Making eye care accessible and affordable to everyone in Uganda, regardless of their income status, is the vision of Brenda Katwesigye, founder of high impact company Wazi Vision. She is on a mission to ensure that everyone who needs eye testing and glasses, no matter where they are located in the country, can get access to these life changing services.
LoA chatted to the inspirational Brenda Katwesigye this month to learn more about this wonderful enterprise.
What does your company do?
Wazi Vision provides more affordable and accessible eye care to school going children aged 6-15. This is done through the following ways:
1. We have developed a mobile application that uses virtual reality technology to perform visual acuity tests. In essence, we are bringing eye testing closer to people in areas that have health centers that otherwise cannot afford expensive eye testing equipment.
2. We are providing the children whose eyes have been tested with affordable eye glasses that are made out of recycled plastic by local female artisans in Uganda. In essence, we are reducing the cost of eye glasses by 80% while increasing accessibility of eye testing services. We also carry out field tests, where we organize free eye testing camps both in schools and in rural areas around Uganda.
"We have developed a mobile application that uses virtual reality technology to perform visual acuity tests."
What inspired you to start your company?
I am short sighted and also have trouble seeing when there is a lot of light in a room or certain environment. When I went to the optical center, I was asked to pay $180 for a new pair of glasses, which was really expensive. For a country where the average monthly income earned is $40, this is simply unaffordable. I also realized that optical centers are located disproportionately, mainly within the urban areas, leaving the people in rural areas to have to travel long distances to access eye care services. This gap drove me to start Wazi Vision whose long term goal is to make eye care accessible and affordable to everyone regardless of their income status.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Wazi Vision glasses and screening are much more affordable (cheaper by 80%) than alternatives in my country, yet the quality is not compromised.
"We are bringing eye testing closer to people in areas that have health centers that otherwise cannot afford expensive eye testing equipment."
Tell us a little about your team
My team is made up of 5 full time team members and 8 part time female artisans that we work with to make the eye glasses. We have an optometrist, a software developer, a finance professional, and two field team members. Our optometrist and software developer are working hand in hand to ensure that our VR based mobile application attains at least 90% accuracy.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I have been an entrepreneur since my days at the university. While in my final year at the university, I identified an opportunity to store phones and tablets for a fee at the annual graduation ceremony, as these were not allowed inside the premises. I would then keep the gadgets at a stall outside the premises and then return these to their owners when the function was done. This is when I made my first million. Then I went on to start another venture, which unfortunately did not work out due to various reasons. I was CEO of InstaHealth, a company that was focused on connecting health professionals to patients in real time. I did, however, learn so many lessons from this experience and I am glad that my mistakes then have made me a much better entrepreneur today. I have over the last year shared my lessons with other young people looking to start businesses. The goal is to never really give up and keep working towards an impactful vision.
"Our optometrist and software developer are working hand in hand to ensure that our VR based mobile application attains at least 90% accuracy."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
Our plan for next year is to have a Wazi Vision presence in all corners of Uganda. After we achieve that, we can then look at scaling to other countries and perhaps diversify product-wise as well.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
One of the ladies we employed sent me a text message 3 months ago telling me that she was so grateful that she earns some money now and is able to take care of her son. She is a single mother and seeing the change in her and how much more positive she is lately really makes me feel like in one way or another, entrepreneurship is really about making an impact in the lives of others. Even when it’s just offering them a job. That is the most satisfying thing about being an entrepreneur. The small contributions we can make to other people’s lives.
"We are providing the children whose eyes have been tested with affordable eye glasses that are made out of recycled plastic by local female artisans in Uganda."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
The best thing I have learnt is to always keep your business simple. One of the reasons my first startup did not go as planned is because I thought the more complicated it was, the better it would be. The market did not think so and it was also difficult for myself and the team to execute well. In addition, I would also advise other women to build teams, partnerships and also find a mentor. Going at it alone can sometimes stifle the growth of a startup.
Contact or follow Wazi Vision:
Why LoA loves it….
When people who have sight challenges are given the ability to see and experience the world as others do, it is truly life-changing, but often in Africa getting access to vital and affordable eye testing and glasses is difficult, if not impossible. High impact social entrepreneur, Brenda Katwesigye is on a mission to change that. She is harnessing the power of virtual reality technology and developing mobile applications to provide the solutions that are needed. She is a true game-changer in her country, and an inspiration to the rest of the world that one person with a big vision really can make a difference. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa