Blacksmith forges lucrative path in coaching

(Last Updated On: 29 August 2022)

Mr Andrew Opio said the blacksmith business faced a horde of challenges in the first 3months of the lockdown because…

By   Wabomba Joseph Martin 

Lira, August 29, 2022: For over 20yrs, Mr Andrew Opio has enjoyed the blacksmith business until the closure of the economy due to the global Covid-19 pandemic but still maintained the same despite the drop in his business profits. 

On March, 18th, 2020, President Yoweri Museveni while announcing the country’s first lockdown following increasing Covid-19 cases, directed the ban of public transport, and closure of non-agricultural businesses causing a whopping crisis in some sectors including the blacksmith business.

“The first month after the country lockdown, profits were not enough to settle a fraction of my daily bills since I had a large family,’’ he recalls.

The 54-year-old has since been operating in Barogole in Lira City, a highly populated slum at the backside of a rented commercial building as he could not afford to pay for a separate and large room for business.

With a starting capital of shs100,000  that he had saved, Mr Opio started with bows and arrows, local knives, local saucepans and a few other items.

“I had done a needs assessment which showed that majority of the residents in the area were high consumers of blacksmith products,’’ he recounts.

Mr Andrew Opio said the blacksmith business faced a horde of challenges in the first 3months of the lockdown because there were low sales but the entrepreneur remained determined to sustain it despite facing a recession. 

In the fourth month, the enthusiastic and passionate Opio had mastered the skill of retaining customers, marketing his products through different platforms available, his sales increased by nearly half.


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“Business requires one to develop a solid mind and resilience. I would on several occasions go for a whole day without selling anything but I never gave up,” he says, adding that he later expanded the venture by opening up branches for his children to operate to satisfy the growing demand while attracting more customers.


Asked about why the business, Opio says, “It brings back the historical moments and perspective of using stone age technology amidst the growing, modern as being the order of the day.”

“Blacksmith business matters to me because its techniques were passed down from my father to me and down to my children and therefore I pride in associating myself with stone age artistic designs of items like bows and arrows,” Opio tells me.

He added cobbling and tailoring to his business menu and says the business has since then proved to be lucrative because clients have gained confidence in his products since they are rare and not common on the market. 

“Cobblering is one of the business supplements to my blacksmith business that you can do even as you grow old in physical energy, as you still earn a living through it.’’ 

Andrew Opio currently makes up to shs600,000 in a good month up from the shs100,000 that he used to earn before, but he says sales have reduced due to the high cost of living and the skyrocketing fuel prices.

With the help of his social media savvy children, the business mentor uses the platforms to market his products. It has kept him in business despite the numerous challenges.

Mr Opio also equips young entrepreneurs with skills to start and run businesses for free at his blacksmith centre located in Barogole center in Lira City. 

“The mentorship idea was born out of my desire, skills, and experience hence the urge to assist young people to start ventures without passing through the challenges that businesses bring.”

A total of 35 youths are now running their blacksmith ventures having benefited from the program.

Mr Oloya Job, who operates a blacksmith shop in the same centre says the thought of venturing into the blacksmith business had never crossed his mind until he enrolled on Mr Opio’s mentorship program. 

The former street boy says the fear of letting go out of the street almost blocked him from exploiting the entrepreneurial world. 

Opio and one of his sons

“At first, I was reluctant to join the blacksmith business thinking it is for the old men but after going through the program  I realized it was the best decision I had taken,’’ says Mr Oloya.

Mr Opio offers cobbling, sawing and business ideas skills twice a week in the afternoons.

Mr Bruno Oketch had for a record of four times unsuccessfully tried business before he learnt of Mr Opio’s initiative from his friend.

The business reached out to the mentor and is now reaping big from it at his general blacksmith shop in the corner works, Lira City.

“Top on the list of things I learnt from the mentorship was customer relations, budgeting, accountability, marketing and establishing a saving plan,’’ he said.

Having an interview with the District Commercial Officer of Lira City, Mr Herbert Okello to better understand Mr Opio’s blacksmith business and the general business perspective, he noted that 30% of the businesses in the city are on small-scale production and blacksmith is one of those rare ones that are not famous though a form of income source.

“In this city, I have not often heard about such businesses still in existence but if they exist, then they are few people surviving through it,” Okello reiterates.

Statistics from, the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) survey report on the impact of Covid-19 on businesses in Uganda, 2020, 9 out of 10 businesses report experiencing an increase in operating expenses due to preventive measures instituted by the government to curb the spread of the virus. 

The report further states that reduction in business activity by more than 50% points, while agriculture experienced the largest decline in business activity with 76% of the firms reporting severe decline and 12% reporting moderate decline attributed to covid-19 containment measures such as transport restrictions, quarantine, social distancing and ban on weekly markets.

In the same report still, services offered became slightly expensive, with overall, 55% of the business reported to have experienced a moderate increase in the input of prices, domestic demand for products increased by 50%, 8/10 business (83%) reported having experienced a decline in demand for its products.

Overall, according to Uganda Demographic Household Survey, 1% of households’ rare businesses like a blacksmith business would pull a household income at a minimal scale compared to more visible businesses.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Wabomba Joseph Martin and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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