09 July 2016

Money from nature’s blessings

“If you have never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden,” that is one of Lillian Katiso’s favourite quotes, probably because it rejuvenates her passion – gardening.
“When I was nine years old, I started planting flowers in containers and on the verandah because we had a small house. Even when I went to boarding school, I had potted creepers,” she fondly recalls. However, it was only two years ago that she decided to turn her hobby into a cash cow.

Haven of fauna
Today, her backyard garden in Kyanja – Jomayi Estate near Kampala, is a haven for potted plants, flower pots, flower stands, among other garden accessories. Although gardening was her first love, Katiso found another passion in accounting after pursuing a Bachelors of Commerce degree in Accounting from Daystar University, Kenya.

Because of that fortitude, Katiso is now a financial management consultant and trainer and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA) and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This is her daytime job which she complements with gardening in the evenings and weekends.

An unexpected journey
In August 2013, Katiso came across a column on gardening by Constance Obonyo in Daily Monitor. At the time, she wanted a variety of herbs but did not know where to get them.

In the write up, she was able to get that information from Obonyo who was looking for strawberry seedlings which she offered since she had them. When Obonyo went to pick the seedlings, she also featured Katiso’s small garden in her column.

“So I thought of how to preserve the stories about my garden beyond the daily, I decided to start blogging to share my flower photos and lessons learnt. To marry my profession (accounting) and passion (gardening), I called my blog “The Accounting Gardener” and people began inquiring whether she sold flowers.

“While reading for my last MBA paper in November 2013, I got an idea, to start green gifts and gardening. After graduating in early 2014, I started propagating and potting the flowers that I had at home. That’s how I started Maua and More, a company that specialises in potted plants and garden accessories,” she notes. Maua is a Swahili word for flowers.

Virtual encounter with nature
“In looking for people to share my passion for flowers beyond the blog, I joined Facebook on August 1, 2014.” It is there that she joined the backyard gardeners group that shared her passion and opened more doors.

Katiso mainly focuses on potted plants as her niche in the market. “My target customers are those who want flowers for indoors, offices, home and balcony plants, wall plants, wall gardening.” She later ventured into selling hand painted clay pots and flower pot stands. According to her, depending on the size of the container, a plant can cost between Shs10,000 to Shs100,000.

“The garden accessories are more considered because the containers look more attractive. In the first six months, I would get one client a week.” Today, she can get an order of between Shs200,000 and Shs500,000 depending on the size of the pots.

And because of her creativity and innovation, “I didn’t have a lot of space and I did not want to incur a lot of costs, I put them on my perimeter wall,” she says. Some of the flowers are also used as gifts.

Like any business, Katiso meets challenges, one of them being location. “Most of the customers do not know Kyanja. So I am looking for a location that is easily accessible.” She credits her husband, Richard Katiso, who sometimes chips in to transport the plants to her customers.

Getting knowledgeable and professional people to look after the plants is tasking.

“Some flowers are watered too much and others aren’t. When I travel, I try to engage people who do gardening but they are not reliable,” she says.

Customise yourself. Tailor your product to fit your customer.
Brand yourself. Register your business and have a logo.
Record keeping. You need to know whether you are making profit and not just making sales. Be aggressive about marketing.


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