When Allan Ntanda set out to start Wine Garage, it seemed a journey into an unknown world. At the time, many people, including his friends, considered wine as a drink for the affluent.
If one had to enjoy a frothy drink, beer was the first choice. His motivation to go into wine business was partly experiential.
He had worked as a marketer at ‘The Seller’, a wine company run by Geoffrey Mulwana. There, he had cultivated connections within the network of wine suppliers in foreign markets.
In 2005, when the idea to start a wine business occurred to him, he had Shs16m savings. He needed more start-up capital so he sat down with a friend, Daudi Karungi, an artist and director of Afriart Gallery, and sold him the idea of starting a wine company.
Much as Karungi was keen on the business, since it was not tried and tested, he voluntarily partnered with Ntanda whose marketing career was convincingly good. He was a marketer with Celtel Uganda as well as Club Silk.
“Our first consignment was a humble one of three wine pallets we imported and transported by road, from Nairobi. It cost us $6,000 (Shs22.5m) at the time. We needed to start slow because wine business is slow,” Ntanda explains.
With the new business, Ntanda was willing to do anything in his professional abilities to promote a wine culture and consumption in Uganda. He had to set aside a budget to promote the new business brand.
He made offers to female friends to enjoy wine at the garage and encouraged them to go along with partners, colleagues and friends to see the place and also enjoy some wine.
Then he talked to his boss at the time, Elvis Ssekyanzi, about the possibility of partnership where he would promote the wine in Club Silk through specialised theme nights.
His aim was to establish a new customer base, of patrons who appreciated fine wine. It was a win-win partnership, in which Ssekyanzi, as director of Club Silk, would benefit from increased sales on wine while Ntanda, as a supplier of the wines, boosted the Wine Garage brand.
By 2009, the wine business had picked up and as Ntanda was growing his acumen in business.
He realised that whenever he was not at Wine Garage, business would suffer as workers would take advantage of his absence to bring in their own wine and sell it, which would affect his sales.
Diversifies into coffee
In 2016, his wish list grew. He smelt coffee and yearned to brew it. At the back of his mind was a question to which he sought to find an answer. From his observations of running Café Kahwa, whose premises are within the same compound with Wine Garage, he realised coffee is mostly consumed and enjoyed by non-Ugandans.
How could he get Ugandans to enjoy coffee? Ninety per cent of the coffee grown in the country is exported. Ntanda went all in, first by growing Robusta coffee on three acres in Matugga and then researching to understand the ins and out of the coffee industry.
His plan is to develop a farm to cup strategy. The coffee he grows was not enough to satisfy the supply chain that would make business sense so he started reaching out to farmer groups.
From interactions with farmers, he went on to share knowledge from his research findings on ways they could improve their yields. He currently associates with 1, 621 farmers.