Grace Jones Nabwire could not have imagined that a power blackout on a random Friday in February 2017, while at her home in Mbuya, a Kampala suburb would illuminate her untapped crocheting talent.
That weekend, power was off for 48 hours and as she scratched her head for what to do to kill this boredom, she decided to try out crocheting. Although Nabwire saw her mother crotcheting table cloth and baby shawls at home, it is a skill she never paid attention to until she graduated.
With a Shs20,000 note that was part of her upkeep, Nabwire bought yarn and a hook and crocheted a bikini top.
She would later show the piece she had made to three of her friends. One of her friends immediately ordered for a swimsuit as a birthday gift and paid Shs50,000 for it.
How she started
As a sales officer at MAT Media, it took Nabwire a week to deliver. “My first client was impressed with my work. I used the money she gave me to buy the yarn to make more pieces, that I used to market my products,” she recounts.
Starting out, she had very few clients and the sales were low. “I would get only four clients a month and most of the orders I got were from my friends. I was patient because I a sales job,” Nabwire says.
In 2017, Nabwire got more clients, made more sales and established a standard price of Shs80,000 for all her work. The following year, she started her own company that she named GH Crochet.
“I dreaded the idea of being jobless. I needed a backup plan. At first crocheting was a hobby but it had potential to transform into a business, if I invested time and resources,” she says.
Over the years, her clientele has grown and she has widened the market scope. GH Crochets makes crochet outfits, swimsuits, cardigans, dresses and more.
In regards to pricing, Nabwire says she considers the cost of yarn, time taken to crotchet a given order and how sophisticated it is.
Locally, it takes her three to five days to deliver an order and two weeks to a month to overseas clients, depending on location. She makes more sales from cardigans, dresses and blankets.
In a month, Nabwire makes between Shs300,000 and Shs800,000, depending on the amount and type of orders, the number of clients and the quantity of yarn used. Nabwire says creativity is the only thing that makes her stand out in this line of business.
Crotcheting is one of the oldest and most common skills passed on to people from their mothers or caretakers. And while many know the skill, a small percentage have taken it on as an income generating project.
During last year’s lockdown, Nabwire got more time to figure out how to keep her business running. Unfortunately, it is during that same season that her contract ended. But this double tragedy presented an opportunity to foster her business through online marketing.
“I embarked on intensive digital marketing. People spend more hours on social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and I needed to market my products there. I go for paid promotions, discounts, sales and giveaways and that’s how I get or maintain my clientele,” says Nabwire.
Effects of underpricing
Like many entrepreneurs yearning to make a footprint in the crowded market, Nabwire says she employed the underpricing technique to hook clients. However, in the long run, this trick backfired, as it did not give her the profits she anticipated.
“I would attract even up to 30 interested people, but only about three would place orders. Many despise this business and often believe the prices should be much lower. Others place orders and default,” she says.
She says she makes more sales from overseas clients, especially from the US, Jamaica, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, and Ghana among others.
Although the orders have increased over time, Nabwire sometimes she is overwhelmed by the workload. “Most of my clients don’t like giving their orders to vendor employees and so I am forced to work on the orders myself,” says Nabwire.
To avert this, she currently takes on a given number of orders which she can complete within a standard delivery timeframe. The hardest part of Nabwire’s work is counting stitches- the moment she loses count she has to start all over again, which slows her down.
The business has turned Nabwire into a loner because she has to avoid distractions. “I have a hook and yarn in a taxi, in the kitchen as I cook, on my bed, everywhere” she says.
She has adapted a half price non-refundable commitment deposit policy to reduce the amount of losses incurred in her operations.
For the four years she has been in business, Nabwire has appreciated that growth does not just come overnight. She has also learnt how to deal with different kinds of customers. “Some are impolite, others cancel orders when work is already halfway done, some agree to the four days delivery condition and start putting me on pressure the next day,” she says. Nabwire has unlocked the unlimited opportunities social media offers to foster business.