Ian Ortega interviews Edwin Musiime, a 36 year old Pastor and Business Practitioner in Uganda. He is the man behind the Crest Group that comprises entities such as Property Show, Uganda’s premier real estate show. Property Show has currently grown to cover Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana. Musiime never tires to mentoring young entrepreneurs and recently started the Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs, a venture that brings together Uganda’s youngest and best of business brains under one roof.
Ortega: Hello Edwin, what unique story do you have for me today?
Musiime: I am just getting Jomoo Group onto the Property Show. I recently had a chance to visit the Joomo Factory in China and I was impressed by many things. The time in which the Jomoo employees go for lunch, it is 12:30pm. 12:30pm, the guys will queue out and head for lunch. By 1:30pm principally, they have a rest for 30 minutes. 2pm, they are back in. Everything is just organized. I was fascinated by the respect they would accord you. They would treat you like you are a president of some huge organisation going to consume a million dollars worth of their products, regardless of who you are. And of course courteously, they would all greet you with a bow. And it’s just their way of doing things.
One of the other things that fascinated, they run a huge storeroom. A gentleman was taking me around. For me to appreciate what he had done, I wanted to tip him. Because I had some Chinese extra money and I didn’t want to bring it back here, it wouldn’t help me. And he (this gentleman) just placed his hands together and bowed down and said; “Oh no, thank you, that’s my job.” And of course I reflected back on what the scenario is like back in Uganda where you don’t even have to offer a tip, someone will already be saying; “Ka soda” aka “my tip.”
For me what struck me was their level of risk-taking when it comes to investments. Most African investors I have met, it’s just all about the money. These guys are more of your social entrepreneurs than your cash-minded entrepreneurs. When you look at this organisation, they’ve got a school where the employees actually take their kids. They’ve got a hospital. They’ve got sleeping quarters for them.
And while we think that China is churning out some fake products, that’s not the case. These guys have the strongest quality controls that you can think of. They test their products. There was a particular toilet they were making where you actually don’t need tissue when you enter. They have proven and tested it. I went and tried it out, it was my first experience and it actually cleans you accurately well. That was for me, fascinating.
Ortega: But what makes those people different? How do we start that culture here? How do we build that culture of excellence here?
Musiime: One of the most important quotes that changed my life was by Benjamin Disraeli. When he said that; “nurture your mind with great thoughts for you will never go any higher than you think.” Our hugest challenges and dilemmas as Africans is our thoughts. Good thoughts plus good actions can never produce bad results. Bad thoughts and bad actions can never produce good results. There’s no two ways to it.
When you look at what we are dealing with, while I had a chance to visit Shanghai briefly for a couple of hours, they told me; “let’s take you to a city where half the population are millionaires and billionaires.” I said what? We briefly went to Shanghai, I was overwhelmed. I was not taken up by the riches, but what was in my mind was the question of ‘How do they do this?’ And when you look at our education system, it has overwhelmingly taught us what to think but not how to think. While the Western World, while Shanghai is producing billionaires. Business Insider pretty tells you that China produces a billionaire every 5 days, Russia every 3 weeks produces a billionaire. Now that’s staggering. That’s shocking.
When you look at the top 10 high net worth brands, majority of them are in the world of IT. In Uganda where we have the Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs (CYE), I look at all these young guys, energetic, and brilliant thoughts, ICT is pretty much where all these souls would be going. You can pump into them all the agriculture talk you want but for most young people, it’s going to be the ICT. Then you come up with a tax on social media and they can’t access that creative machine that gets them exposed to a lot of these things. Again, it goes back to the thinking. In a nutshell, how can we achieve that here?
Our leaders need to change the way they think. The Late Dr. Myles Munroe always emphasised one thing; “an idea is more powerful than an army.” Where do ideas come from? Thought process. I don’t know whether in your life there’s something you’ve ever done terribly and somebody just asked you; ‘what were you thinking?’ Because every action comes from the thought process.
I had a chance to meet with the Late Mulwana three months before he passed away. I wasn’t writing or doing the Great Ugandans thing. But that was a habit I had and I still have it where every week I make it a point to meet somebody that has made it in a certain discipline of life. I met with him on a late afternoon and asked him the first question; ‘what is the secret to success? How can I be rich?’ And I keep mentioning rich not from a materialistic point of view. I am fascinated about being wealthy. By forty I have said to myself, I have to me a millionaire. It’s not so much about the money, it is so much about what we can do with the money to help everybody around us.
At CYE, I feel bad in my office when walk in, walk out, a young man with a dream, with an idea, and you can’t do anything apart from give them the intellectual capital or the social capital. But they need the money. It hurts me that there’s great investors in our country, but these guys, they don’t even donate. They don’t have any corporate social responsibility programme that is visible on the ground. That hurts me.
And the reason I keep saying I really want to be rich is because I feel there is so much I can be able to do as an individual. And I wish there was this whole idea of commonwealth in its reality. A commonwealth where wealth was actually common and it was shared.
It’s all about ideas. We ask ourselves; “don’t our leaders travel and see these beautiful roads and come back and implement the same here?” And I keep asking myself; “what does it take to be a CEO of a country like Uganda?”
We might for all purposes say we don’t want to compare ourselves with Kenya or Rwanda. But let’s face it. Look at what’s happening in Rwanda. The same day they are unveiling the Volkswagen is the same day one of the reports is saying a hotel in Entebbe unveils the longest rolex (chappati and eggs), and then the next headline of course is the tax on social media. Do we think about that? Do our leaders think about that?
We just keep saying Rwanda is Rwanda. No way. Rwanda can’t be just Rwanda. These guys a couple of years back went through a genocide and their country was in shambles. How have they rebuilt it? It is the thought process of the leadership there. I had a chance to run Property Show in Rwanda. When I opened my first company there, it took me two days for everything to be sorted and to be in place. I wanted to fix an appointment with Dr. Musoni, the Minister of Housing then and the moment they got me online, I was able to have the meeting without any bureaucracy.
And when I met this guy, we were sharing on the Master Plan on Kigali, he had the master plan on his finger tips. He knew what they were intending to do. He was telling me; “we are excited because we had set Vision 2020 but we have outdone ourselves and now we are looking at how we can begin implementing our Vision 2030.”
But here in Uganda, I have met with politicians in different spheres. And we will share and ask them different questions and they will tell you; “argh, this is Uganda.” That for me is shocking. Bottom line, all this falls back on the mindset. The same mindset that drove America to create what they call the ethos of the American dream that everybody right now craves for a Visa to go to America because of the American dream. When you look at the British system, all those European countries, it is the mindset. It is a thought process which countries like Nigeria have captured.
As I do my business research, I go to New York street. On New York street, there is a time I wanted to do a hair cut, and I was looking around for a Ugandan who does that. They directed me to some Ugandan who had some barber shop somewhere deep, and then you have to fix an appointment, he is always busy and all that. Then I met this Nigerian guy, I think it’s Martin Oshegun. The guy runs fifteen franchises of hair salons on New York street. And he’s literally half a billionaire.
And it’s a mindset. I have met with Tony Elumelu, these guys they don’t do things by half. They go all the way. They are aggressive. They do it all the way. But it’s the mindset. It is the thinking capacity, it is the thought process. And that’s what we call the intellectual capacity.
But Back to Mulwana, I asked him; “what can I really do to be successful?” He replied; “you have asked me the wrong question.” He continued; “Number one Son, understand that success is a mindset, wealth creation is a mindset. But the second key thing I will tell you Edwin, the right question to ask me is not how to become successful, not how to become rich, ask me, ‘if I ever find myself successful, how can I stay successful?’
Therein lies the other huge problem that we have. President Museveni with 27 guns and his soldiers, they are in a bush at one point and voila, they are in power. But how do you then stay in power? Yes they have succeeded at that. But how do you stay in power meaningfully, and productively, and effectively and efficiently. We’ve all heard about stories of men who were rich, preachers who were very anointed, but then, what happened? It hurts me when I see an older person who was once wealthy and they’ve now gone down the drain.
Again today, as I interacted with this rich Old Indian couple that works in Congo, I told them, “this Sunday is my birthday, what would you say to me?” One of the things the old man told me was; “just learn to manage your life, learn to manage your money. Learn to do the basic things excellently well.” That was all the man told me.
I remember the words Hans Paulsen, the former country director of Vivo Energy told me. I once asked him; “what can we do to change the corporate ethos of our brands and companies.” He told me; “Edwin, if companies could learn to do the basic things excellently well, everything would change.”
You realize I want to be a millionaire by 40, it is not so much about the size of my balance sheet, it is the size of my thinking capacity by 40. When you look at the men who built America, it was this driving force of how they thought America would look like in 60 years. Because out of your thoughts, then, vision is begot. What is in Kagame’s mind? What is the Rwanda he wants to see?
The thing you think about your life in the next 20 years, we then begin to see you manifest the signs and the value system of the things that will actually help you create the thing that you are seeing. And that’s very important, vision. You asked me again, what can get us there? Vision.
Vision is very important. Vision is key. But again, the thinking and thought process and the vision correlate. You think right, you think positive, you think in a progressive productive manner, you have a clear vision for your life, for your business, for your organisation, then you are headed in the right direction.
Ortega: What was your turning point where something clicked? There is a moment where people’s lives are somewhat linear, they are following a certain script, then at some point they realise, not anymore, I have to be different, I have to take a different path. What was that moment for you?
Musiime: Two moments for me, at 6 years old, I was playing football in the compound, he was speaking to the family lawyer. And I remember him telling the family lawyer; “I have faith in my boy, one day he is going to be someone.” I remember those words so keenly. I remember kicking the ball so hard. Those words never left me.
That’s why I keep telling parents; “forget this education system. It is very important to understand that schooling is different from education.” George Bernard Shaw says; “you can interrupt my education years but don’t interrupt my schooling years.” Those words stuck in my mind. I realize that my 7 year old daughter is so smart and brilliant, yes the school has played a part. I mentor close to 2000 people but I know that the first protege, the first apprentice I have is my daughter. For 7 years, I have never caned her even once.
One day she did something wrong and I said to her; “Mylar, have I ever beaten you?” She said; “No.” I asked her why and she replied; “because I am a good girl.” She has learned to obey me. She knows what is good and she knows what is bad. I tell her once that something is not good then I begin to show her the right way to do things. I am very careful, what I say, what I do when I am around my daughter. Because I know there is something we can invest in our kids that the education system can never do.
She hears me talking big. She hears me on the telephone talking about contracts. And she is very inquisitive, she’s grown the inquisitive thing in her. She will ask me; “Dad, what’s a contract?” Then I will explain to her that a contract is a sense of a binding understanding between two people, two parties that come together to do something. If I mention anything again that’s complicated within my explanation, she will again ask. I have grown understanding that this is important for the kids. So that for me was my first turning point.
Second turning point was when my Dad died in 1994. My Dad was an Inspector of Schools and District Education Officer. We kind of had it all. We had a lot of land, we had cows in Bushenyi, we had a lot of property in Kabale, In Sseta, we literally had acres and acres of land. It was life at its best. I would have anything I wanted. I went to the best schools.
Then 1994, my dad passes away. Things take a twist. I bless the Lord for my step mother who then carried on the responsibility. Most people when they think of step mothers, they look at the perspective of torture. But what she did then, she said to me; “Edwin, our major source of income is gone. Dad left us some cows in the village. I wanna sell them and buy Friesians and chicken.” My entrepreneurship journey then had to start at about 11 to 12 years. I had to take care of the chicken, I had to take care of the cows.
In Sseta there was a hotel called Serado, it belonged to our Uncle. I would make sure I bring milk by the evening and I had some good customers who knew by evening 5:30pm, I would be there with my can. And I would pack and sell them the milk. On my routine I remember by about 1am, I would be feeding the chicken. There were times at 2am that I had to go and fetch water.
2am you go to the well to fetch water, pushing the bicycle. It is phenomenal how I used to do it and how guys still do it. You put about 12 jerrycans on a bicycle and push them uphill. Unfortunately it was such that the well is on a slope. So when you are going there, you are enjoying the ride downwards. Then when you have the jerrycans filled up, you have to push them all up. Of course when it rained, it would be horrible.
But for me that built in me a certain sense of work stability, and work ethic to know that life is not fair, in life, you never get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate for. It taught me from an early age to work so hard. That for me was another turning point.
In Secondary I was in Naggalama for O and A-Level. I would usually go two weeks late. I was always the late guy because I had to collect money for the eggs, when I had enough of it, I would then be able to go to school. What did that do for me? I have learned to turn disadvantages into advantages. What the did for me is that every time I would go to school, while they had this fun stuff aka kadanke, I wasn’t about that life, that was even before I was born again. Because I refused to associate myself with these guys who I thought were privileged. They had everything I didn’t have.
I remembered how my step mother was hustling back home. I remembered how I was hustling to make my school fees so I wasn’t gonna go to school and play games. That for me was life changing in itself. And I wasn’t the brightest of kids. In my primary school, I would be like number 40 or 50, in my O-level I would be like in 30th position.
I remember my turning point in HSC was when my step mother sat me down and told me, if you don’t get government sponsorship, it is over. I was doing HEL/D. I already knew what I wanted to be, I wanted to be a media person.
I remember in Naggalama, I started up what they called the NBC, Naggalama Broadcasting Corporation. Because I discovered Tuesday Assemblies were very boring. So I talked to the head teacher so I could introduce a new bulletin where I share certain incidences that have happened, who fell in the bowl of porridge etc. That was exciting, I did it for about three years. I led the writers’ club, I led the debaters’ club. I was already into this world.
But for me the turning point I remember we were gonna sit our final year exams and there are certain topics in economics I had not fully mastered. I remember asking for a pass to go home while they were preparing for the leavers’ party. My mother was shocked. She thought I was coming home to ask for money for the leavers’ party. I told her, no, I just needed one week to get economics right. No wonder when the results came back I was one of the only two students with an A in economics in my school. And I said to myself, “God I want to be the best in my school.” Now remember, I used to be number 30, 40. But in life, it’s about strategy.
My strategy then, I formed a discussion group. I was smart in other ways not in education but in how to create strategies. I formed a group of 6 guys. They were the brightest guys and I was like the dumbest. But in the discussion group I would always listen to what they were saying, I would argue them out and guess what? When the results came back, we were only two students, one is Robert Wamala, he is in Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). We were the only two students that struck AAAB.
Ortega: What year was that?
Musiime: 1999. But it shocks you. I used to be number 40. So it shocks you, how do things turn around? People keep asking; “are entrepreneurs born or made? Are geniuses born or made?” What changed in between? It simply taught me that in every child, in every human being, there’s that touch of genius inside but it needs to be polished and pulled out. Up to now, I still ask myself what changed? Again, it was the mindset.
And I remember those days, they used to call me; “future” because I would wake up guys and say; “let’s go secure our future.” And I had a basin, I would put water in the basin, I would put my feet so I don’t sleep. I would read. Guys hated me at school because three weeks to the finals, I was an encylopedia. I would walk around guys reading economics and I would begin bringing different themes and topics, this and that and I would split it, literature, I would split it, that kind of thing. But what was that? It was the seed time. I planted my seed. Because I knew there was harvest time.
Results came back, go to Makerere, boom, I had my Mass Communication. Now I realize, at every stage of life, the strategy needs to change. You can’t keep addressing problems of the 21st century the same way you addressed issues in the 20th century. The way the men that built America those years is not the way America operates right now. Things keep evolving, they keep changing. So as soon as I could find myself in vacation waiting for my results, boom, results are back, mass com, quickly I asked myself; “what next?”
As soon as we enrolled, I got my first job at FMJ, that is Kampala FM currently, I got my first job at Monitor FM. I walked into UTV, Irene Zikusoka was the TV Quality Controller then. She was a very fierce lady, everybody feared her. And for me the thing that had grown in me already was the fierceness and courage and boldness. And everybody used to fear her. UTV then was not even advertising.
I walked on foot from Makerere to Nakasero, knocked on her door. “Come in, young man who are you?” she asks me. “My name is Edwin Musiime.” I respond. She hits back; “what are you here for?” “May I have a seat m’am?” I plead. I sat down. “I have been practicing and I have loved television for a long time and I feel like I would make a very great duty announcer and a very good presenter. To be precise I want to work with UTV,” I made my pitch. She looked at me for about 5 to 10 minutes and I don’t know for some reason she didn’t even have the courage to say No or anything. She tells me to come for a screen test the next day.
I went back to Makerere that night. Remember that 4 to 5 years ago in Naggalama, I had launched the NBC. I was practicing years back, now the moment had come. But I had to be prepared for the moment. It is the mental strength. One of the things I have learned from this 2018 world cup is no matter how gifted you are physically, you are a Christiano Ronald, a Lionel Messi, you’ve got to be mentally ready for that victory. I watched the Croatia-England game and that thing came back again. You’ve got to be having the right state of mind to know you’re gonna win this. So for me, my mind had already been prepared.
As soon as I got onto the set, it just seemed like I had done this forever. “Hello how are you, it is Edwin Musiime and this is UTV.” As soon as I was done with my screen test, they promised to get back to me. That was like a Thursday. On Monday, no one had called me. I walked back to Nakasero. I was so shocked when I read on the noticeboard and saw my name on the duty announcers’ list. I was going to be duty announcing on Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays. So there, my career begun.
One thing I learned from my father was the discipline and value of hard work. Of course later on in years away from his time, I realised it was now a combination of hard work and smart work. But my father’s time, it was just the hard work.
I was doing mass communication, on a scale of 1 to 10 days, I was in class for 3 of them. I was rarely in class. For me it didn’t make sense. I had these lecturers that were researching from these old books. I wondered to myself, what is Mass com about? It was about print, and broadcasting. I was writing for daily monitor, I am working for FMJ which is a radio, I am working on UTV, what then was class going to do for me? So I chose to go get the practical thing.
That’s why people today tell me; “I have grown up watching you on Television.” It must have been 2000 when I hit the airwaves. So through campus, my roommate at one time thought I had a problem because I was rare at campus.
The words my father had said to me back then when I was 6 years had stirred that conviction in me , I just wanted to be someone. Guys who would visit my room at campus thought I was like a Minister’s son. I had a screen, I had a fridge, but keep in mind, there are days I had to walk to campus because from an early age I had learned from my father that there are sacrifices you’ve got to make for what you want. There’s a price to everything in life. I learned that at an early age.
So I get through campus, from campus, I continue with UTV, then it was UBC. And I keep telling people, I was earning UGX 25,000 for 5 years. Within 5 years, I got my first opportunity for an invitation to the UK, my first contacts to the UK who are like my parents now, they always invited me to the British home in Watford. I got my first opportunity to travel to the US. Now keep in mind, someone may focus on; “what’s in it for me with this 25K a month?” But I knew that there was a certain sense of capital that I knew I had to build. It wasn’t about the money for me.
And if you asked me how I was surviving. I must tell you, I was somehow surviving. I was in Nsibirwa Hall and I was the Minister of Information. I would make sure I was in time for the rice and beans (murram), I would go and eat the murram. In the evening, I would still be prompt and eat that stuff. Then walk and go work, come back, it was tough but I had to go through it.
My second turning point was at 27 years old. I kept looking at the Late Baale Francis and the rest of the top managers who were around, sorry to say, some of them didn’t even have a bicycle. Without mentioning, some of them would come to me for financial help. They would be like; “son help me with 20K, I will give it back to you.” That time I had been promoted and I was earning 800K. Then I was also doing the Christian Voice Show which was quite very popular and I had a lot of pastor friends who would at times just bless me with money. I had money on me all the time. But remember you’ve moved away from just the 25K to someone all of a sudden just gifting you with 100 dollars, 200 dollars.
So I looked at the lives of these guys and I said to myself; “I am 27, at 60 years, is that the same life I want to live?” They would call for a meeting and we would all run like school kids. At 26-24, you can swing around like that but here I was looking at those 60 year olds and I am thinking; “how?”
I remember when I was at UBC, I and the late Baale Francis, we were the earliest people at work always. By 5:45am, I was always checking in at UBC, even when I was earning the 25K by the way. My MD at the time would be shocked at times. I created my own office somewhere and pimped it up. By 10pm, 111pm, he would be walking around and then boom, here I am in the office or walking around looking at the Satellite dishes and the control room. He would wonder what I was doing. “I am just seeing how we can improve certain things and all that,” I would tell him. That was me.
I keep telling people, a job is the only University where you go and study while you are being paid. That’s how I saw the job. A job is just that University, you are learning but they are even paying you to learn. That’s a huge opportunity. And I keep telling young entrepreneurs, if you ever get a chance to work for somebody, grab it with both hands, go and do it. So that was my culture. I loved going in early and leaving late. For me, the broadcasting industry was fascinating. Unfortunately I had to leave UBC.
Ortega: Why did you leave?
Musiime: 27 years I look at these guys and something didn’t add up. So I set a target that by 30 years, I don’t want to be employed. I want to be running my own production house and I want to be financially free. I don’t like begging in life. The way these guys were living their lives, it didn’t show any progress.
I realized, away from thoughts and vision, there’s that huge component of decision making. If three birds are on a fence and two decide to fly, how many are on a fence? Usually that question is mind-boggling for people. No, they’ve just decided. Deciding is not actually acting. So when you decide, you also act.
I know most of these employees in their minds they also had the decision to one day also make it, but then, you’ve got to put on the gloves and get into the ring. At 30, I decided I want to resign. But here’s what happened. At 29, I was promoted to Quality Assurance Manager. And my salary was 2.9 million. All of a sudden for a 29 year old guy in the corporate world, that’s huge, add in the fuel allowances, I was also in charge of a lot of budgets. Aloha! But I said, wait a minute, I had said by 30, I wanted to leave.
That time the President had just made a reshuffle and Paul Kihika had just come in. And one of the other things that greatly pushed me out was, we were trying to rebrand UBC and I had this plethora of ideas of how we can make UBC change. And I had these top managers that had grown old and out of touch with reality and they couldn’t buy into my ideas. I told my MD, I am quitting because I was felt I would be getting a pay cheque for nothing.
I didn’t even get my gratuity because I did a forceful resignation. They refused to grant me the resignation, the next morning what I did was get a van, packed all my things because a lot of stuff in the office were my own things, packed and drove out. They told me the consequences of forceful resignation were that you couldn’t get your gratuity. It was about 40 or 50 million but it was okay to me, I didn’t need the gratuity. I left UBC just like that.
As life would have its twists and turns, I had savings of about 12 million. And for me at that stage, 12 million was a lot of money. So Crest Group, my premier company alongside all the things I do, is a company I had actually already registered even when I was still at UBC. So at that time in Bunga, we rented our first office, and for me I was more preoccupied with the whole idea of putting the title CEO on the door. I quickly employed 8 people, gave them titles; head operations, head finance, human resource. But what was Crest Group?
Crest Group at that time, we had begun with the Crest Awards, because I was experienced in organising events. Uganda was turning 50, we set up the Crest Awards, Cocacola was sponsoring and there was about 60 million going to come. And my mind was still just locked up on the event. And I never thought beyond the event. So this money comes in, a bit of profit comes in, we pay off this and that.
Now here we were, Crest Group as an organisation and a company, no clear product, no clear service. You are paying salaries every month, cash outflow, no inflow. But for me then, every morning, it was just the whole idea of walking in, the CEO has come. “Oh let them make me a cup of tea.” And I don’t even remember what we would be doing but we would just be in office. Four months down the road, no liquid. Broke! No Money!
That’s when it hit me. And I remember the words of Patrick Bitature. I met him before I resigned and he was always my mentor. He said to me; “two things that are gonna happen to you, either you are gonna be one of those exceptional cases that’s gonna rise and shine or you are gonna dip down before you rise again.” Unfortunately for me, that was the same time my marriage too was on the rocks!
That was 2014. The media had me for lunch, for dinner, all sorts of stories. And I think for me the greatest thing that hurt me then was how long it takes to build a good name which the book of Proverbs says it is more valuable than riches. You build a good name and then in just a stroke of ink on paper, someone messes it up. They wrote all sorts of things that are irreversible in many people’s minds. So I had that phase of my life to deal with. I went through a divorce. We finalised the divorce last year (2017) and I had to face the reality. But I knew that I had a 7 year old girl to raise.
But again the final turning point for me was a few years ago, I was driving my old benz. I had gone to the garage, I was stuck, I was now on a bike. So I park my a petrol station. Remember now the office in Bunga was closed. But I remember Dr. Naboth Coole is one guy who told me; “me Chairman, I am going to stay with you. I know that Crest Group will bounce back.” In my mind, I am wondering, bounce back from where? So Crest Group became a briefcase business. I would come here at Serena and I was crafting up all these ideas.
But I always look back and realise it was a blessing in disguise. I had to go broke. There were certain things I needed to learn. There are certain things you can never learn by just merely hearing advice from somebody. And I have learned that the hard way. You might get all mentors in this world but there are certain things, you’ve got to go through them.
So anyway, I am broke, I am on a Bike, and I pass by this Total Petrol Station. I don’t know what I wanted to get at that supermarket then. All of a sudden, I see this Prado beaming lights to me. Who was in the car? It was Roland. He beckons on me; “brother come in my car, have a seat.” I sat in his car and he parked somewhere. Then asked; “what’s going on?”
I begun ranting; “you see I am going through this, many things have happened, I have nothing blablabla.” What I liked about this guy, he didn’t give me money. But the words he shared with me were my final turning point. He said to me; “let me tell you my brother, I grew up my old man telling me these words; ‘enzirugavvu zezikoleera enjeeru’ your black hair works for the grey hair. Second thing, your daughter enjoys a father who can buy her ice cream, who can buy her bicycle. Your daughter cannot understand the circumstances you are going through.” Those words woke me up.
To cut the long story short, I had an opportunity to join European Union. Simon Kasyate was resigning then, Andrew Mwenda tells me; “I have spoken to the Ambassador, you are the smartest guy who can do this.” I am preparing my papers but the Lord is very clear, at 30 I wanted to be financially free, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. What’s happening to me now? We are speaking of millions of salary and travel. I went through a whole year and a half of what I call a famine. I moved from a house in Buziga, I moved from a beautiful house I was into, to a place called Mugendagye. I was renting an apartment on the roadside. Roadside with all that noise and all that. But I remember I was in arrears of rent by 7 months. Man, things were bad.
I was living with my brother and we were eating bushera (porridge) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because the old woman who used to serve me food got to a point and cut me off. The amount of money had accumulated so much to the extent that she said; “boss you are going to fail my business, no more until you pay up.” So I started eating porridge and all that.
One night, I have a dream. And what is the dream? Real estate. I was like; “God, real estate, of course anyone would love to invest in real estate.” Following night God asks me what I had in my hands. And then a figure 12 appeared in a vision. By the time I resigned from UBC, I had been on television for 12 years. I wake up at 2am, and it hits me, it’s about a television show in real estate.
Now at that time, there was nobody doing a real estate show. So quickly I remember, Dr.Naboth had a Raum he used to drive. I borrowed 20K from someone, we went somewhere and I borrowed 300K. We wanted to put together a pilot show. We put together a pilot show, we edited it, somebody helped us put it together and all that.
And as I grow older, I realize every person you meet on a daily basis is very vital. Relationships are more valuable than capital, than liquid. Relationships are very important. That people power. So I called Oliver Lalani because 4 to 5 years back, we had done the Crest Awards and Roofings was the Sponsor and he liked the way we did it. He says; “Oh Edwin, you are lost.” I interject; “Oh Oliver, you won’t believe I have a brilliant idea that I want Roofings to invest in. I don’t want to give it to any steel company.” We show up with the first pilot of the property show. It was uniquely done, state of the art. I could never believe myself, the first contract we ever signed was worth UGX 30 million per month.
I went back home and I could not sleep. I remember each part of the night I was crying. So pretty much what we do is we have a revenue share with every TV station that we work with, in Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. All the advertising we bring in, they take 50, we take 50 as a company. Simple.
Two weeks later, 15 million comes in. Now, all my years of employment at UBC, I had never collected 2 to 3 million on my account. You know how employment is. Even the guys that earn 4 million, by the time the month is ending, there’s these obligations waiting for that money. But for the first time, I have 15 million landing on the account.
I remember the first thing I did, I went to my landlord. There were about 6 months arrears but I paid for 7 months. He wondered why I had paid extra. I told him, that’s for your patience. I told my broker to find me a very good home in Buziga that my daughter can visit and say; “Dad this is a great place to be.”
I remember the first time we went into the new apartment and my daughter comes over, she’s like; “Dad, wow, I like this.” Then I remembered the words Roland told me; “it wasn’t about me.” And I keep telling people, the only reason I cannot fail in this life is not even because of me, there are certain factors.
Number one, God, he has invested too much in us, we can’t fail. Number two, the children that we give birth to, the legacy. You have to leave a legacy. I hear you refer to your Dad (Kevin Aliro) at times. Man, we need to create the same legacy for our kids.
15 or 20 years later, my daughter or Son should knock on somebody’s door and say; “I am Mylar Musiime.” And someone responds; “Oh, Edwin Musiime the guy that was in real estate, chamber of young entrepreneurs…” That for me is important.
Number three, the people that I mentor look up to me. How will I give a report of I failed? No, I cannot. For me when my daughter moved into this apartment by the hill and said; “Dad, this is good, I loved it.” Then I was able to provide for her again, and then my life was reshaped.
The Property Show was a benchmark, a new cornerstone for Crest Group’s success. Now we launched Sun Media which is a production house. Now I begun defining clearly what Crest Group is about. Sun Media is a production agency, we do quite a number of adverts for brands like Serena. We’ve done adverts for Turkish airlines, Nina Interiors, Mirembe Villas, ABC styles. We handle accounts of all these organisations and all that. But remember, all this experience was crafted out of 12 years of UBC. Of me walking in at 5:30am and leaving at 10pm. It’s all that.
One time somebody challenged me and said; “are you not afraid, Bukedde are copying property show and they are also doing property show?” And now I have learned that now, I am not afraid of competition. Competition is good and healthy for me. They can compare the two products and know that his product is different. But number two, I know that there’s a certain formula that Steve Jobs had that up to-date, no matter how much Apple has grown, if he were alive today and Apple has moved 10 miles, if he were alive, it would have moved 40. For me, there was a formula I got when I started the Property Show that no one can think of.
While they may replicate it on other stations, we are contemplating now signing a contract with Multichoice to do Property Show Africa. We are launching Property Show Ghana, we are doing Property Show South Africa. Then quickly we thought about the ecosystem of real estate. We launched the Homes Expo which makes some good money every year in March and November. We are looking at replicating the idea to the diaspora, UK, US, Australia, Canada and all that.
We launched the Homes Magazine. We launched Mars Events that does Events Management. We do about 4 to 5 events a year. The reason I do events, is not much about the money but because there’s this experience I have gained visiting the Nigerian events that are done to a certain level of perfection. So I have grown that eye for excellence. I do it for fun but it makes some money. Right now we are going to be helping to assemble and work with the UK convention and also my company is helping the UNAA causes to brand the event and all that.
We launched Mars Luxury. Pretty much for me, Mars Luxury was born out of passion and love for style and design. The fashion industry right now has not been doing very well. There are some of those brands that you invest in for the future and out of passion. I just love dressing and believe it will pick up someday. But there’s so many prospects we’ve got as Crest Group.
We’ve now got Chamber of Young Entrepreneurs. I am beginning to globe-trot a lot in terms of collaborative partnerships for CYE and how we can change the face of entrepreneurship in Uganda and Africa. So my plate right now is full but those turning points shaped my life and shaped the man that I am today.
Of course the Ministry bit for me has also always been very important. An Apostle sent me a scripture in Mathew some days back challenging me about when Jesus multiplied bread, he didn’t spend time teaching people to open bakeries and make money and all that. People challenge me to choose whether I am a Pastor or a Businessman.
And I am very clear about it. The Lord did not say he will bless me through the tithes, he didn’t say he will bless me through offering. I don’t know about other Gods and other Christians but my God told me He will bless the works of my hands. There’s a reason why God gave me two hands. There’s a reason he gave me a brain. There’s a reason for those thoughts and business ideas that run through my mind. God has created us to be co-creators. I can’t lose that opportunity. How?
Property Show is about to launch Property Showroom hardwares across the Ntinda, Munyonyo side and all that. We are launching a full interior designing firm. We are launching a home construction company.
I have seen many preachers struggle financially and end up in messes because of finances. And I keep telling Christians; “I refuse to rely on your income, tithe to see whether I can take my family on a vacation to the Bahamas.” So yes, I am a servant of God, but I am also a business leader.
Ortega: What advice would you give a young person just joining University or getting out into the real world? How do they overcome the trap of dead dreams?
Musiime: Dreams in themselves never die. They stay alive. You kill it, you think you’ve killed it but you’ve only killed a part of a soul but the dream is still alive. On the day Disney World was opening, one of the speakers said; “it is a shame that Disney is not here to see what this has become.” The wife of Walt Disney says; “let me start by correcting you, young man. Disney saw all this before it was.” So dreams never die, it is a part of us that dies, our hope, our aspirations that die. But the dreams in any young man never die. They are always alive.
So what I can tell to any young man is, create a value system. It is interesting how companies, and organisations and schools have visions, objectives, missions. As human beings, that’s your starting point. As a human being, you need a vision, you need the mission statement, you need value systems. What makes an old man, 50 years old drive a Prado to go to MUBS to look for a small girl? He has a wife at home with kids but he goes to look for this young girl. It is the value system.
In your value system, you say, this is what I wanna achieve, this is my dream, this is my vision. Don’t lose the vision. Don’t lose the dream. In your value system, begin to create the pillars that you are going to hold your foundation on. Among these, number one, it’s got to start with God, faith.
Whether you are a muslim, it doesn’t matter. I have got some muslim friends. They believe in Allah. I relate to them and there’s so much I learn from them. God didn’t create a born again. God created a human being. That is why my first ministry for me is to human beings not to Christians. So, God first. I have learned to be open-minded in life, to learn from as many people as I can.
Number two, learn, learn, learn. I had to take up all these jobs that were not paying me much. At Daily Monitor at that time they were paying us 6K per story. But for me it wasn’t about the money then, I was empowering myself. Those things you don’t buy them off a supermarket shelf. The human capital is built, it is a fabric.
Get out of University. What do you want? You want to be an IT specialist, into Agriculture, whatever it is, think about a company you admire the most, go ask for an internship and just work. If they are going to offer you some transport, well and good. If not, figure out.
Your life ought to be like water streaming on the floor. When water is flowing and it finds some rocks, it will either go underneath, go above the rock or go beside the rock. It doesn’t stop. You keep going. I have my mantra, I never give up. With God all things are possible and if this is so, then all things indeed are possible. Why do I say by 40 I want to be a multi-millionaire? Because all things are possible. So have that faith in you and begin to learn.
Have mentors. These days I love to be realistic. It is difficult to have one mentor and say my mentor is so and so. Increasingly because I have realised the world we are in, people get busier. Patrick Bitature could be your mentor but dude, the guy also has his own things and vision he’s chasing and pursuing. The time that he had three or four years ago, he has evolved. I talk to Bitature, I talk to Mbire, I talk to NSSF’s Richard Byarugaba but occasionally whenever I have a chance to talk to any of them, and I don’t take it personal when they may not make the time. So if a mentor isn’t available, don’t take it personal.
Toughen up. Life is tough. Toughen up. Don’t get emotional over everything. Lay priorities right. Do you want to date now or if you want to date, what’s the purpose of your dating right now? My British mother often told me; “if you don’t want to shop, don’t go window-shopping.”
For me I didn’t date through campus. I might have a failed marriage but I don’t consider it a failed marriage. I looked at it as a way I learned on how not to do marriage. Today if I ever walked into marriage, I know how to do things much better. It’s just the attitude.
Then focus, very important. And then learn money management. At any level, there’s money trickling to you, it could be a coin of 500 shillings, it’s not how much that’s coming to you, it’s what you do with that little that comes to you.
The thing I learned when I was broke was all the people that claimed to be so tight to me, they all disappeared. It is because all these pastors and friends related to me because of the Christian voice show. They related to me because I was where I was. So when people greet you with; ‘how are you’ they are actually not interested in how you are. Most of the time people are interested in who are you.
As I grow older, I have learned to lay priorities. If I were to do a wedding today, I wouldn’t even imagine a guest list of more than 50 people. What for? But again, these are things you learn with maturity. So lay priorities right. Where are you at in life? Where do you want to be? And constantly go back to your values.
You don’t have to live by Ian Ortega’s ten principles to do A, B, C, D, no! Create your own values, create your own principles. But more importantly, I would say Lupita N’yongo’s words; “our dreams are valid.” Our dreams are always valid but we’ve got to fight for them.
Ortega: What is that one book you’ve re-read again and again and why?
Musiime: I know you know. It is the Bible. For me the Bible is number one. I have got a Heathen multi-millionaire friend of mine in Buckingham, UK but I see him with a Bible. He says the Bible has got phenomenal principles. Now this is a man who says he doesn’t believe in God or even in his existence. When you look at the book of proverbs, it tells you literally about everything, about marriage, about relationships, about business, all these things. So for me the first primary book is the Bible.
Book number two is the 48 Laws of Power. It is a book that Charles Mbiire advised me to get. The 48 laws of power is a book that has reshaped my thinking in many aspects.
But I am not your conventional type of guy that says this particular one book changed my life. I just love reading all the time. I never miss to get my copy of Forbes Magazine every month. Investing in books has become a habit for me.
The other book I would add is Myles Munroe’s book; “The Power of the Vision.” It is a very deep book. I also love watching a lot of meaningful television.
But at the end of the day it may not even matter what you read, knowledge is power but it is until you apply that knowledge that it becomes wisdom. I want to be judged not by the favourite book I read but by the results of what I achieved by what I read or what I saw or related with.
Ortega: Finally, you have this one moment and the whole world is listening to you, what do you tell the world?
Musiime: Everybody has been created in a very unique way. We are all masterpieces in our own right. As Marianne Williamson wrote; “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, we are powerful beyond measure.” If you ever thought about how to harness the power of the mind and the power of the human being, it is unfortunate we got all these marks in Biology and we were so happy about those grades, we read everything about what the body is about, we never understood why the body is the way it is. Why the brain is the way it is? Why the Bible talks about the heart, the fountain of life, guard it with all you have? Why does the Bible tell us, with all you are getting, get understanding, wisdom? That means this mind is like a sponge that soaks in wisdom and all that.
You are so special in your creation that God created you to reign on earth in whichever aspect. And God didn’t create a uniform of people. We are diverse. And there’s no set rules, it is a diverse world with unlimited opportunities.
I would tell to the Africans, Africa is not the only continent. There’s Asia, there’s Europe. I would tell the Ugandans, there’s East Africa, there’s Africa. There’s too much opportunities in this world. At times I feel these opportunities are seated somewhere and they are saying; “come on, get us.” I would say, not even the sky is the limit. The best days are always ahead of us. The key thing is what we do with every single day , the acts of love, the love we share. It’s those little things we do every single day. The big things are great but even the little things. The kingdom of God is about the results no matter your walk in life.
I just wanna be remembered for how many lives I touched and influenced. That for me is such a golden thing that drives me to acquire this wealth. We ought to live our lives unselfishly. It is selfish of you to think of; “me I am not materialistic, if I can just have enough money for me.” No, God didn’t just create you to just have enough on you. I wanna build my house, then I wanna build a number of houses for other people. There’s something that God always wants you to share, with human beings, with humanity, with the world at large. And our hearts are so big that we can share a bit of us with the world around us.