mama Butunda’ to Klick Investments, a business that employs eight people.” Tumukunde says.