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Sunday, 25 July 2010 09:02

Entrepreneur Set for Global Award

By Lydia Ainomugisha

KAMPALA, Uganda, July 25, 2010, (The Observer) - Somewhere in Bulange village, a few metres from Mengo town is a somewhat secluded private house. At any given day, this house is a bee hive of activities. On the day I visit, I find around 10 women, all too busy to be obstructed by my presence. Some are weaving, others knitting, while a few are measuring long pieces of black cloth.


This is the headquarters of Royal Bark Cloth Designs (RBCD), a brainchild of Sara Katebalirwe, whose efforts have been rewarded with a nomination for the internationally acclaimed Cartier Women's Initiative 2010 Award. The award, created in 2006, is a global business competition plan.


Katebalirwe created RBCD 10 years ago and is creatively reviving the use of bark cloth, an ancient indigenous Ugandan material. Produced from the bark of the indigenous Mutuba tree - which is stripped, pounded flat and left to dry in an ancient process that predates weaving, the bark cloth has long been used for clothing, currency and making ritual garments. It is also still widely used to express cultural norms especially among the Baganda.


The company covers everything from initial design, to labeling and packaging. They also strive to maintain quality control, warding off copycats, which can be a big issue in the market.

Katebalirwe has always been passionate about design. After studying administration at university, she spent a year in the civil service before leaving to set up her first clothing design company.


"I had a ramshackle electric sewing machine that was always breaking down. My husband kept asking when I would give up, but I never did," she says.


She taught herself how to make Western designs, forged a partnership with a Dutch design firm that deals with exports and hers now is the largest company in her field in the country; with functional products that range from handbags to household accessories. Other products include cushion covers, necklaces, laptop sleeves and gift items among others.

She sells to the local, regional and export markets but ironically, most of her clients are whites, who find bark cloth designs unique.


The 54 year-old, who learnt of the awards through the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association, is ecstatic about the nomination. "My first business plan last year wasn't nominated but I didn't lose hope even though I kept thinking this was out of my league," she says.


"I'm optimistic I will win this time and as a woman from Uganda, I feel more women will be inspired.


"Even if I don't win, the coaching, connections as well as the exposure to the global market has already had a telling effect on my business."


The finalists were selected based on creativity, sustainability and social impact. The five most promising businesses, one from each continent, will receive an award of $20,000 and a year of coaching.

For Africa, Katebalirwe is competing against Tanzanian Ann Kihengu, whose company, Prian, distributes affordable solar-powered lamps and mobile phone chargers in rural Tanzania.


The third nominee is South African Anne Githuku-Shongwe, whose company, Afroes, develops interactive digital media products rooted in Africa's heritage and culture to encourage awareness of social issues and the development of new skills.


RBCD currently employs close to 60 artisans, many of whom are single mothers striving to provide for their families. Katebalirwe feels that Uganda has little design culture and is keen to revive the trend.


"The training we provide is designed to help the artisans hand stitch and produce our designs, but we also want to empower them generally to produce better quality products."


To protect this heritage and stimulate sustainable, environmentally friendly tree farming, Katebalirwe strives to mobilize the government to create a "Geographical Indications" label to officially certify the bark cloth.


Entrepreneurship is not an easy path and having lost her husband 15 years ago, Katebalirwe knows how hard it can be to pick up the pieces and rebuild a life in the face of preconceptions and prejudice. However, these obstacles have galvanized her to help other women. She is actively involved in entrepreneurship groups for women in Uganda.


The Cartier Women's Initiative Awards are a joint partnership project initiated by Cartier, the Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school. Each partner brings expertise to the initiative: Cartier plays a leading role in the organisation of the competition and provides coaching and funding for the projects.


The Women's Forum provides visibility and networking opportunities for the finalists. McKinsey & Company and INSEAD pre-select the projects and coach the finalists.

Looking back, Katebalirwe feels she has been rewarded for her hard work. "When I started, my friends said that if I worked with bark cloth, I'd be eating grass. "Now they keep asking me how I knew it would work so well... it's a matter of conviction," she says.


Katebalirwe is due to fly to Deauville ,France, where the awards will take place on October 14.


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Ден решил снова довериться "Песня всё забыто решено слёзы высохли давно скачать"ему.

На этот раз нужно действовать иначе.

Сидя "Скачать страдания юного вертера"на траве, он осматривал "Читы для шарарама скачать"свои руки и ноги, "Кейген для crysis 2"словно удивляясь, почему же они так его подвели.


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