Best Aiyorworth is perhaps an unusual name but then again, so is its dark-skinned, chubby owner.
Aptly named, she has done the best with what life gave her and even made others’ lives worth living. She is not into pity parties, more into entrepreneurship.
When it seemed like her education had hit a dead end in S.4, because of lack of school fees, Aiyorworth awakened the giant in her.
She was already an orphan and her four elder siblings were supporting her. Fortunately, Aiyorworth completed S.4 at Nebbi Town Secondary School and moved to Kampala to pursue a one-year catering course at St Elizabeth Girls Home in Mengo.
Her quest for more skills saw her join Kampabits, an IT vocational, to pursue a certificate in Graphics and Web Design.
While studying, she got an idea to start an organisation to help give women starting capital to boost their businesses so that they are able to support their daughters with school fees. Girls’ Power Micro Lending Organisation Industry (GIPOMO) began in January 2011.
“I was inspired to start GIPOMO because of my own experience and I grew up seeing some girls drop out as early as P.7 because their parents could not afford school fees and even sanitary towels,” the 21-year-old explains.
Since goodness begets goodness, Aiyorworth recently won the Anzisha Prize, Africa’s foremost youth entrepreneurship award, scooping $25,000 (Shs 64m) on August 30. The awards ceremony, held in South Africa, celebrated 12 exceptional entrepreneurs, all under the age of 23, selected from nearly 400 candidates in 32 African countries.
GIPOMO was born with Shs 100,000 capital which Aiyorworth made from her savings as a chef at A7 Vocational Training Institute in Namuwongo. When she shared her proposal with the proprietors of A7, she was lent Shs 800,000 payable within a year.
“I injected this money into my initiative and started off with only 10 women in Parambo sub county in Nebbi district,” she recalls.
Initially, she faced the challenge of failure of some of the women to pay back the money on time, but she solved this by partnering with a local Sacco to keep her business afloat. The Sacco lent money to the women.
Later, she topped up her savings to Shs 300,000 which she injected into the business and started lending it out with a 10% interest rate. It worked. Soon, the initiative grew from 10 women to 20 and to 100. Today, Aiyorworth has empowered more than 400 women with her enterprise.
As GIPOMO’s motto is “to help a mother, is to help a girl child”, these women use the money to boost their businesses, buy scholastic and other basic materials for their daughters’ education. She has several success stories up her sleeves, including that of Florence Biyom, one of the first beneficiaries.
Biyom has been able to expand her business from selling groundnuts to selling second-hand clothes and has sent her daughter to school. On February 1, GIPOMO won the Uganda Business Challenge award, beating 50 contestants.
“I believe in the cause of the girl child education because when you empower a woman, you educate a girl,” she says with a touch of seriousness in her tone and face.
For GIPOMO’s future, Aiyorworth is looking towards covering northern Uganda within one year. And in five years, she hopes to extend its reach nationwide.
“With time, I also want to empower women with farming skills and partner with more organizations to broaden the women empowerment scheme,” she says.
Currently, GIPOMO is partnering with AfriPads Ltd, an organization that makes and distributes reusable sanitary towels to girls in rural areas. For those hoping to tread down the same entrepreneurship road, her advice is for them to use their experiences and opportunities optimally.
She is opposed to people getting into an enterprise for the money rather than solving community problems.
When I ask her about people who inspire her, she bluntly tells me she is her own inspiration because of her experience.
Aiyorworth enjoys watching soaps and swimming, when she is not working.
What others say about her
Jonam Balikuddembe, her friend of three years, describes Aiyorworth as a hard nut to crack.
“She loves teasing people especially those she’s well acquainted with and is very hardworking,” he says.