- As a weaving major, she had had to deal with a lot of threadwork. After completing university in 2014, Ms Were was able to find her way back into making crotchet, having dropped the thought of designing necklaces, bangles and all accessories that accompany bridal wear
- Soon after, she joined Facebook groups of crotchet makers abroad to learn the trade. You-tube tutorials became part of her knowledge source, a source she drew inspiration and skills from some of the best crotchet makers in the world
With only Shs10,000, Violet Were, the proprietor of Gabi Crochet, thought about jumping into the handmade game of the crochet business to get by. Eronie Kamukama shares how Were is taking her business to the next level.
From her days as a child, Ms Violet Were loved finding small pieces of sticks, putting them together with yarn to make small crotchet designs. This was mainly because she had grown up seeing these beautiful designs in the living rooms of most households in her neighbourhood.
At the age of 10, Ms Were decided it was time to learn crotcheting.
“My mother had a maid who knew how to crotchet. I told her to teach me and she taught me a few basic things. That is how I started and I did not know that in future, it would turn out to be a business,” Mr Were says.
Unfortunately for Ms Were, practising the newly acquired skill became difficult because she had to study and could only try out a few scarves and hats during school holidays.
As luck would later have it, in 2010, Ms Were joined Makerere University where she pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Fine Arts.
As a weaving major, she had had to deal with a lot of threadwork. After completing university in 2014, Ms Were was able to find her way back into making crotchet, having dropped the thought of designing necklaces, bangles and all accessories that accompany bridal wear.
“I wanted to do macramé necklaces and bridal accessories initially.
As I was researching patterns on how people do their work, I stumbled on crotchet shoes for babies. Since I already knew how to crochet, I decided to try it,” she recalls.
Backed with a course like Industrial and Fine Art, she knew this had to be the cornerstone of her business since she believed in self-employment.
“You know with Fine Art, you are not going to look for a job. You have to create it yourself because no one is going to employ you. Technically, your work involves drawing, and painting among other things,” she explains.
Inspired by her father, Mr Wilson Were, who during her university days had shared unpleasant experiences of five months waiting for salary, she set out to crotchet for a living.
In 2015, Ms Were started off with Shs10,000 which she used to buy basic items like thread, scissors, measuring tape and a hook for knitting.
Soon after, she joined Facebook groups of crotchet makers abroad to learn the trade. You-tube tutorials became part of her knowledge source, a source she drew inspiration and skills from some of the best crotchet makers in the world. She spent three months improving her skill before she started advertising her first products.
Finding a niche for a product that was once popular in the 1990s can be a trick for any startup. However, aware of these challenges, Ms Were had laid a strategy that involved looking up to experts for inspiration and creating distinctive designs.
“My plan was to be creative because there are people in Uganda doing this but their problem is they are copying the Whites. So I decided I would be unique, sit down and think of how to make my own designs,” she says.
More so, she decided to target mothers by making outfits for newborns upto 12 month old babies because children are born every single day and they need clothing.
Ms Were says social media has been a fundamental part of her marketing strategy. Once the products started to sell, she opened up a Facebook page to advertise her products, a method she says has paid off two years later.
Business has improved since her first sale in December 2015.
“My first sale was two pairs of shoes for boys and another for a new born girl. The mother had seen my posts on Facebook,” she says.
Today, the 26-year-old has grown her product items from shoes, to dresses, mittens for hands, headbands, scarves, sweaters and beanies, all embroidered with flowers, hearts, ribbons and pearls.
Her profits have grown from Shs150,000 to Shs300,000 a month. Depending on the season and the number of orders, Ms Were makes about 21 pairs of shoes in a good season while the number grows when clients order for a full set of a dress, shoes and headbands.
Knitting for money despite the challenges
Ms Were says customers sometimes order and do not take the products. Making crotchet is time consuming yet customers can be impatient.
Besides, there are a few materials to use on the Ugandan market.
“We have only acrylic yarn and cotton. Cotton is a bit smaller than this so using cotton takes you a longer time. If only we had some wool or silk materials,” she says.
To move away from her somewhat small fashion house at home, Ms Were plans to find a shop in the city centre where she can easily be accessed.
She plans to export her products across the borders since the country is still picking up on the crotchet trend.
For now, as she seeks to grow her business to its second birthday, Ms Were is happy with what her enterprise is doing for her.
“No day goes by without making crotchet as I always have an order and if does, work piles up. There are many people who are not employed,