National Entrepreneurship Week - Interview With Our Founder

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. 

Closing

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 

What you need to know about Employee Benefits

When companies hire new people, they offer benefits in addition to a salary for the employee. But do we pay enough attention to the perks on offer?

When negotiating a new job, always read through your employment letter thoroughly. It will detail the bouquet of benefits that makes up your “Cost To Company”.

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What you need to know about Employee Benefits 6

Some companies call them benefits, some Work Perks or just perks. Some companies view them as a privilege or a kindness towards you. Regardless of the name, these extra offerings make up your full compensation package and you should reasonably expect benefits with the right job.

Glassdoor's 2015 Employee Confidence Survey revealed that nearly four in every five employees would prefer new or additional work perks over a pay increase.

In this article, we help you understand the various forms of employee benefits and highlights the ones which you have a right to in the workplace.

What Are Employee Benefits?

Employee benefits are any kind of extra incentives given to employees in addition to base wages or base salaries. They’re designed to help promote employee satisfaction and wellbeing, and could include anything from private health insurance, cell phone plans, stock options, to shopping vouchers.

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What you need to know about Employee Benefits 7

Although some benefits are legally required (core benefits), others are offered as added perks that are used to attract and retain employees. Employee benefits are basically, any kind of non-wage gain attached to an employee’s position can be classified as an employee benefit, be it mandatory or voluntarily given by an employer.

What Are Non-Salary Benefits?

While money is very important, it’s not the only reason you might want to join a company. In many cases, an attractive benefits package can seal the deal. Examples of these perks could include a company-provided mobile phone or perhaps a car allowance and, in some cases, schooling for your children.

When negotiating a remuneration package, you can ask for perks such as health insurance, paid work leave, flexible work hours, or a budget for home office furniture. If you take the time to prioritise and quantify your needs, you can approach the negotiation with offers such as “I am willing to give up the car allowance in exchange for five extra days of paid leave.

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The term “Cost to Company” is a literal one, each perk on offer is a cost to the company and accounts for the total amount of money that the company is willing to spend to have you work for them. Since you receive the perks as non-salary benefits, you should think of the benefits in terms of how valuable they are to you, or “Value to Me”. Flexible working hours might seem priceless to you compared to a gym membership that you may or may not use.

Of course, some office campuses have a gym, tennis court, basketball court, and vast lawns where employees can train their body fitness. You may not be able to negotiate the value of these facilities but they may also be an extra reason to choose one company over another.

Compared with a bit more money, a generous benefits package may help you:

What Perks Do Employees Want?

The challenge for Human Resources departments is to understand and offer the most attractive and competitive work perks packages. While this varies between industries and certainly across cultures, studies have canvased the most desirable employee benefits. The most popular provisions for any long-term engagement include…

Leave or Vacation Days

Despite our efforts at Umwuga to fill you work calendar with high-paying and fulfilling work opportunities, the truth is that none of us are able to work without a few restful breaks. In most countries, you have the right to vacation or leave from work days and you should check your local regulations and be sure to demand them in accordance with your work.

Beyond the regular vacation or annual leave, other forms include compassionate leave for which you may need to care for family member, and sick leave which should not count against your vacation leave days.

You should be paid for this time off and should not let employers bully you into taking leave only when it suits them. 80% of working professionals say that the right job should not deny its workforce from taking leaves and going on a vacation.

Special Leave

Some companies allow their employees to take special paid or unpaid leave for a long time. These include sabbaticals or maternity leaves.

Job seekers who plan to study further while retaining their current jobs sometimes opt for sabbaticals. A quarter of women consider paid maternity leave as a dealbreaker requirement for any job they may take.

Health And Wellness

A responsible company looks after the health and wellness of its workforce. Health, dental, and optical insurance are common perks that are provided to employees.

Some companies are thoughtful towards not only their employees but also their families. Companies who offer this tend to lose fewer employees over time.

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Employees can assure themselves of emergency loans and reimbursements. They are added to the Individual Life Insurance and Medical Insurance policies of the organisation.

Income Protection

Income protection shifts a percentage of your salary each month to an insurance policy for the benefit of all employees at the company. In the event that something unfortunate happens to you, this policy will then pay out to support you through your challenges. Joining an employers Group Income Protection scheme can often cost less that taking out equivalent protection for yourself.

Retirement Benefits

The objective of these benefits is to ensure that you have enough money to life and, hopefully, maintain your lifestyle after retirement. As with any regular workplace insurance, your employer would direct a portion of your salary to a retirement plan account which would then be released to in a monthly form when you retire.

The basic principle behind this is to help you save for retirement and the incentive your Government gives is to allow you to ‘withdraw’ your ‘savings’ at a better tax rate after retirement than what they would charge you now.

Retirement benefits come in many shapes and sizes and are sometimes known as a Provident Fund, Gratuity, or Pension. The main reasons for taking this benefit out with your employer are 1) that employers can send your money to the insurer before tax is charged; and 2) that the employer will often contribute an additional amount to your retirement account.

Life Insurance

While it may not be the most seductive of perks, Life (or Death in Service) Insurance can be highly valuable for the family you leave behind in the unfortunate event of tragedy. This benefit pays out a tax-free sum to your family to provide support for the people who depend on you financially.

If your employer is willing to provide you with this benefit, make sure it is structured in such a way that you can transfer or take it with you if you ever leave the company.

What Kinds Of Employee Benefits Are There?

If most of the concepts above are new and exciting to you, you might be interested in learning about all the different benefits and perks you should be fighting for in your next job negotiation. We won’t go into the necessary detail on these but rather list them for you to search:

  1. Pay Raises:
  2. Flexible Schedules:
  3. Disability insurance
  4. Remote work
  5. Paternity leave
  6. Student loan assistance
  7. Corporate Social Responsibility
  8. Gym and Fitness clubs
  9. Library
  10. Free or discounted food
  11. Health screening
  12. Childcare
  13. Profit sharing
  14. Tuition assistance
  15. Company-wide retreats
  16. Company cars
  17. Free or subsidised travel
  18. Free or discounted lunch
  19. Financial advice/planning
  20. Unlimited vacation allowance
  21. Wellness programmes

What Are Long Term Employee Benefits?

Not all employees in a company will be eligible for all the work perks. Some entitlements are kept for members of staff who have completed a certain number of years of service.

For their long-standing commitment, the company may open up some of the higher-value benefits such as long leaves, hiatus, or sabbaticals. Other benefits like student loan or tuition assistance may include conditions that, on your return to the company, you will need to ‘work back’ the assistance by staying with the company for 2-5 years. If you choose to leave the company while still ‘working back’ your perk, the company would typically ask you to pay back a portion of the assistance they extended to you.

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Long term service benefits can also include monetary bonuses, jubilee awards like a gold watch, and vacation awards.

Conclusion

When you're considering the right job, a basic salary is no longer enough. You deserve and should fight for an attractive package of benefits to accompany your pay.

Consider these work perks to be part of your salary calculation and do the work to understand the value of each perk before you have your negotiation with the employer.