Juliet Namujju was the winner of the 2018 Young Entrepreneur award at the recently concluded YE summit held at Makerere University Business School last month
Based in Mpigi district, she is the lady behind Kimuli Fashionability a social enterprise that employs persons with disabilities to make fashionable clothes by recycling garbage and other used-up materials. She has so far showcased her fashion collection in Singapore, Germany, Poland among other European countries.
Chano8’s Guma Maureen had a chat with her and here is what she had to say;
Chano8: Hello, Tell us about yourself. Who is Juliet?
I am Juliet Namujju 22 years old, a social change maker, fashion designer entrepreneur and environmentalist. I am committed and passionate about changing people’s lives and saving the environment through fashion. I have committed myself to change the mindset that most people are having towards plastic waste, I believe through sensitization and training of persons with disabilities up-cycling and fashion skills we can create a bright green future for our future generation.
Chano8: What inspired you to take on the entrepreneurship journey?
When I was six years old, my father got in a terrible accident. He became lame because his legs were amputated. He lost his job and was not able to fend for the family. He died miserably. My mother remained sad, lonely and died too soon after. I was neglected, abandoned and lacked a care taker for childhood. I hated myself to the level of regretting why I was born.
I was then raised by my poor grandmother who was a tailor. She inspired me to start making my own dolls from waste, using a hand needle since she could not afford buying me a doll. The tailoring with my grandmother supported my school fees and when I completed high school, I went for a short course in Fashion and Design.
Founding Kimuli Fashionability gave me the chance to transform my difficult past into a strength to fight for inclusion of people with disabilities and for environmental conservation through up-cycling.
Chano8: Please tell our readers more about your innovation(s), what you do
Kimuli Fashionability creates up-cycled fashion and increases on the employability of the physically impaired and deaf people through training them with free hands-on skills of creative tailoring. Training them with creative tailoring skills turns their disability into an opportunity of creating their own employment while saving the environment from the dangers of plastic waste accumulation and toxins generated through burning.
African fabrics are blended with waste materials. In the absence of hearing, deaf people for example often have heightened kinesthetic and visual abilities resulting in high quality products with love for detail. We give employment opportunities to the physically impaired to become self sustainable. Many of their peers are seen as cursed or bewitched by Ugandan society and often kept indoors due to shame of the family because of their disability. This is why our sensitization programs in schools and fashion shows create awareness to thousands to change their perception on disability, as well as waste. With our slogan “waste is only waste if you waste it”, we also sensitize Ugandans to see waste differently: It is Kimuli’s greatest resource and we inspire others to start small and grow big through up-cycling initiatives.
Chano8: Where do you see Kimuli Fashionability in 5 years?
By 2024, we will have trained over 1000 persons with disabilities as tailors and we are able to provide employment for 500 of them due to a high demand of our products. We will have built a social business fashion brand standing for environmental and social impact, whereby our products contribute to a mindset shift in regards to waste and disability.
Chano8: We understand you are one of the members of the Young Entrepreneurs Uganda Community. What kind of impact do platforms like YE have on young African entrepreneurs like you?
The YE-community provides variety of opportunities to entrepreneurs in the areas of market intelligence, financial planning, learning, web design and visual, project management and efficiency, marketing, communications and many more. To younger Ugandans who are looking forward to make their businesses go to the next level, the ye-community is a big deal and I encourage them to sign up so be able to harness those opportunities.
Chano8: As a young entrepreneur, what is your driving force? Money?, Success? Both or none? And why?
To me it’s success because everybody yearns to be successful however everyone understands success in a different way. My success is to see persons with disabilities especially the physically handicapped and impaired having better life and unchaining them from the barriers of societal exclusion which keeps them in poverty because they are considered slow and are seen as “disability instead of their abilities”. In addition as an environmentalist saving the environment especially in Uganda is also another job for me, I would like to change their behavior on the way they dispose of plastic waste while inspiring others to start small and grow big through up cycling initiatives.
Question: How many young people are you employing and what skills are they gaining?
At Kimuli Fashionability we have three categories of employees for example we employee the marginalized youth who serve on contracts as waste collectors and so far employed 30 and we train them waste management skills, and this cash incentives improves on their standards of living. In addition we employ persons with disabilities because these are the most marginalized group of people in our rural communities. We employ them as seamstresses to be able to turn plastic waste into up-cycled fashion. These people acquire skills creative tailoring and we have employed 10 who are now self sustainable. Lastly I also have full time workers in the field of marketing, finance and production.
Chano8: What advice do you give to young people who are looking into venturing into entrepreneurship?
The message I can give to my brothers and sisters out there who would wish to venture into entrepreneurship is that, I would want the youth to try each and every opportunity that comes across their way, through partnerships, networking and hardworking, let them not wait to have lots of money to start. Start small and grow big as you learn from failures
Check out some people wearing Juliet’s outfits below;