How George Turned an Idea into a Profitable Business

In the small village in Eastern Uganda where George grew up, it costs about $4 per year to attend school. But after his father passed away, George’s family could no longer afford the school fees and he was forced to leave school when he was only 13 years old.

George, right, assisting a customer at one of his mobile money stores.

But George was determined to continue his education. Always resourceful and hardworking, George worked odd jobs in agriculture to save enough money to return to school. His determination paid off -- he eventually rejoined his classmates, continuing to pay his school fees by planting and harvesting crops and leaving school periodically to save enough money to return.

George’s perseverance, optimism, and grit helped propel him through these difficult times and made him ready to seize any opportunity that came his way. When Educate! came to his school, George jumped at the chance. “I wanted to fulfill my potential to create a better life.”

George became an Educate! Scholar and through the program, learned to design business plans. He also practiced starting enterprises with his classmates in the Student Business Club.  But what inspired him most was a Skills Course lesson where he practiced brainstorming and mapping out innovative solutions to problems in his community -- “I was happy when I learned about innovation because it made me realize I could start my own project with my own ideas.”

While he was still in school, George came up with the idea to launch a mobile money (phone banking) business. With substantial in-school business experience under his belt from his time as an Educate! Scholar, George graduated in 2013 at the top of his Educate! class and launched his own business in his home village with just 50,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $14).

George’s mobile money business took off. People in his village were eager for the convenience of mobile money but unable to travel to the larger towns to access it - George had tapped into an underserved market. George recognized this gap, and in doing so found a lucrative business opportunity that also improved his community.

After 6 months in business, George was earning a substantial profit and decided to open a second branch in another nearby village. To staff the second branch, George hired his first employee. Soon, George found himself running two mobile money outlets - both profitable. So he decided to open a third outlet, this time in a larger town where he could access a bigger market and see higher profits. George hired a second staff member and then, because he was recruited to join the Educate! team as a Mentor, quickly hired a third.

Now, George spends his days inspiring other youth as an Educate! Mentor, running his business, and pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance, a dream he never thought possible. George is committed to furthering his education because he sees it as a crucial step to achieving his dream of someday running a large microfinance organization.

Right now, George’s biggest source of pride is his work as a Mentor: “I’m very happy to be a Mentor because I want to share my story with my Scholars. To see someone who has struggled to have a good life, who has come from a poor family—it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. I am like them and I am doing well. Being a Mentor is a platform for this story.”