We recently got a happy letter from UNBS (Uganda National Bureau of Standards) informing us that we had been granted a permit to use the Uganda standards certification mark for the SHAKE enkooge tamarind fruit drink. This process has been slow and expensive for us. It has taken almost a year from the time we started preparations to eventually receiving the permit. This may seem like a small achievement for many but for us it’s a dream come true.
We faced quite a number of challenges in the beginning before we got certified. Several big supermarkets and retailers refused to stock our products. Some customers also refused to try our products. UNBS surveillance teams sometimes impounded our vehicles and we had to pay hefty fines and penalties to resume operations.
We then made a strategic choice to become compliant and pursue the UNBS certification process. We did our research and acquired the necessary standards from UNBS. We got a consultant to advise us and train the teams. We made the applications with UNBS, paid relevant fees, tested the products and raw materials, and trained the teams. We streamlined and documented the production and quality process. We made structural changes at factory. We tiled the walls, built a store, put in pest control measures, made cleaning checklists, etc. We did medical tests for the workers, bought safety gear, and maintained proper records. We got our water sources tested and certified by the Ministry of Water. We also made changes to the product labels to comply with the standard.
The UNBS teams inspected the factory premises. A few areas of improvement were noted. We invested some money in correcting all the identified changes. Once we did all this we were granted the permit. The UNBS teams were quite professional and helpful throughout this process.
Going through the certification process was difficult but we have immensely benefited as a business. We learnt that quality management is critical to our success. We have deliberately invested in ensuring we deliver consistent quality to our customers. The teams have learnt a great deal in managing quality on the production floor. The certification mark has opened up new opportunities for us. The constraints to growth have now significantly reduced. We are now going to approach all the major retailers around town to stock our products.
Small businesses usually shy away from these bureaucratic government processes because of limited budgets and ambiguity in the processes. But remember you’re not trading on an island. The very government you fear to deal with maybe the very thing which limits your business growth for non compliance. Make sure you have a good lawyer on board to advise you on the key compliance requirements for your business.