Passion, Purpose, Pumpkins

Start with pumpkins, add passionate persistence and a clear purpose. The result? A successful agri-business in Uganda scaling into neighboring African countries and Europe, doubling employment and tripling training to suppliers – women farmers.

Joyce Kyalema founded JoyceMark, and her Pumpkin-Value-Add product line to be a no-waste pumpkin source and create products for the local and international market. In 2016, she won $100,000 in the African Entrepreneurship Award’s Environment category because she focuses on increasing employment in all phases of her supply chain and invents new products that are good for the consumer while maintaining the environment. Her products include pumpkin porridge, wine, and her newest product, Joyce’s Pumpkin Oil, for both consumption and cosmetics.

Creating Jobs throughout the Supply Chain

Joyce explains how she focuses on benefiting her special supply chain: “First, I work directly with the women farmers, training them on how to grow and harvest pumpkins. When I won the Award, I had 138 women trained. After the Award, I have trained 70 more to meet the demand.”

Once harvested, pumpkins are transported to Joyce’s new facility for processing. Joyce says, “Before the Award, I had six people working out of Makere University’s CURAD Agri-business incubator. Thanks to the Award, I am able to move out of the incubator and double my processing employees to 15.”

Award Funding Increases Scalability

With machinery and land, Joyce can dramatically increase production of her Pumpkin-Value-Add products. With Award funding, Joyce says, “I am most proud that we are buying a half-acre of land, equipment for processing and dryers plus a delivery truck so I can get the pumpkins from the women farmers while reducing spoilage and waste. In this way, I can go from producing kilos to producing tons which is what the market demands.”

With increased production has come increased sales outlets. Joyce is trying new ways to sell her 10 products. She says that “Before the Award, I had five sales people selling in three districts and in six outlets. After the Award, I have increased my sales to five districts, 35 super markets and added door-to-door selling with a sales team of 20.”

Her sales team meetings take place in her new office space, rented with Award funding. There Joyce says she “gives them a pep-talk on techniques that work, then we meet at the end of the day to compare notes. Sales agents are on commission so they share the benefits with me.”


Improving Lives of HIV-positive Ugandans


And what about the benefits to customers? Joyce explains “My dream is to give back. One way I do that is to supply HIV-positive Ugandans in rural areas with my porridge. It is very nutritious and gives the zinc and other nutrients their bodies crave. I hope to improve the packaging so it is re-sealable and benefits them even longer.”

A prototype of Joyce’s new headquarters in Uganda.
A prototype of Joyce’s new headquarters in Uganda.

Scaling beyond Africa

What is next for Joyce and her pumpkin business? Joyce says, “I have been asked to export to Ireland. We have an export license, but I don’t have the capacity yet because they want to order in tons. So, my next phase is delivering tons of pumpkin products to Ugandans, East Africans and the Irish.”

Joyce is an example of passion with purpose – even through pumpkins on the shelves in Africa and around the world.