It is no surprise that Barbara Kimbugwe has now focused her energies on fashion. The former Miss Uganda 2004 went to the United States of America (USA) after her reign where she acquainted business skills that she has since put to good use.
Located at Tirupati Mazima Mall on Ggaba Road, Kabalagala is Kimbugwe’s boutique called ‘Diva Fashions.’ This is where she sells a range of some of the latest outfits and accessories mainly from USA.
“We have ladies’ corporate suits, cocktail & dinner wear, fashion jewellery, bags and shoes. And for the gentlemen, we sell designer wallets, belts, shoes, casual wear, colognes and hats,” says Kimbugwe, whose interest in fashion dates back to her childhood.
Last December, she organised a shopping spree which was a fair start to test the waters in Uganda’s retail business. With about Shs50 million ($20,000), she started this business of retailing clothes and accessories.
“With the support of my fans, family and loyal customers, I was motivated to open up this fashion clothing store,” Kimbugwe said.
She says it was a dream come true. She had always wanted to start up business but the opportune time had not arrived. Plus, she needed to finish her education.
Kimbugwe has been working hard ever since she set foot in the USA. She was lucky to find a man who was wealthy. Today, she co-owns several businesses with her partner in the USA with whom she says she runs eight registered companies at Palm Beach in Florida, which includes real estate, an anti- aging spa and a health publishing company.
Asked about how her business is faring in Florida, Kimbugwe says, “We are doing our best and so far so good. Real estate is a good investment given its high returns. We have structures, so employees diligently do the work even when we are not there to supervise them.”
How Kimbugwe started
She used her working experience to save and finance Diva Fashions Boutique. She says that even though she can open up a large store she prefers to start small.
She argues, “Putting up a business should be focused on making an income versus showing off that I own a shop. This means it is better to start small and live within your means instead of starting big which sometimes leads to loans, debt and no profits.”
Kimbugwe says she is trying to keep the prices within reach. The cheapest outfit costs about Shs7,000 while the price of other accessories starts from as low as Shs20,000.
For anyone trying to find success in business, Kimbugwe says business requires continuous learning, persistence and celebrating small goals which help her stay motivated.
It is also important to remain humble and stay strong in pursuit of business success rather than allow different people to draw you towards different directions.
Her advice about starting business
Kimbugwe says it is important to do research and know your clients because these are the people who are going to give life to your business.
Make sure that you give the best customer care and attend to their needs.
It is also vital to be accommodating to ideas and have a competitive advantage. There are so many boutiques but you should offer something unique. I do strictly American products but even then their quality is good and that is my competitive advantage.
Education: On her wish list are both personal and business aspirations. She plans to complete her Masters degree.
NGO: She is also running a non-governmental organisation called Kimbra Foundation which supports more than 100 children with scholarships, basic needs, meals and healthcare.
Improving access to clean water: Kimbugwe also wants to improve and build clean water systems for domestic use in some ignored rural areas of Uganda, starting with Masaka district.
Florida plans: She also aspires to complete the construction of a wellness and anti-aging medical spa in Royal Palm beach Florida.
I am not just addicted to work but I am passionate about it. The only way business can be successful is when business owners are completely involved. I mean leading by example, being able to do any responsibility like cleaning, sales, customer-service, book-keeping and everything that comes with a particular business.
I have enrolled for a degree majoring in Science of Organisational Management which is basically business management in medicine which teaches one to manage hospitals, doctors, dental offices and any other health organisation. Besides the education, I worked as a fashion model.
In all this, I have learnt that business ethics are very valuable in both my personal and business life. No business is small work, regardless of the size, it requires hard work and focus.
The start is always the most difficult part and without doubt, I have had some challenges but I have learnt from them. I am open to change and knowledge which helps me become better in person and as a business lady.
I have been true to myself and my business partners and that is how I have managed to build my success.
Fashion designer's tips on venturing in the fashion business
For those hoping to join the fashion business, Cindy Kemigisha, a fashion designer says: “Be very creative, innovative and patient.”
To start, you need to love what you are going to do. You have to be determined because you can start with whatever amount you have at your disposal.
“I started with Shs500,000. It was not easy but I knew I would shine. Today I am proud of what I have achieved thus far. Start somewhere,” Kemigisha said.