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All images courtesy of The Market UG

Imagine your Instagram feed comes to life as you lazily scroll through each image displaying all the things you have ever wanted to buy. Now simply because you can, you’re socializing and enjoying a cosy Saturday all in one space. Taking a break from shopping to eat, talk to friends and then continuing your shopping at your own leisure.

Happy shoppers at The Market UG

Started in November 2020 shortly after the lockdown in Kampala was relaxed a bit, The Market UG happens every last Saturday of the month at a cozy open area on Plot 27A Spring Road, just after the Bugolobi public transportstage. 

This space hosts eclectic collections of artisan vendors in a serene area that holds over 20 different vendors each month. From BBQ by Shisa Nyama to scented candles from Karobwa Scents, authentic natural hair products by Kentaro Handmade Organics and handmade brass jewellery from Murembo Collection, there are stands practically set to the left and right as you enter, leaving space in the center and between stalls to allow one to freely maneuver. There is so much to do and see at The Market UG. It is a calm, airy and hassle-free space, unlike the traditional local markets that may involve a bit of elbowing and kicking to get the best items.

Vendors ready to sell their products

One of the many vendors at The Market UG

Tasha and James Byaruhanga started The Market UG in an attempt to spark something different with an unusual shopping experience within the area of Bugolobi. They dreamt of creating a platform for vendors to showcase their unique products, and give shoppers a distinctive experience of finding everything they are looking for in one place; not to mention, give them an opportunity to relax after a long work week. It’s basically the ideal sort of weekend situation you wouldn’t mind finding yourself in.

Happy shoppers taking a break to just chill and catch up

The Market UG's main goal is to bring small businesses, artisans and shoppers together and allow easier access and availability of these products for the consumers.

When The Market first opened last year with only a handful of vendors, its main intention was to run bi-weekly. However, because of the enormous turn up, the event was adjusted to every week and finally; to the last Saturday of each month after experimenting with the optimal dates for everyone. 

One of the many display tables at The Market UG

Looking back on the last year, it has been an extraordinary journey of growth, networking and creating close knit relationships between both the vendors and shoppers. Due to the lockdown, most vendors had no way to get their products out to their clients. As Uganda slowly eases back into a somewhat normal life, The Market UG is the perfect platform for these vendors to get their products out there.

“It has given us a chance to understand what the shopper is looking for and provide an extra experience for both the vendors and shoppers” says Tasha. 

Selecting some fruits

Preparations and setup start at 9 a.m. by The Market UG team and vendors, and the doors officially open by 10 a.m. and shut at 6 p.m. “Currently hosting a robust number of 45 vendors every month, we try to set up the space in a way so the shoppers can experience each and every stall without missing anything. We would like the shopper to have a wholesome experience and be able to come back the next time as well as tell their friends about it” says Tasha.

A vendor setting up their stall

On the side of health and safety, we are abiding by the SOP measures put in place to ensure that The Market UG is a COVID-19 free space. It is mandatory that everyone wears a mask, have their temperature taken and be sanitized to ensure that everyone is safe as they shop.

In the near future, Tasha and James plan to have a night market experience and are working through how to effectively do this once things stabilize. This will attract a bigger crowd, as well as give vendors more time to sell all their products.  “We'd also like to expand to a bigger space to allow us room to host a bigger number of vendors as well as shoppers” adds Tasha.

The Market UG currently partners with two leading businesses to help put together a wholesome experience each month. Tents 4 U, a leading tents provider in Kampala and House of Deejays, an entertainment brand in Kampala, are responsible for bringing The Market UG to life. Tasha and James are currently in talks with some exciting partners, which meansT he Market UG will soon be able to bring on board new vendors, not to mention, expand.

To also help meet facilitation costs, each vendor pays a fee of 30,000 UGX. This meets the cost of tables, tents and other operational costs. Some of the other vendors that feature at the Market UG include; Nzuri Afrik that makes custom made African print shoes,  Murembo a brass jewellery store, Sapphire Nut Milks, providing alternative dairy products and many more. 

“Our biggest highlight is seeing vendors making money and shoppers enjoying themselves. We genuinely enjoy shopping, bargain hunting, gift shopping and finding unique items and it's an honor to be able to curate this experience for other people,” expresses Tasha. On her motivation to continue the project, she also notes “We also get to provide a platform for vendors to exhibit their one of a kind products in a space where they would have otherwise not have been found. We give advice to vendors on pricing of products, and what products to bring that will sell best or that clients will be most interested in. It's exciting to have a community of vendors and shoppers working together and supporting each other.” 

First time vendor, Mary of Aesthetic Things 256 was at the last Market UG experience and had this to say: “I loved The Market UG. A lot of my online clients had a chance for a "touch and feel experience" which was nice for people who are a bit skeptical about simply ordering online. I actually also made really good sales; and even for the people that didn't purchase a thing at all, we shared contacts and got in touch thereafter. This gave me a boost for my business that month, because a lot more people made purchases.”

A display by Aesthetic Things

“The low side is the weather. We are constantly praying for favorable weather. It is exciting to see that even after it has rained, shoppers still turn up in large numbers” laughs Tasha. 

The Market UG will officially reopen on the 11thof December after another period of lockdown in Uganda. For everyone looking to get great bargains and do some early Christmas shopping, this is the place to be.

People having a good time

Charlene Kasumba

Charlene is a gifted writer, singer, and songwriter who loves to pour her heart out on paper and tell stories through words and music.