Meet Kuto Everest, a Ugandan Youth Making Home Artefact Out Of Car Tyres.
Although he goes by Delviey Kei_ the Versatile Artist on social media platforms, his real name is Kuto Everest, Ugandan, 27 years old, and a Bachelor’s Degree holder in Industrial Arts and design. Delviey is also pursuing another Degree in Architectural Design at St. Lawrence University (SLAU) Uganda, and he will be graduating this year. Like his name, Delviey named his Enterprise Delvieykei_VersatileArtists
[At lunkuse.com, one of our aims is to publish stories of young people making a difference in their communities especially in regards to entrepreneurship, community, and sustainable development. Today’s star Delviey Kei is a magic maker who knows how to turn trash into treasure. You’ll see this once he spins that wand. He can make your home shine in a matter of days and let whoever comes-by envy your creativity. Delviey has got that Midas touch. Are you an emerging entrepreneur or youth in these fields? Do you know someone who is? Well and good! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured. It’s your time to be in the spotlight. Alright, let’s go!]
In this interview, Delviey reveals what inspired him to start making incredible pieces out of car tire, why he does what he does, among other interesting things you are yet to discover. The twenty-seven-year-old is tapping into Uganda’s plastic waste management sector and in multiple ways, rooting for sustainable development without even primarily focusing on it.
Delviey’s products include chairs, flower vases, compound decorations in the form of birds and animals, among others, depending on your desire as a customer.
So Delviey, what inspired the name?
I call myself ‘Versatile Artist’ because I don’t despise anything related to ‘Hand-made’. I can manipulate anything from nothing. I can do anything with my hands, anything you would define as Art. I conceptualize ideas on anything and make something beautiful out of it!
What inspired you to start your enterprise?
- My mother inspired me. She is an artist, and generally, the entire family is inclined towards the Arts. So, one time my mother came from work challenged, after visiting one of her colleague’s homes and finding it very beautiful. My mother likes challenges so when she came home, she wanted us to create something truly unique; something that would make our home unique too. She came home with a bunch of car tyres and she was like, “can these things work?” But then, she didn’t want to talk to me those days because she thought I was a big child that didn’t want to work. Yet, I was the only person at home, who had pursued Art at the University.
So, mom ignored me and employed some person close to home to do the work out of tyres but he wasn’t doing it well. I knew how to do these things so watching that man struggle with tyres was quite a bother. When mom left, I went and asked the man she had employed if I could give him a hand. I did the work, it was good, and when mom returned, she was impressed, thanking the man. But the man was like, “No, it’s actually your son who did that and he’s very talented.
- Truth is when I was doing all that; I didn’t know that I had now started the journey to my employment. The first post of my work was flower vases on my Facebook and as soon as I posted, someone called me to Masaka to go and decorate her compound. She paid in cash and it was such a thrilling experience. The pay was close to one million Ugandan shillings, and it took me one week to do the work. I was encouraged to officially start and I never turned back.
- So I was thinking of what could make me stand out from other artists; I interacted with a lot of people until this Doctor who gave me the Masaka job told me, ‘you’re talented, energetic, with a lot of potential. Use the internet well. If you do that, you can earn a living out of your work.’ And that was it! When I returned home, my father was also like; ‘keep going’ and those are like three people who have played a major role in how I started. Plus of course, my girlfriend was very supportive. She didn’t want me to relax. She wanted me to keep working and being better.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced ever since you started this enterprise?
Well, there are actually a lot of challenges as every business has its own risks but I would prefer to not dig deeply into them. But some include;
- Monetary Capital: My work needs a lot of money and that’s one of the biggest challenges so far. I am not working with sponsors or facilitators so all the costs are down at me. So there are times I am on and off, as sometimes a client needs a lot of work, I tell them I am going to produce it, but then it needs a lot of money to inject into that particular assignment.
- Clients: Yes, there are a lot of times when clients tell me to produce the work and once I do; now they don’t want to pay. They want me to start running after them, begging them to pay me.
Usually because you are looking for market, you go slow and soft on a client and they tend to take advantage of that. People don’t count time, transport, labour, etc but once you produce a beautiful piece, tell them a certain amount of money, and then they then say it’s too expensive. At that point, they forget that the products are unique, durable and beautiful.
- The other challenge is that when you post work, some people keep asking you to send pictures continuously. And they never make any orders. It’s like they just consistently marvel at what you do, but they are not purchasing. I find that irritating.
What are some of the benefits you’ve found in being a business owner?
- Well, one of the benefits I have found in this is that I am self-driven. I don’t have stress in such a way that I can work for the hours I want.
- I don’t have to be commanded about, and I feel that at some point, I am respectable. It’s not easy to start a sole enterprise.
- The other thing is that when I get some good money. It’s my money. (Ha-ha) Being a sole business owner means that the profit is actually mine and I can do with it what I find worthy as soon as I clear off all costs.
- Also, starting this enterprise has given me a chance to interact with very many business people. Let’s say, like how you Betty Lunkuse and Sammy contacted me over this interview. I was very amazed and I didn’t even have to say no. I am learning a lot, and I like it. So I am expecting a lot from you people, and a lot from the clients who love this work.
Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
Ten years from now, I see myself as a very rich person, a responsible son, husband, brother, and friend. But my main objective when it comes to this enterprise is to produce more excellent work out of what is considered as trash. I also want to further expose this idea of Art and Design.
In this country, people are too blind. They have a lot of resources but they don’t want to use them or know how to use them. It took me only 50,000Ug shillings, approximately 14 USD, to officially start this enterprise and I wouldn’t say I have succeeded to the level I would want to yet, but I am aware of my progress. I want to promote this kind of visual and conceptual art and design in this country, and all over East Africa, and if it is okay, even outside Africa.
My dream now is to generate more clientele, expand the business, have permanent premises, in different places all over the country, selling these particular pieces of work. I want to convert trash to treasure. I don’t want to focus on only tyres as there are very many things around me that I can make a treasure out of. I probably want to be a Hero someday but above all, I want to be me.
Even as a business or small enterprise owner, would you call yourself an entrepreneur? If so, what advise do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?
- Well, I believe I am an entrepreneur because I am responding to problems creatively and that’s something very interesting. I am SMART, and this is very important for any entrepreneur. It calls for being Specific on the goals you’ve set, you must be measurable, and you must be Realistic, set attainable Goals and also manage Time.
So, I am advising the emerging entrepreneurs never to give up. – Please. Use the small things you have, you’ll get there. Don’t let competitions or the big number of customers running to your competitors scare you off. Even if you are doing something small, you can get to where you envision. Small steps are very important so, keep pushing till you make it.