A quick scan through Sophie Nakabuye’s profiles on social media highlights her love and obsession for art. From her sporadic choice of clothes to jewellery, she goes an extra mile to stamp her mark on the fashion industry.
It is more than just fashion but a way of life. “I chose this line of work because I am an artist and I cannot imagine doing anything that is devoid of art or creativity.
The other reason is that she is her own boss, which allows her to set her working hours, leaving enough time in the day to run her other projects.
Like they say, one can turn their hobby into a career or source of living. Nakabuye’s hustle started by using old jewellery to make different things with the material instead of throwing it away.
“I would use an old necklace and make a pair of earrings and a bracelet. Initially I was making them for myself and then my friends started paying me for them, and just like that, it turned into a hustle,” says Nakabuye’s.
Her products are handmade accessories such as jewellery, small belts, artsy hats with shoes and bags soon coming into the fray.
After discovering she could earn from her handwork, it was time to go bigger and her mother supported her financially. “My first and only investor was my mother. She gave me Shs2m to add to my business about seven years ago and since then, the business makes enough money to sustain itself,” she says.
While Nakabuye is passionate about jewellery, her business has experienced bumps along the way. One of the challenges she has encountered is people expecting her products at a cheaper price. The market too is competitive and some crafters in this city make substandard jewellery which they sell at lower prices to unsuspecting clients.
She says she uses quality and durable stones and all her designs are original. This forms the basis upon which she prices her products.
The standards Nakabuye has set require the best stones which poses another hurdle in her trade. “Finding good raw material to work with is not easy. When you find them, they are costly. There is barely a place to get good quality stones or leather. So, I end up having to buy most of my material on the internet and transportation becomes costly,” she laments.
Despite people’s cries to Nakabuye to cut down on her asking prices, she remains defiant because she believes her works are worth every penny. “I simply don’t reduce my prices. I politely inform them that the original price is the last price because they are buying a genuine and durable product,” she says unapologetically.
I always make sure to price things according to their worth. I want everyone to be able to afford something. If one person thinks it’s too expensive, the next person will pay for it gladly because they see its value,” she adds. When it comes to importing good stones, she had made use of her travelling family and friends. The jewellery trade has opened doors for Nakabuye from financial growth, other ventures to social capital. Among other things, she has achieved financial independence. She has also opened another business and she has networked with other businesspeople from all over the world.
Patience and hard work are some of the lessons that the jewellery business has taught Nakabuye. “There are no guarantees of making sales all year round, so this has taught me to be patient, both in my personal and professional and business journey. I have also learnt that hard work beats talent. Yes, I am talented at what I do but this doesn’t make business sense if I don’t put in the work,” she says.
Her necklaces range between Shs30,000 and Shs100,000. Bracelets, anklets, body chains, waist beads and earring prices range between Shs20,000 and Shs50,000. The tiaras, crowns or any bridal jewellery costs Shs100,000 and 300,000 depending on what the customer needs. Hats and belts don’t have fixed prices yet as they are a new venture.
“In a good week I can make between Shs200,000 and Shs500,000. Sometimes I don’t make any money at all,” says Nakabuye.
Instead of sitting in her shop and waiting for clients to show up, Nakabuye markets her works on social media platforms such as Instagram. She also markets her hustle wherever she goes.
Pop up shops too have created avenues for Nakabuye to sell her products. The popular Nyege Nyege festival has been one of those. “Besides just making good money there (Nyege Nyege), I get a rare chance to meet with my customers in person and sell my products. Additionally, this festival being a global event allows me an opportunity to network with other artisans and enthusiasts from across the world,” she says.