Disability, work and sustainability. In one fell swoop Juliet Namujju and Zaharah Nabirye, young Ugandan entrepreneurs, managed to harmonize these three complex and slippery realities and bring them into Kimuli Fashionability, the startup they founded in 2017 in Maya, Uganda.
Their company has developed a system to produce clothing and design objects, starting from the recycling of plastic bags of sugar and cement and milk packages. A business model adhering to the paradigms of the Circular Economy that Juliet (CEO) and Zaharah (Product Designer) were able to create thanks to the work of 25 collaborators with disabilities.
Kimuli convinced, earning first place, also Startup Africa Roadtrip, a non-profit project promoted by the BeEntrepreneurs APS Association and co-founded by a group of 9 members. Thanks to this initiative, Kimuli Fashionability was among the six startups protagonists in May of the Startup Africa Roadshow, a project curated by BeEntrepreneurs APS, which supports the growth of the most promising entrepreneurial teams of Silicon Savannah, the innovation ecosystem made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Innovative solutions for the environment
Juliet and Nabirye met in 2017 at the Social Innovation Academy in Mpigi, Uganda. “A structure dedicated to marginalized young people that aims to transform solutions with a positive impact on society and the environment into social enterprises – explained Juliet Namujju – there we discovered that our lives had been victims of the disability of our own parents. “. At that point “the conservation of the environment then became the inspiration and the starting point that led to the creation of Kimuli Fashionability”.
Recycling and training
Kimuli (which in the local language means “flower”) Fashionability “wants to transform – said Juliet Namujju – the waste crisis in Africa into job opportunities for tailors and disabled young people”. Local young people take care of the waste collection. After collection, the waste (about 15 kilos per day) is washed, dried and cut into different shapes depending on the garment.
At this point the waste, treated in this way, is assembled with African fabrics (Kitengi and Barkcloth) and transformed into fashionable garments such as raincoats, accessories such as shopping bags, wallets, computer cases.
A part of Kimuli’s activity is linked to dedicated training programs for disabled people to tailoring techniques creativity and recycling and awareness-raising itineraries in schools. “40% of the sales of our products go to the training of people with disabilities, 60% go to business development”. The ultimate goal is to help «change the mentality of the younger generations towards recycling. We also organize fundraising parades where disabled people act as models to show off their garments and accessories ».
Kimuli jackets also at the un
Among the awards, in 2019 the Federation of Employers Uganda selected and awarded Kimuli as “Best Young Employer. The company was then awarded by Ban-Ki-Moon, exhibited their rain jackets in recycled material at the United Nations Global Goals Week during the 73rd UN General Assembly.
“In 2021 we won the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards and the Creative Innovation and Technology Award Nigeria for best tailoring and the South Africa Fashion Business Award.”