Around Kalongo, as you walk around and see people getting ready to take pictures, you’ll hear a joyous, communal scream of “odi!” “odi” is a way of saying peanut butter, or “ground nut butter” as many locals say, which is a staple in the diet in Kalongo, Uganda, as it offers a more affordable source of high protein for their diets.
Walking around the markets in Kalongo, you can find many small, clear bags that look like frosting bags, full of peanut butter, which families buy nearly everyday to support the health and strength of their family members. In addition to frosting bags of peanut butter, you can find sesame seed paste, or “sim-sim” paste as it is referred to in Uganda. The market offers both sim-sim paste, g-nut paste (one of the other alternatives of saying peanut butter), or mix paste, that combines sim-sim and g-nut paste together - which is my personal favorite mix! The mix paste with sim-sim and g-nut adds some extra sweetness to the peanut butter, while maintaining the more liquid texture of the paste.
As part of the Bakhita Butter team, we partner with St. Bakhita’s to find ways to generate revenue for the school through a peanut butter business. Bakhita Butter is just one of the many businesses Notre Dame students are helping launch at St. Bakhita’s in an effort to make St. Bakhita’s financially self-sustaining within the next four years. Special thanks to Saint Bakhita team members Charles and Geoffrey for being incredible ethnographers and translators as we conducted ethnographic research within the Kalongo community for selling peanut butter, and testing our prototype for marketing the peanut butter in Kalongo. In addition, we are grateful to work with the school’s entrepreneur teacher George and the school chef Brian to gather information about getting Bakhita Butter off the ground. Working with the school staff was very insightful in understanding the resources and interest we have in teaching about the peanut butter process.
Conducting ethnographic research was particularly helpful in both building relationships with community vendors to gauge how to work towards improving the economic prosperity of the region, as well as to prototype the Bakhita Butter label. In engaging with the community, we gathered a few insights:
Selling peanut butter in higher quantities with a nice label might lead to a delay in selling because of the perception that it would seem more expensive than the small bags of peanut butter; hesitancy to buy in bulk because it seems less expensive to purchase daily.
Storeowners had mixed responses, but seemed interested in selling Bakhita Butter with the label; some labeling suggestions included using the Acholi language, showing visual images of using peanut butter, and providing contact information for SBVTC.
There are vendors whose whole business is selling peanut grinding services, and we believe not all demand is being met, in large part due to the variability of electricity, which would be eliminated at Saint Bakhita’s due to the redundancy in energy sources for powering the grinder.
St. Bakhita’s Innovation Scholars have been working in the peanut butter business and the alumni are eager to train fellow students; potential for mentorship program here.
These insights will help to guide a strategic plan for starting the peanut butter business by selling in Kalongo and offering peanut grinding services. As we wait for the electricity to be installed to the designated peanut grinding house in the back portion of the school grounds, we can work on improving the label prototype and sourcing containers for distribution.
After discussing with George, he expressed that in these next two-three months, we can focus on having the students sell peanut butter in the market, offering products with and without the labels to gauge traction and see what’s selling and what’s not. Meanwhile, we will also work to partner with nearby schools and offer peanut butter at a fair price to build that customer relationship. After the first couple months getting the peanut butter off the ground, we will expand to selling in the nearby larger cities of Gulu and Lira (since we already buy and sell from Lira) for about 3-5 months, and then aim to expand to Kampala market, where our packaging will be geared towards tourists. In this first year, we will focus on selling smaller quantities of peanut butter in different sizes to gather information about what will sell, all while carefully tracking the sales and inventory. As we develop the peanut butter business, we have also learned that post-harvest management is imperative in ensuring safe, quality products to sell to the market, so we will look for partners on the ground in Uganda who can help with training for ensuring adequate post-harvest management.
In looking at the St. Bakhita’s training, we can source from the Innovation Scholars who are already working in the peanut butter business to offer their stories and advice to the students, then start gauging interest from the various students in demoing the peanut butter grinder process. Once students have been able to learn about the peanut butter business and have selected to pursue further training, the students can do a work-study in managing peanut grinder services sales, and sales within the market. Through group discussions, many of the students indicated that they would love more customer engagement training and skills, so through working with the Bakhita Butter business, customer management will be an integral part of the peanut butter program. This will support SBVTC in teaching important skills to thrive, provide revenue generation to work towards being self-sustaining, and will feature a robust business skills training program that can aid in SBVTC being recognized as a top academic institution.
Meet the team!
Hello, my name is Lily! I am studying Political Science and Social Entrepreneurship and I live outside of Berkeley, California. I am so fortunate to have had many peers and professors recommend taking Professor Angst’s class, and after hearing about it, I was eager to join in engaging in international collaboration for women’s empowerment. Working with St. Bakhita’s is proof that there is always something to learn from working in partnership with inspiring women who are empowering themselves and their communities! All of the Innovation Scholars and the St. B’s current students are testament to the scalable impact that women have when they are uplifted and have the education and resources to thrive. This summer, I am looking forward to going back to St. Bakhita’s for two weeks, before I start a consulting study abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa. In South Africa, I will be applying the consulting skills that I have developed from this course and working with St. Bakhita’s, keeping international accompaniment and a reciprocal partnership at the forefront of my consulting with the entrepreneurs I’ll be working with. I am excited to learn so much both from the students and staff in St. Bakhita’s when I go back, and from the entrepreneurs in South Africa!
Hello, my name is Grace Kamholz, and I am a senior majoring in finance with a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship! I originally got involved with St. Bakhita in the summer of 2021 when I was selected by two finance seniors to continue their financial work with St. Bakhita, and I took Professor Angst’s Innovation and Design Thinking class the subsequent semester. Since then, my Notre Dame experience has seemingly evolved around St. Bakhita. I have worked on a variety of different projects ranging from assisting with the Early Childhood Development efforts to prototyping a peanut butter business to estimating the future revenues of the school. I had the opportunity to travel to St. Bakhita in January this year, and after visiting, I only fell more in love with the project! Prior to joining William Blair’s investment banking division in the fall, I will be continuing my work with St. Bakhita focused on creating a Notre Dame impact investing fund to help St. Bakhita’s graduates open their own businesses and maintain financial self-sufficiency.