Steffi Onyango

Founders note

In 2006 I left well organized, systematic Switzerland and came to vibrant, colorful Uganda. It was a life changing Step which I’ve never regretted – I love being here from day one and I am still loving it!
I would have never chosen Uganda by myself –it was a hint by God that nudged me in this direction and leveled a path to volunteer as a Tailoring Teacher in a Christian Girls Vocational Training Institute in Mukono (Vision for Africa International). The work there was a good introduction to Uganda, its people, their many different cultures and backgrounds and I enjoyed being friends with my students and listening to their stories. That also made me more aware of the fact that many students I was training didn’t really ‘choose’ tailoring and design out of their own personal interest – it was more like a last option… (due to poor performance in their final exams, lack of financial means to go to university or simply because someone offered to pay for the training). So here I was passionate about fabric, sewing machines, quality and designs, training a majority of students who were convinced that ‘tailors are failures’ and that you can never make a living using a sewing machine! However, there were a few Ladies that caught on fire during the training – I loved teaching them! 

During the voluntary time at the Vocational School, a thought kept crossing my mind over and over again: ‘it should be possible to earn a living as a Tailor/ Designer here – if I get the chance I shall try to ….’ On and on went my imagination on how I would go about building up a sustainable business here. A few years after, the opportunity arose to start a small Workshop that would supply the graduates from the Training Institute with a chance to work and earn a living while acquiring some work experience - I was thrilled! And so in January 2010 the One & Only Tailoring Workshop was born. 

The beginning was humble; a few donated sewing machines, two of my passionate and talented former students, my last savings used up to buy an Overlock machine, and some furniture made by the local carpenter plus a few fabrics – but God likes humble beginnings – its where He can teach us what His heart is all about and set our minds in the right direction. We started designing, cutting, sewing and improving on our skills and quality while He slowly but steadily increased our customer base and the demand for our products. Soon we needed more (wo)man power and hired another former student to come work, earn and learn with us. Yes, some of these Ladies have tough backgrounds and tragic stories, but my aim with this business is not to linger on a ‘feel sorry for yourself – lifestyle’ – it’s about getting up, dusting yourself off and with God’s Grace and the talents He’s put in us, moving forward one step at a time. 

I strongly believe, that if you actually enjoy the work you are doing there is a much greater possibility to succeed – no matter where you come from or how bad your basic education was - if you are interested, stay teachable and passionate about something, you can learn and excel at it! And I’m just as convinced, that ‘over the long run’ Businesses who prioritize professional and personal growth in their employees can make a huge difference in the market place/economy and in this world. Ensuring quality, integrity with professional services will keep on developing in that particular area of expertise. Today we are a Team of 8 Tailors –all dynamic, passionate and excited about fabric, sewing machines and quality designs. I’m excited to say this, throughout the past few years we’ve worked and trained several other creative ladies who now run businesses of their own and are committed in further training and teaching their own staff. I am so grateful for being in Uganda and for having the opportunity to do what I love while equipping others as they in turn teach me valuable lessons in life. The journey continues... Steffi Onyango