How hobby turned into thriving fashion venture

Sunday August 09 2020
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Godwin Lematia fixes different designs on the T-shirt. PHOTOS | ROLAND NASASIRA

Godwin Lematia’s love for fashion started when he was pretty young. His mother, he says, taught him crocheting and weaving when he was 10 years old. This would later turn into a hobby, before growing into a full-blown enterprise.

Starting
“I grew up loving art, so I learned how to crochet from my mum when I was a little boy,” says Lematia. “I picked up the art in 2006 as a hobby to keep me occupied since at the time I had no job.”

Lematia looked for job opportunities after school in 2005. In line with his hobby, he secured a job with Skyline Designs at Namuwongo, where he worked until 2008. When his contract with Skyline Designs ended, Lematia had made up his mind that he was not going back to being employed.

With some savings, he turned the hobby into a business in 2009, naming it Vision Qual-Tech Designs Limited.

“I started my business with Shs1.2m. I remember I bought a packet of acrylic wool for Shs200,000 and crochet hooks at Shs5,000,” he says.

First clients
His first work was a job he got from his friend to make 10 T-shirts for a function which he made after watching a tutorial on YouTube.

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“Well, it didn’t turn out perfect, but it was a good start. I later made more shirts for other clients, then sweaters, and that is when I opened Instagram account to market my work,” he recalls.

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Lematia with packaged T-shirts after production.

Lematia would also get clients who knew him from his previous workplace at Skyline Designs.

He also got other clients on his social media page who bought about 100 T-shirts at Shs20,000 each.

“I was very excited and I kept on telling my friends how my new business was paying. I lost touch with my first client but I remember her words, she told me I would make it really big,” he adds.

Lematia currently has a sizable clientele, making him to work extra hours to meet increasing demand.

Turning point
In late 2008, an opportunity in the infancy of his business knocked at Lematia’s door. A friend he only remembers as George linked him to the Gulu NGO-forum to print more than 1,000 T-shirts.
Lematia executed the job and was paid handsomely.
“I earned more than Shs10m. This was the biggest job I had ever done. After delivering my cash was wired on my account and like they say, the rest is history,” says Lematia.
He kept the contract for four straight years.

Prices
The pricing for his products depends on the type of material used, technicality of the design, time taken and size. The T-shirt prices start from Shs10,000, dresses Shs40,000 while bridal dresses go for Shs400,000 and above.

The entrepreneur, who has more than six workers, makes an average of Shs15m net profit monthly.

Market
Lematia uses sales persons and online presence to market his products.
“I market my products on social media especially on Instagram. Referrals from previous clients have also increased my client base,” he says.

“With technology we learn every day. I hope to be done soon with my website construction and explore more avenues of marketing.”

Most of his clients buy T-shirts for special occasions, as gifts for events such as birthday or as holiday outfits.

The customers, he says, view them as a luxury wear that make them stand out.

“I customise to client size, colour of choice, and style. This enables the client to have a perfect fit, bringing their sense of fashion and personality to life,” says Lematia.

Diversifying services
Initially registered as a graphic entity majoring in arts and designs, besides printing T-shirts, Lematia also incorporated the design of promotional materials such as cups, caps, branded bags, awards or plaques, pens, business cards, wall and desk calendars, sign posts, wall frames, billboard designing and printing, window welding, office partitioning, among other services.

Business portfolio
Having started with capital of Shs1.2m, Lematia now boasts of approximately an annual return of Shs800m. However, from 2015 to 2017, the business had a good run and annual returns had grown to Shs1b but drastically came down overtime.

This is because the business fluctuates depending on the demand for services. It is challenging to maintain and keep the business performing well at all times because times change.

Profits
Like annual returns, profits are also not consistent. In a month, after paying off his six employees, Lematia makes profits of approximately between Shs10m to Shs20m when business is at its peak.
However, there are times when the business is not at its peak and he makes profits of only Shs5m or even lower than Shs5m.
His team constitutes of two people who are in the sales department, one welder and others in different departments, including those who pack the printed shirts and T-shirts.

Business advice
If you are venturing into the arts and design business, Lematia says it is important to believe in yourself and that business will grow to a level where you want it to be.

This, he emphasises depends on how much effort and hard work you put in. Love the work you do and you will reap the fruits of hard work along the way.

“If you focus on making money, you are going to compromise the quality of services you offer to your clients. The money will come in when you do the correct things,” says Lematia.

Lastly, be honest. It is something very expensive to be honest but when you exercise it, it is worth it because then, a client is able to trust you.
Future plans
In five to 10 years’ time, Lematia envisions a business where he offers the best arts and design services in Kampala.

This will be achieved through concentrating and focusing on quality of services offered, but also, expansively, he has moved from his three roomed business at Bukoto to a much bigger area where he can be able to take on a lot more work.

Marketing
Lematia uses sales persons and online presence to market his products. “I market my products on social media especially on Instagram. Referrals from previous clients have also increased my client base,” he says.

“With technology we learn every day. I hope to be done soon with my website construction and explore more avenues of marketing.”

Most of his clients buy T-shirts for special occasions, as gifts for events such as birthday or as holiday outfits.

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