How Diana Nsereko’s father inspired her to create brand solutions for SMEs and top corporates in Uganda through Brand Momentum

If you are a business in Uganda and have ever thought about re-branding your business, Brand Momentum is probably a name that has crossed your mind. For close to 10 years now, they have supported Ugandan SMEs and corporates create successful brands while never losing their unique edge.

We recently caught up with Diana Nsereko who opened up about her entrepreneurship journey, the impact Brand Momentum has had and what’s in store for the future.

Background – Inspiration from Diana’s father

Being brought up in an entrepreneurial family, Diana Nsereko’s father, Christopher C. Sembuya was a great inspiration for her to set up her own business.

“I watched my father set up different companies when we were growing up. Some of the businesses he set up are Sembule Steel Mills & Electrical and later Sembule Bank which is now Bank of Africa. Entrepreneurship was something he instilled in us from a young age, he always told us that when we grow up, we need to set up something that will create value and employ people.” Diana said.

She went on to study Graphic Design at Makerere University and that set the foundation for her business idea. Back then, there wasn’t a lot of job opportunities for artists and graphic designers, so Diana knew she had to employ herself.

Interestingly, her sister, Priscilla Nyangweso also studied the same Graphic Design course at Makerere University, and they came together to start Brand Momentum, a brand agency born to craft inspiring brands for promising startups and companies on the rise.

Filling the creative design gap in the market

When Brand Momentum was started back in 2010, there was a huge gap in the market when it came to creative design. Diana admits that the quality of design was low and not so many people were open to the idea of marketing and branding.

Diana and Priscilla first approached some friends and family who had small businesses or were planning to start a business and needed logos and branded items. The idea was to give these brands the power to grow and the momentum they needed to achieve this through brand solutions, hence the name, ‘Brand Momentum’.

A branded mug and cup done by Brand Momentum

Providing innovative services to target clientele

Through Brand Momentum, Diana and Priscilla aim to give a 360-degree service from brand creation which includes creating logos, choosing colors, naming slogans to producing signage and merchandised items such as mugs, t-shirts and vehicles.

They also source and supply branded promotional products such as apparel, gift sets, stationery and corporate uniforms. In addition to that, they provide printing services for corporate newsletters and magazines as well as creative design solutions.

Brand Momentum has three types of clients:

  1. Startups and SMEs who have a limited budget. Brand Momentum is flexible and works with these SMEs within their budget.
  2. Mid-sized companies with more revenue. This market comes from diverse industries from banking, real estate, construction, transport, etc. They customize products or services to each industry and the company’s budget.
  3. Large companies with huge marketing budgets. Such companies exist in a very competitive space and are always looking for unique products to help them stand out from competitors. They are also very particular with the quality of the products.

Top marketing strategy

For a long time, Diana acknowledges that word of mouth marketing has been their biggest marketing strategy. They ensure they deliver quality products and satisfied clients always call back and refer them to more clients.

“A good product also sells itself. If you see a beautiful branded mug or notebook, you’ll ask which company made it. So, 70% of our business has been through referrals from our quality products,” she said.

They strive to build their product catalogue every year so that they give clients a variety of options to choose from. Diana also admits that they have grown the business by saying ‘yes’ then think of a solution later. This has helped them think more creatively and serve clients better.

Branded mugs done for MTN Uganda by Brand Momentum

Impacting the value chain and getting recognition

Brand Momentum’s greatest impact has been in their value chain. Giving opportunities to local suppliers who provide them with materials while getting an income has been a significant contribution for them in the industry.

They have also trained a number of interns from Makerere University who have studied graphic design. This gives these students the opportunity to get real world work experience before they get absorbed into the job market. The company has also employed more than 10 employees over the years. They mentor them, train them and provide them with a decent income. Diana says that most of the staff who have left transitioned to bigger responsibilities and they have become their brand ambassadors in their new jobs.

Getting recognition from notable bodies such as Women in Technology Uganda, Vital voices and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda which provided them with their first grant has also been a great achievement for Brand Momentum.

Adapting to industry changes

The marketing and branding industry has evolved greatly over the years with technological changes and creative innovations forcing companies to adapt or be pushed out of the market. Diana has always strived to be adaptable to the changes and innovate their products and services.

Some of the changes they have made are shifting their focus from physical products such as flyers to promotional products which have more demand. They also ensure to source for quality products globally so that they only provide quality to their clients.

Major challenge

Access to finance is a challenge most business will admit to facing. For Brand Momentum, delivering jobs on time as stipulated in their contracts with clients is a key success factor but they cannot do this without being financially liquid.

They have tried going around this by having a mix of debt financing interventions. However, they are still searching for long term financing that is affordable and can help them grow and meet business goals.

A branded t-shirt done for British Council’s Premier skills program by Brand Momentum

Value from the GrowthAfrica Accelerator

“I joined the GrowthAfrica Accelerator to learn more about how to better position my business for investment but as I attended the sessions, I realized so much more about the gaps in my business and solutions to address this gaps,” Diana said.

Advice on cash flow

Diana’s advise to fellow entrepreneurs is, “Manage your cash flow. Study, learn, analyse and improve your cash flow management and adjust as required.”

Future plans

In the next few years, Diana is working to make Brand Momentum one of the top branding companies in East Africa. She also hopes to double their annual revenue to UGX 2 billion. In light of the current COVID-19 situation, she admits that they may not be able to reach that goal as fast as they hoped since most of their business comes from corporate events and globally sourced products.

However, her plan to achieve this is by focusing on 5 key areas

  1. Innovation
  2. Technology
  3. Vision
  4. Finance
  5. Co-operation

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