After graduating in 2010, Phionah Kamwine’s first employment opportunity was to work as a personal assistant. But for the four years she spent doing this job, she got bored and needed a more challenging career.
In 2014, Kamwine called it quits and started an online business of selling underwear for two years until she had her first child. Weaving was one of her hobbies then and she decided to embark on it while she tended to her child at home.
Little did she know that this would turn out to be a profitable business idea.Kamwine says for the start, she used Shs100,000 to buy needles, colour, weaving materials and banana riddles.
Her sister uploaded photos of her baskets on Facebook and one client ordered for all of them. At that time, each basket was sold at Shs12,000. A few days later, through the same Facebook page, she got another order of 24 baskets that were needed by a client from Canada.
“This was my financial breakthrough. When I got that order, I got three other women and together with my mother, we made 24 baskets in eight days. From this order, I made Shs 288,000,” says Kamwine.
In 2018, she received a bigger order and since then, she has never looked back.
Like any other business, Kamwine plans to invest in procuring more weaving materials to exceptional baskets as well as intensify her marketing strategies.
She says this kind of business requires patience, honesty, time management hardwork and endless marketing. “If you promise a client to deliver the products, you should do it on time. If you are not able to, tell your client the truth,” Kamwine says.
Kamwine makes baskets of different designs and sizes such as those used during introduction ceremonies, for decoration, for use in hotels and in homes, among others. Her products are priced depending on their sizes and designs. Prices range from Shs25,000 to Shs100,000.
She says there are days when she makes Shs300,000 a day and she gets most of her clients through referrals. Kamwine says to start this kind of business, one needs to have passion. She says weaving is a skill that one can learn within a short time. However, it requires innovativeness.
She says she gets most of her clients through online platforms because the products are advertised on social media pages such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
“It is not easy to get clients. People want to take our products at a giveaway price. Others say these are just ‘baskets’ and they want to pay peanuts for them,” Kamwine says.
Kamwine’s greatest joy comes from the fact that what started out as a hobby has since become her source of livelihood. “I can comfortably pay my bills and members have joined me to make money through weaving. Our number has grown to 24 members and to me that is achievement. We have also started a savings group,” she says.
In their group, every member is required to save Shs10,000 every week. With continued savings, the group plans to buy a piece of land and establish a weaving workshop for training purposes. She says in 10 years, the craft-making group wants to start a workshop where they will be training other people with similar skills.
Kamwine says the number of clients keeps on increasing every day because of their quality products and customer satisfaction and that many restaurants and hotels in Kampala have bought their products.
“In 2018, we had training in one of the refugee camps in Masaka City and in 2019 we had training in Gulu City” Kamwine says.
Kamwine looks up to Patrick Bitature, a successful businessman in Kampala and the former Miss Uganda, Dora Mwima because of their humble beginnings and aggressiveness in business.