Tonny Rutakirwa is a conscientious entrepreneur growing a multi-sectoral multinational out of London, United Kingdom. He is Chairman of Tonniez Group Holdings, which he founded in East Africa on 28th December 2008 and is the author of 7 titles on entrepreneurship and talent growth. He is also Corporate Affairs Director, Europe for Kizito Group of Companies where he oversees all public engagements for the company there. He has traveled widely in Africa, Asia, and Europe. A mentor, he has spoken at large public fora intended to spring young people into their various destinies.
His private group operates a chain of 28 businesses and 588 co-brands in Africa and Europe with plans to grow a Fortune 500 company in 10 years. He strongly believes that science is the work of knowledge but art is the work of wisdom.
Rutakirwa was born in Rubaga, Kampala in Central Uganda in 1990 to Hanns and Molly Besigye. His father is a businessman for over 40 years first in automobile trade and later in mixed farming. His mother, on the other hand, is a management accountant for over 20 years for the Civil Aviation Authority. The name ‘Rutakirwa’ means ‘King’ or ‘no one above him’. He has one brother called Sam Rutaremwa.
He grew up as that silent child, always to himself, but who always made countless observations of what happened around him only to bombard his mother with hundreds of questions every single day. She always patiently answered each one of them. His grandfather (father’s side) was a farmer and former soldier that had participated and fought in World War 2. His grandfather (mother’s side) was a Chief from the ‘Mukombe’ clan. These Chiefdoms at that time had political influence and royal positioning. There have been hereditary claims of a history that rolls back to the days of King Solomon and Queen Sheeba days in ancient Ethiopia but there are no recorded or documented records to verify these stories.
Rutakirwa started his first business at the age of eight (8) which was the same year he wrote his first book, a Junior Learner’s Dictionary which never got to be published because he couldn’t spell the word ‘hippopotamus’
Education and Career Transition
He attended Salvation Army Nursery School, Lohana Academy, Namirembe Hillside High School and London College of St Lawrence. It was at high school that he discovered and fully adopted his vision to create an impact and add value to the world through entrepreneurship and books.
In 2006, while at High School, together with some friends, he started up four (4) companies that were; MYLES, a cleaning company with the acronym, ‘Make Your Living Extra Simple’ that was meant to provide all-around cleaning services. The second was YES wear with the acronym, ‘Your Extra Satisfaction’ that was meant to be a clothing brand. It has since been resurrected and now operates out of Europe. The third was Traveline Inc which was formed to provide select transport services is also in plans of being resurrected. The fourth was Blue Walkers which was formed to be a music production. The ideas around it have been adopted into a small of Tonniez Media Ltd, with specifics of its flagship brand, Delix Studios.
In 2008, he joined QNET, a Hong Kong-based multi-billion multinational as an official representative. He worked under a professional team where he got early sales and strategic training in sales and distribution of its flagship products and services, and other business tools that later proved invaluable in later years. It was in the same year that Tonniez Group Holdings was founded at the exotic Kyentare hills while at an end of year family getaway in Kanungu district, a Kigezi sub-region in Western Uganda.
In 2010, while at University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he joined New Image International, a New Zealand based company for whose Group products, his own conglomerate later represented in the East African region. This was around the time his business foundation was established.
In 2013, He was also part of the secretariat of Uganda Youth Mentoring Program (UYMP) which later re-branded to Young Achievers Mentoring Program (YAMP) following a partnership with Young Achiever’s Awards. He volunteered at UYMP for over a year running a mentorship club that met twice every month to benefit from peer and senior mentorship. He also contributed to the works of Incredible Youth International, an NGO based in Kabembe, Mukono, in Central Uganda.
Career and Establishment
Rutakirwa’s career began with a clear vision, and strong determination to achieve, first and foremost. There was opposition from day one as very few understood the concept. But this didn’t deter him from shaping his life around it and connecting with other people that propelled this vision.
In 2008, while serving at Hong Kong-based QNET, he learned about the art of prospecting, sales, pitching, confidence management, team leadership, crisis management and even the rules of the game. Dato Vijay Eswaran, the founder, and mentor was a very strong influence whose proficiency rubbed off on him. His team consisted of Joy Ibabaza, Faith Tashobya, Godwin Arnold, Gloria Kabazaire and Balajee Kumar. He learned the essence of team engagements and other skills that later proved crucial.
In 2010, while at University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he joined New Zealand based New Image International where he worked closely with Mr. Suresh Naidu Sadasivan his business lecturer turned business partner. He later took this opportunity to Uganda where he worked with Chairman Graeme Clegg, Chris Perry, Pam Browning, Nixion Jet Tusiime, Rhona Mugoya, Jean Claude Mahirane and others. It was during this journey where he met and started working with Alison Kantarama and other notable personalities. One of the biggest lessons learned in these times was the essence of pricing and market survey. To ascertain very clear distribution channels and essence of sufficient funding, tax consolidation especially for multinational trade.
Through all this time, he was running Tonniez Group Holdings and establishing the foundation which later moved the base and global headquarters from Kampala, Uganda to Mayfair, London, United Kingdom. This journey has exposed him to security threats hence forming a company to fill the gap in the industry, providing cyber and physical security services to high-profile personalities, and clients of all sorts.
Challenges and Solutions
The biggest challenges to solve from day one have always been funding, finding the right partners and defining the parameters with which work should be defined. Because of the 5000-year business plan, deep-seated plans to grow a trillion dollar conglomerate and desire to positively impact humanity, the grounds have been turbulent and grounds high awareness on suital institutional standards.
Funding issue was solved by creating investment policies where investors that engaged earned up to 10% a month for 24 months for Compact Policies and up to 14% per annum for Comprehensive policies. This didn’t however fully fund the company as the funding needs were in billions of dollars and the affordable risk margin not in tallying parameters. A clear example was in 2013 where $3.5 million was lost in a Congo gold deal.
Building a Team
Finding partners has been a major concern as he advanced further in the journey. Most right partners didn’t come cheap and the price to pay was most of the time monetary. Some had their hearts in the right place and have stayed with The Group, rising in ranks, proving themselves over and over again. An example is the Group President, Mr. Bardia Suny, Bishop Edmond Kizito, his mentor and Group Corporate Affairs Director, Ignatius Mutungi, The Group CEO, Mr. Sam Rutaremwa, Group Risk Assessment Executive, Sherrie Allen Kiconco, his long-serving Personal Assistant and various other key people. He has learned over time that the people that have stayed and proven themselves are those that understand deeply that a lion would never eat grass despite the economy of the jungle, not out of pride, but genetic makeup. These key people have understood, adopted and wisely enacted the core values on all dimensions.
Defining the parameters with which work should be defined has been a huge one especially when elements of spirituality, culture, age, sex, qualification, economic, political and even social factors are put into play. This is because every human is different and unique, and because of this, we face an increase in problems we should solve. These could be demographic, egonormic and reputational related. The world of business moves so fast and he believes, the faster all these problems are solved and clean sheet kept, the better for the long-term health of this conglomerate.
There has been limited engagements on internal grounds with other post – IPO companies. This is because of usual fluctuation of the stock prices and fact that a company can manipulate supply and demand by splitting stock, diluting the pool with some shares being created through secondary offerings or buying back from the public. Because of this line of thinking, The Group lost an opportunity for a billion dollar valuation because of the core ideology imbalance.
Awards and Interviews
Rutakirwa has received several awards including Young Achievers Awards in Uganda (2010) presided over by Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Africa Leadership Awards in Mauritius (2014) and International Biographical Awards in the UK (2014).
He has also been featured on and been interviewed by Urban TV, WBS TV, XtraOrdinary TV, KonnectAfrica.net, Red Pepper Uganda, The Rock Magazine, ForesightforDevelopment.org, BigEye.ug, Business Owner Magazine, CEO magazine, and BreakThrough Academy.
Rutakirwa has written 7 books as follows; Awaken the financial genius in you (2010), Awaken the financial genius in you Rebuilt (2012), You Can Do It (2013), Achieve your Dreams (2014), Faith in Action (2015), My Travel Guide (2016) and Power of Love (2017). He releases a new book on his birthday (25th March) every year.
Rutakirwa is engaged to Monica and they have a young family.
The Way Forward
To further the Tonniez Group global for-profit vision with select mentorial relationships and observations since he believes as much as somethings are taught, others are caught. The key people he looks up to, listen to and follows keenly include Bill Gates, Dato Vijay Eswaran, Richard Branson, Sudhir Ruparelia and Bishop Edmond Kizito.
Also, Rutakirwa commits to continue releasing a new book every Birthday and monthly statement on the first day every month as the special way to celebrate the gift of an extra year each year, month and dedicatedly serve others.