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New textile industry creates local growth

‘Everyone in the company needs to know what is happening’

Oribags, a Ugandan business in Kampala producing paper boxes and bags, is successfully run by entrepreneur Rusia Orikiriza. With high ambitions, she called on PUM for help in setting up a new fashion and clothing line.

PUM expert Anja Korbee, a former haute couture designer, advised Oribags on how it could best go about setting up a textiles line. ‘First, I looked at what knowledge the company already had in the field of textiles,’ explains Anja. ‘Rusia knows a lot about business and she’s given the whole paper industry a boost and become a market leader. She’s seen opportunities for a new line of business and she’s seizing them now too.’

High standards

‘However, she needed help in learning how to draw patterns herself or opting to outsource the work, and she needed to develop her knowledge of which fabric she could use for which purpose. She also wanted advice on how to move the clothing, for instance using B2B or B2C. Oribags had already bought blue fabric and it really wanted to make suit jackets from it – but that’s practically the most difficult item of clothing to make. I liked that she’d set herself high standards, even though she could hardly draw a pattern.’

Everyone involved

Anja trained all eight of the permanent Oribags employees and a number of staff contracted in from other companies. ‘For the company to work successfully, everyone needs to know what is happening. And it’s important that they can come up with ideas too. It also helps to create teams, for instance one team responsible for drawing and checking and another for doing the sewing and clearing up. This helps spread a sense of responsibility and everyone feels they’re involved. I also gave them technical training in designing clothes and gave them tips on important fashion and design platforms.’

Stop at nothing

Anja drew from her own experience as a female entrepreneur so as to be able to give Rusia the best possible advice. ‘During my mission, Rusia was pregnant with her third child, but I understood straight away that that wasn’t a point of concern. She would stop at nothing and was actually incredibly inquisitive and energetic.’

Hans Blankert Fund

With the foundations now laid, the business woman can now take the next step. ‘A separate design studio will be added to the current Oribags offices and she’s going to buy Pfaff sewing machines with free arms and Singer overlockers. The company can also apply for a grant from the Hans Blankert Funds which could cover 50 per cent of the investment costs.’ Anja will go back to Kampala in November 2018. ‘I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved.’

Anja Korbee, (65) is PUM expert in the Textiles & Leather sector and is a former haute couture designer. Uganda was her 15th mission; she has previously been out to India and Bangladesh.

Alida Bakema-Boon, representative in Kampala: ‘I can see that the positive developments at Oribags are creating opportunities for growth in the textile industry across all of Kampala. Oribags has plans to expand its clothing department to 25 employees by the end of 2019, but there are actually very few good workers in the market. PUM is also actively involved with the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) and the development of the textile industry would also strengthen the YWCA training programme Tailoring and Garment Making. Oribags is offering placements to YWCA students and is in a position to then offer good dressmakers a job. This industry is incredibly labour intensive and therefore a lot of jobs can be created. If I can dare to dream big, I think it could even lead to a revival of the cotton processing industry. And this could then lead to an increase in the export of new products, especially because the demand for organically produced cotton is growing globally.’

Rusia Orikiriza, owner of Oribags: ‘As firstborn in our family, I felt I carried a great responsibility on my shoulders. My parents were farmers and were a huge inspiration to me. I took every opportunity given to me to progress and I’m so grateful that I was finally able to study and build up my own business. I was awarded a ‘Women Achievers Award’ in 2010 and I see it as the ultimate recognition for me as female entrepreneur.’