Uzuri K&Y’s 5 year footwear journey

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Kevine Kagirimpundu and her business partner Ysolde Shimwe own Uzuri K&Y shoe company. / Courtesy

One step can lead to a thousand miles, so goes the popular adage. For Kevine Kagirimpundu and her colleague Ysolde Shimwe, their passion for fashion paid off when they started a handcraft shoe company in 2013 after studying creative design at University of Rwanda’s School of Environmental Design and Architecture.

Through a friendship that blossomed into a business partnership and what started as an idea, is now producing fruits. Sunday Magazine’s Joan Mbabazi talked to the duo about their handcraft shoe company which now produces 200 pairs of shoes a day.

What inspired you to start this company?

We had the enthusiasm, brains and capital (through our saving), but fashion is something that cannot be under looked since it is what makes people’s daily lives.

We also were and still look forward to show casing quality on the International map through our high quality handmade flip-flops. But most importantly we had a burning desire to employ youth and women.

How are you working towards fashion development in the country?

We train a number of Rwandans to use products needed on the market and we have been conducting a number of trainings for the last few years. We have a six months training that is starting on Monday that will teach people how to make footwear so that they develop skills that would help them startup companies provided they have capital or get jobs. Skills attained will help youths focus on work and reduce on the rate of drug abuse which is mostly caused by idleness.

Tell us more about your company

Our company is located in Gahanga where we manufacture the shoes from but we have fashion shops located at Kigali heights and Kigali airport Duty free, we have 35employees. Our footwear prices range from Rwf20,000 to Rwf25,000 a pair but the prices can be reduced depending on the quantity ordered by the client.

How do you make these shoes?

Well, after cutting materials like plant leather, canvas, fabrics and liners with a machine, our team starts the production process of sewing, designing, weaving and proper finishing, until the final stage where shoes are ready for sale, we work tooth and nail to produce at least 200 pairs per day.

Any challenges encountered on the way?

No road is smooth; our main problem is lack of skills which we are trying our best solve through our business trainings.

For the last five years, is there anything you have achieved?

Through hard work, we have been able to reinvest, give employment to youths and women who have been able to cater for their households but we also attracted customers both locally and internationally through trade shows.

Who do you look up to?

(Kagirimpundu), My father is my role model because he owned a fashion house and influenced me to venture into fashion while Shimwe appreciates her mother who pushed her to work tirelessly even when she thought like giving up.

We also appreciate the president that he makes it easy for us to import raw materials from other countries.

What is that moment that shaped you in to employers?

At first, we only had the theory of making shoes but unfortunately lacked the practical experience but that didn’t ruin our desire and hunger for starting a business, but after a short while, we were trained by a shoe making expert on how to make shoes. If we had given up, the company could not be in existence.

What does the future hold for you?

We are looking forward to promoting our brand internationally so that Rwanda is recognised for its unique fashion. We will still train Rwandans to make shoes and will be able to improve the quality of shoes continuously. We also yearn to employ more workers in order to reduce unemployment.

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Uzuri K & Y employees in the process of making shoes.
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