What’s harder than launching a start-up? Launching one during a global pandemic! Umwuga is a worker-first social network founded in December 2020 by Nasi Rwigema.
As Team Umwuga, we believe that with our strong determination and hard work, Umwuga will make waves with people who work in trades and services jobs. In the spirit of National Entrepreneurship Week (13 – 20 February) we interviewed our founder, Nasi, to get the inside scoop on the Umwuga story.
Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up and study?
Hi I’m Nasi Rwigema. I was born and raised in South Africa by a Ugandan father and Zimbabwean mother. My parents were both educators, so academics were always important in our household.
I studied aeronautical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg which gave me a great foundation for the fascinating journey that has been my professional career so far.
What inspired you to create Umwuga?
I’ve been fortunate in my career across several fields of white-collar work from aircraft design, to developing renewable energy power plants and also being a private equity investor.
With each shift, I’ve been able to speak to the academic degrees, job titles, company names, and career progressions on my resume which helped my new employers make an informed judgment on whether I would succeed in the job was interviewing for.
While building solar and hydro power plants in often remote places, it occurred to me that many the semi- and mid-skilled workers we hired for the build couldn’t speak to similar career highlights that made them stand out from the pack.
This later inspired me to work on an improvement to the ways in which these hard-working and extremely talented workers were found and evaluated for work opportunities.
What are some challenges you have faced?
Every aspect of starting a new business is a huge challenge. The common experience is that, as a first-time founder, you begin with no credibility, very few resources, a lot of naivety, and a super unclear path ahead of you.
My challenges included launching in the middle of a pandemic with the jobs market being at a historic low. However, the flip side of this challenge has been that many of our members are being forced to consider changing their careers and have found Umwuga to be a helpful way of pursuing this.
What are your hopes for Umwuga for the upcoming year?
As an early-stage business, our sole focus is to work closely with our early members to improve and expand on our service and community to make it even more useful to them.
We’re excited by our early progress and feedback so far but we, and our early supporters, know that the problem we’re addressing is a giant and that the solution is a collaborative work in progress
What have you learned by building a start-up?
The most important thing I have learned is to care more about the problem we are trying to solve than I do about our start-up. The problem is that the world of work and recruitment is designed for the handful of white-collar workers like me. Because of this, in many trades and services industries such as handywork and domestic housekeeping, there is a deep mismatch between how and where employers search for help and how and where great workers present themselves.
Umwuga was designed and built to address this problem from the perspective of the worker. I believe that we care more about our customers that any other business in our industry and that if we keep this focus and work harder than everyone else, we will develop our start-up into an exciting and longstanding business.
What advice do you have for people wanting to create a start-up?
We are just at the beginning our start-up journey, but we’ve already poured a lot of blood and sweat into it. It has been wildly interesting, fun, and incredibly difficult. Despite my wonderful career to date, I have never been as engaged or motivated to work as I have been with Umwuga.
My one piece of advice would be to find a problem you can fall in love with solving. The journey will be rough, and you’ll need something more than a Silicon Valley dream to carry you through.
Thank you Nasi for your insights behind Umwuga. We look forward to catching up with you in the future. We love how passionate you are about the worker coming first.
If you are a worker and feel this is a problem that’s being solved in your work, sign up and create your free, zero-commission account today.
And if you have the urge to create a start-up then we say:
GO FOR IT!
Sincerely – Team Umwuga