Alobo mints gold from art

Alobo Rita decorating one of her bottles. PHOTO/PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

What you need to know:

  • Challenge: Like any other business, Covid-19 pandemic has been a great obstacle for success. Alobo cannot fathom how gravely the situation has impacted her business. 

On a scorching bright Wednesday afternoon, I walk through a busy market place in Bugoolobi, a Kampala City suburb. The market filled with mouth-watering eatables is home of Spice Africa. 

A tall light skinned medium- sized lady with short hair welcomes me. 

On entry, I notice a low-raised stool that stands on three wooden legs. It was circularly crafted with sisal rope, and uniquely decorated with white stones embedded in it.

Ritah Alobo, 27, says she has been trading in the field for the last three years. After losing her job in 2017, as a salesperson at a phone outlet in down town Kampala, Alobo decided to join events and decoration working hand in hand with her cousin.

However, this did not yield much because of defaulting clients. Little did she know that she was drawing closer to her artistic talent.

“Old is new with a little touch of Ankara,” Alobo expresses. One of her first sale was a bag revamp to a one Mama Chaka whom she says appreciated her magical hands which affirmed to her that she was on to the right and clear path of business. “Mama Chaka loved my work and brought me more of her used items to revamp whereas recommending her friends to me,” says Alobo.

Starting out
With so much art to show, Alobo attributes her resilience on job to the love of art and craft. She recounts: “I started in 2018 with bottle designing using off cut kitenge fabric, then later that year I started revamping bags and shoes,” says Ahabo.  As her zeal for identifying more creative pieces grew, she got an idea of designing tyre tables too.

“I started from home with Shs400,000, and materials such as; wood glue , colour spray for bottles, tough bond for shoe revamping,  glue gun, glue for sticking ropes, tyres and glass for tyre tables,” says Alobo. Having been cut short of an education due to limited resources, Alobo kept trying out new things and her curiosity led her to more incredible ideas for art.

“I would make very few sales such as three pairs of shoe revamps in one month or one tyre table in two months,” she recalls.  The art guru would charge between Shs10,000 and Shs15,000 to revamp pumps and high-heeled shoes respectively. This she says changed to Shs20,000 for pumps revamp and Shs30,000 for high-heels revamp due to the need to clear her rent arrears.

Her expenditure in the initial start of the business included wood glue which she purchased at Shs50,000. “I used wood glue to design cloth on the bottles but this didn’t yield the same results on shoe revamping.” Alobo had to learn from others until she ran into a cobbler who recommended tough bond a glue speciality for shoe glue.

Items
With almost no training but mere passion for crafting, today, Alobo makes tyre tables, revamps shoes, and bags, redesigns old wine bottles for flower vases. She manages the business with the help of her sister, a tailor with whom she sub-rents. This, she says has enabled her regulate the hefty rent fee while managing her business. “I also partner with Kalunya Carpentry Company for all my carpentry needs,” she adds.

Challenges
Like any other business, Covid-19 pandemic has been a great obstacle for success. Alobo cannot fathom how gravely the situation has impacted her business. “People do not spend money the way they used to,” she says. 
The prices of materials required to get the work done she explains have tremendously increased. This largely resulted from Kampala Capital City Authority high charges on small businesses. To curb these high charges, Alobo developed a saving culture to pay up the city authorities in time.

She expresses her disappointment in how Ugandans treat art. “Art is not so much appreciated in Uganda and most think it’s cheap, that is  why they always want to bargain down the set prices,” she says. 
In addition to heavy bargains, Alobo is hurt by people who think only the male gender to be perfect tyre table designers. This she laments reduces her selling capacity as many end up withdrawing orders on realising her gender.

Pricing
Alobo has mastered the art of visibility using Facebook groups ‘market days such as Fresh peaches group and so many others. 

On-shelf sales together with social media presence she calculates, fetch her profit of about Shs700,000 on a good day and nothing on a bad day.

For tyre tables, she charges from between Shs300,000 and Shs450,000,  shoe revamping goes for about Shs25,000 and Shs30,000 and bag revamping is priced at Shs30,000.
Designed wine bottles range from Shs20,000 and Shs35,000. She emphasises each make on order to minimise on losses.

Alobo says her pricing is greatly affected by her input and market cost of materials. She lists, “gun glue goes for Shs25,000, glue sticks at about Shs1,000 each, rope roles of 100ms at Shs35,000, glass depending on the size and thickness at Shs20,000, colour spray at Shs15,000 for each shade and lastly tough bond at Shs70,000.”

Vision
Alobo says she looks forward to having more outlets and a designated space for her operations.

She envisions herself occupying a spacious showroom with modern equipment that ease work. “My ultimate goal is to recycle old and give it value addition in my pursuit to protect mother Nature.” She plans to grow the business by adding a new make of tyre furniture and pallet furniture.

Achievements
The senior four drop out decries her ordeal of failing to complete school which she says strongly convicted her to go hard on business. 
“I have managed to look after myself and my mother, I have also been able to get bills paid such as paying for my rent arrears and purchasing equipment,” she explains.

Alobo spraying the tyre on the mirror. PHOTO/PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

Take home
Alobo advises business people to put God first and be creative. She says, “One ought to follow trends. I am aware of the enormous market for tyre tables, which makes me re-design creative pieces where I add a touch of white stones and artificial flowers.” She also encourages patience for the growth of business and a great deal of customer care and retention techniques.

Tips for starting crafts store

The world is full of artistic people who stitch, paint and print their way through life. Crafting is an excellent way to relax, unwind, and allow your creative side to shine through. 

What if we told you that crafting could be more than just a hobby?
According to Statista, the crafts market worldwide should reach a value of around $50.9 billion by 2024. With the online world now making it easier than ever to launch a craft store, there’s nothing stopping you from taking your crafting skills to the next level. 

Building an online craft business allows you to leverage your passion and turn it into something that makes money. Later, you can decide whether you want to work on it full-time or treat it as a side hustle that makes you extra income. 

So, how do you begin? 

Identify a gap in the Market
The first step in starting a crafts business is deciding what you’re going to sell. Your decision of what to “craft” will partially depend on what you love making. However, it’s also important to research the market and see what could sell for your company. 

Examine your industry and ask yourself what kind of products you could offer through your brand to make customers more likely to buy from you.  For instance, you might be great at making your own soap, but there are tons of other creators like you out there. How are you going to stand out? Maybe you could promise soap that’s completely organic and made with special ingredients?

Stock up on secondary market research from groups to get an idea of what is trending. Some options might include:
Custom art: People love commissioning pieces specially tailored to their needs. You could sell portraits of your customers or their pets or design art based on the unique things your clients love, like a certain book or video game. 

Gift baskets: Many people struggle to find the perfect present for someone they care about. Why not remove the stress for your audience by giving them pre-made gift baskets specially designed for a certain occasion? 
Skincare and beauty: This is a big industry on its own. You can combine your love of beauty with your passion for creation by selling perfumes, soaps, bath bombs, and other popular indulgence items.

Alobo Rita decorating one of her bottles. PHOTO/PROMISE TWINAMUKYE

Jewellery: Make your own double pearl earrings. Or try your hand at a DIY necklace idea. Jewellery is always a no-brainer when it comes to easy crafts that sell. If you find that people love your designs, maybe you could start a jewellery business to turn your passion into profit.  
For extra inspiration, use Google Trends to find out what people are talking about in your industry. Alternatively, try asking your friends what they would love to buy.
A lot of people are searching for a hat box these days, so this can be something you could offer through your craft store.

Get to know your audience
For those learning how to start a craft business, there is good news: the crafts industry is a pretty diverse place. Selling in this industry means you can target various demographics and consumer segments based on the products you sell.

If you are selling home essentials such as key hooks and blanket covers, you may focus on older consumers who can afford to buy items for their homes. If you’re selling handmade friendship bracelets and bath bombs, you can probably target a slightly younger audience. 

To identify your target audience, consider which people are most likely to fall in love with your products. If you are starting a small craft business selling baby blankets, your primary customer may be new parents. However, you could also appeal to relatives who want to buy baby shower gifts.

Create a business plan
When you are learning how to start selling crafts online, you are likely to get carried away with things like planning which products you are going to sell and finding your target audience. Pump the breaks for a second, though – it’s important to do some planning first. 

Creating a craft business plan is a must-have. Think of it as the compass for your business, keeping you moving in the right direction, no matter what happens in your industry. 

Business plans remind you of your vision and mission statement. These documents are also extra useful when you are trying to get business funding from a bank or investor.

If you are still feeling uncertain about business plans when learning how to start a craft business, you can find some handy video tutorials online that can help you to write your business plan. Or just use a business plan template to get going. You can modify the information there to reflect the nature and vision of your business.

Get crafting
In this step, you are going to develop a plan for how you are going to make your crafts. There are plenty of ways to jump into this process. For instance, you could explore some lessons or webinars online to teach you how to hone skills you already have. For instance, if you love making jewellery, you could learn how to make chains or design your own earrings.

Develop your brand 
Branding is one of the most important things you can do for a craft business. Because people buy from companies they know, like, and trust, you need to present them with a brand that leaves a great lasting impression. 
Good branding involves everything from a memorable company name to an attractive logo, a meaningful colour palette, and even a unique tone of voice.  Creating a brand is easier than you would think, thanks to some great online tools out there.

Build your online store 
Like creating your beloved crafts, designing an online store is a lot of fun. 
It is your opportunity to combine various aspects, like your chosen brand colours, logo, and product pages, so that you have an entire storefront online. With an ecommerce platform such as Shopify, creating a professional-looking website is a breeze – you could build an ecommerce site in under 30 minutes. 

If you are keen to take advantage of the time and money-saving benefits of dropshipping, you can also access Oberlo – which is the tailor-made dropshipping solution for Shopify.

Marketing 
One of the more challenging aspects of learning how to start a craft business involves figuring out how to attract customers to your store. Marketing is a crucial component of selling crafts. The amount you spend on promotion will depend heavily on your budget and the strategies you use.

Email marketing is an excellent way to develop relationships with your customers and encourage them to keep purchasing from your brand long-term. Make sure you segment your audience based on the crafts they like to keep messages relevant.

Social media marketing is a great way to connect with your customers every day. You can show customers how you make your products through YouTube tutorials, snap pictures for Instagram, and design boards on Pinterest. 
Influencer marketing is a great way to give your new brand a boost reputation-wise. You can work with well-known professionals in your space to improve your chances of finding the right customers. Influencers exist on every platform, from Tiktok to Clubhouse to Facebook and more.

Additional reporting —Source: oberlo

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