13 August 2016

Tailor-made way to the bank

After completing Senior Four in 2006 at Kibuku Senior Secondary School in Kibuku District, Ronald Mulima did not further his education. He was stuck because of financial difficulties. As he sat home pondering his next move, his elder brother, a tailor, now 48, proposed an idea that would later turn Mulima’s life around.

He suggested Mulima goes to work at his tailoring and garment design workshop that was located in Kibuli, a Kampala suburb. Mulima bought the idea and joined his brother. “We were close and had a good working relationship. He taught me important aspects about the craft,” Mulima, 28, says, adding “Eventually, I adapted to the work at his shop easily because I had already mastered a few tailoring techniques from my childhood as there had been a sewing machine at home that I used to practice on.”

Mulima, who mainly tailored school uniforms, worked for his brother until January 2016. On whether he was paid for his services, Mulima responds in the affirmative with a smile on his face. He, however, prefers not to go into details about the payment arrangements.

Starting out
By February 2016, he was venturing into his own tailoring and garment designing business in the same suburb his brother was operating in. Specifically, he rented a shop at Kibuli Mutajazi, opposite Total Petrol station.

“I started with only Shs1M as capital. I used the entire amount for paying rent for four months,” he says, adding, “my other business possessions were three sewing machines.

One machine cost him Shs850,000 while the other two cost him Shs250,000 each. The money he had used for obtaining the machines as well as for paying rent was from the savings he had accumulated while working for his brother.
According to Mulima, starting out was not such an easy fit because of various reasons, for instance, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) often frequented his premises urging him to pay licence fees.

“One time, they asked for Shs180,000, an amount I did not have at the moment. I was forced to borrow the money from a friend,” he states. It is this same issue of limited finances that delayed him from commencing work and yet he had bills to pay.

“I therefore resorted to fixing worn and faulty outfits that clients brought to me. This included those whose zippers needed repair,” he notes. As weeks passed, clients started taking for him fabric requesting that he uses it to design for them particular outfits.

“This was what started bringing in some profits into the business. Rather than spend it, I used it for purchasing my own fabric which I used for making all sorts of attire, including dresses and shirts,” he says.

Mulima mainly uses African fabric because it is trending at the moment and most of his customers love it. Women make the bulk of his clients. Mulima hires a team of three employees who help him with the workload, especially whenever he receives many orders.

The father of one says his biggest challenge at work is power blackouts because two of his sewing machines require power to operate. “Our work is slowed down whenever we don’t have power,” he says.

The other outstanding issue is the taxes Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) continues to subject to his business from time to time. Also, KCCA occasionally continues to demand that he pays certain required licences. Other than that, Mulima says there are no other outstanding compelling issues.

The future
In the next five years, Mulima hopes to have opened several branches of the same business throughout the country. “I want everyone to wear what I make,” he says. But also, he hopes that his work does not remain constrained within the country but rather be noticed in other countries as well. It is for this particular reason that Mulima hopes in the near future to export his designs as well in order to serve a wider market.

• Outstanding business deals to date: The time a friend linked me to businessman, Sudhir Ruparelia. I met and took his measurements. Then, he (Sudhir) made an order for 33 African shirts of different designs. He paid me Shs2.1M at the end. It was a good deal.
• Worst business experience: When I had just opened up my shop, KCCA locked up my premises and demanded that I pay Shs180, 000 for a licence. Since I did not have the money, I was forced to borrow it from a friend.
• Mulima’s advise to those interested venturing into personal business: Start a business you have knowledge and skills about as these aspects will ease your work.



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