Josephine Okot, the founder of Victoria Seeds, once said:
“Everyone said I was out of my mind. They said business is a male-dominated area and that the private seed industry hardly existed in Uganda.”
It would have taken more than a bunch of negative words to discourage the woman who built a thriving company, Victoria Seeds, in Uganda providing the needs of small-scale farmers.
Josephine as a girl grew up amid the conflict in northern Uganda. Raised by a single mother, Josephine and many others in the community relied on the little they could fetch from the farm to survive. But the young entrepreneur sees beyond survival. She dreamt of uplifting her family, the community, and small-scale farmers through Agriculture.
Whereas some agricultural sectors on the continent are performing well in terms of production, we still cannot say Africa’s agricultural industry is performing at its peak. Most especially looking at the rate of waste after production and the issue of food security.
Working with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca) before founding Victoria Seeds, Josephine took part in ensuring that seed policies and laws in East Africa were harmonised. She also worked for the Uganda Tea Authority and a private company that specialized in trading seeds.
And then she quit to follow her dream of catering for the needs of small-farmers in the country. But some thought she was out of her mind thinking she could break new ground in a male-dominated field.
The idea behind Victoria Seeds
Josephine had a simple idea—to create an agricultural business producing better quality seeds to boost rural farmers’ crop output.
And so, she went where money sleeps and wakes to ask for a loan in 2004. Despite having a house for a collateral, the bank was only interested in lending money if she had any business experience.
The bank actually shut the door in my face. They told me I don’t have a business history and they cannot run such a risk. They were not going to give me any money – Josephine Okot
Many African entrepreneurs have met similar challenges and yet went on to build the company regardless. Josephine is one of them.
She founded Victoria Seeds in 2011 and the same commercial bank came to ask for “her hand” to be on their board. Josephine Okot relentlessly built a multi-million dollar company in value that no one could possibly neglect in Uganda.
“I named it after the largest body of water on the continent. I felt it showed that I will always be here. In the early years it gave me the confidence every day to wake up and say: ‘I am not going anywhere.’”
By Elijah Christopher