Suubi has a love of fashion design, which includes everything from creating conceptual sketches to bringing intricate patterns to life. After studying art and design at university in Kampala, Uganda, Suubi was keen to turn her vision into reality. In 2009, just a couple years after graduating, Suubi set up shop in her parents’ garage and launched her clothing company, Suu-Bee Ltd.
For the first couple of years, Suubi focused on selling corporate and high street wear, as well as designing bespoke pieces for her clients. As she gained confidence in her designs, she wanted to expand her business and create her own mass-produced clothing line. However, without any formal business training and limited access to capital, Suubi didn’t know where to start. When she joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in 2014, she had just moved into a studio space and was looking for support to write a business plan and diversify her products.
Through a partnership with Bank of America, Suubi was matched with Samridhi Sarin, Director of Global Financial Crimes Compliance at Bank of America in the United States. Bank of America has been a pivotal partner in the development of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Programme, which has now enabled over 2,500 women entrepreneurs to access personalised support through 1:1 mentoring and an online support and learning platform.
With a wealth of expertise in business planning and product development, Samridhi was keen to support Suubi to achieve her goals. The pair first looked at Suubi’s vision, identifying options for product development. Suubi decided to focus on developing an affordable line of blouses, which, as a staple product, would have the potential to provide a consistent income. Samridhi encouraged Suubi to start small and test the market before scaling up to avoid any unnecessary debt.
With a new business plan and strategy in place, Suubi was able to start sourcing local materials, identify women to outsource production to, and research market value and competition to set an appropriate price for the blouses. The pair also worked together to create a new website and Facebook page to help Suubi increase her company’s visibility and market her products.
Over the course of the year, Suubi successfully launched her new line of blouses, gained more than 11 new clients and gained over 700 likes on her Facebook page. She has also continued to expand her product range, which now includes beautiful wedding dresses that are available to rent.
According to Suubi, one of the most important skills she learned from her mentoring relationship was how to take a big vision and break it down into individual steps and goals. She said, “Samridhi has been my sounding board and as an impartial listener, her encouragement has been amazing. With her pushing I was accountable to someone and had no excuse for procrastination; that has been the best!”
Samridhi also really enjoyed the mentoring relationship and said, “I am so proud of Suubi. Mentoring her has developed me as a person. We are opposites in personality so we complemented each other and this helped us learn and grow from each other. It’s a two-way success story of personal growth for the mentor while helping the mentee realise her dream.”
Samridhi reported that being a mentor not only helped her to build her leadership and communication skills, but also reminded her of the importance of flexibility and letting go. As a perfectionist, Samridhi said she often gets caught up by the fear of failure, but Suubi’s vision and tenacity has inspired her to finally pursue her dream of writing a book.
Optimistic about the future, Suubi is determined to continue growing her business to become a fashion hub in East Africa.
To find out more about Suubi’s business, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/suubeez/