I met with Agnes and Joyce yesterday to discuss new products. Harem Pants. Tunic. Summer Scarf. Folding Bag. Samples. I think we were equally happy to see each other. Reconnecting consists of a standard greeting for each other’s families and remembering where we were and how we felt the last time we were together.
We met again this morning at Agnes’ little shop in Amber Court Market. I brought the beaten kitenge for tunics, some shiny stuff for trousers, and binding for folding bags. I sat on a (thankfully sturdy) bench along the back. We reviewed specs and measurements and samples. They asked about sales and what we do in America. I told them that we move from place to place with our rolling suitcase full of stuff and sell at little tiny markets that “pop up” for only 1 or 2 days. I told them the standard pitch that I give everyone who asks me about what I do.
All of our accessories are made by artisans in Jinja, Uganda. Our goal is to support our artisans as small business owners. We both want to find success in our local economies. We both have to understand our inputs and my outputs and how the money works. We have the same goals and are partners in learning and growing. We believe small business is the foundation of a strong economy in America and Uganda.
Agnes and Joyce approved. The tailor group has taken the money they earned from selling Cookin’ Bags and used it as a revolving loan. One person “borrows” from the fund and repays with 10% interest. They are growing their group income and are able to lend out more. Joyce used her money to buy fabric at a low price in Kampala and sell for profit in Jinja.
I told them that we are continuing financial literacy education and business plan training. We talked about our personal and group business goals and what our dreams are for the future. Agnes said that her current shop location is not good because it is difficult for her customers to find her. She wants to own a shop in a busier location and increase her sales so she can hire other tailors. Joyce wants to continue trading fabric and other tailoring supplies from Kampala to outlying areas.
Sometimes I get nervous that we’re all just spinning our wheels and working really hard, but not going anywhere. I left Uganda in December 2012. Andrea visited for a month this past September. We don’t have much communication between America and Uganda. But the past two days were great because I realized we’ve still got it. Our relationships are what keep us together. Despite all the distance and past drama, we have trust. We have shared hopes and dreams and we’re not afraid to say them out loud. We’re all still here and we’re all still moving forward, together. And today, that’s more than enough to keep me going.