After suffering hearing loss following two separate accidents, Veronica Uwajeh noticed that there is a barrier for persons with disabilities in her community to access quality education. As someone who is living with a disability herself and holds a degree in education, Veronica embarked on an entrepreneurial journey to solve this problem and started Karisma Inclusive School as well as Karisma Abilities Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2018.
However, Veronica’s social enterprise has been struggling with different challenges and problems ranging from people management to market access and many other challenges specific to her business sector. As Veronica’s school was initially open to all children, with and without disabilities, she faced a lot of competition from other schools and often struggled to collect tuition fees from all parents, leaving her school underfunded and understaffed.
In 2022, Veronica joined YBI member FATE Foundation’s Aspiring Entrepreneur’s Program for Persons with Disabilities under our Futuremakers project, supported by Standard Chartered Foundation. This marked a significant transformation for her business, as she was able to identify the causes of her business challenges. Using the knowledge, resources and exposure she gained during the eight weeks of training, she redefined her business model and restarted the business with clarity on the market and her niche. Veronica says,
“By applying all I have learnt in the programme, I started my school afresh, re-defined my market and identified a niche to focus on”.
Veronica's school and foundation now provide inclusive education only for students with physical disabilities, particularly those who are deaf, as well as students with autism, dyslexia, and intellectual disabilities. By shifting her focus onto these students only, Veronica’s school now stands out from the competition and has become known as the school for children with disabilities in the area. Veronica has established herself as an expert on supporting children with disabilities and is often approached by parents for consultations.
Even though Karisma Inclusive School now has less students, all parents are paying tuition fees as they trust in Veronica’s ability to educate and support their children. As a result, Karisma Inclusive School has become financially stable, Veronica is able to pay herself an income as well as her four employees – two teachers, one administrator and one cleaner.
In addition to running her school, Veronica advocates for the rights of women and people with disabilities and conducts outreach programmes benefiting over 500 women in underserved communities.
Veronica was one of the entrepreneurs put forward to Sightsavers by FATE Foundation for the ILO-sponsored International Young Leaders Campus on Entrepreneurship. She was selected as a delegate and is now planning to travel to China in October to attend the event.