Tailor hits the big time with Covid 19 mask business

Fitzgerald Munyoro

“My sewing machine was gathering dust and I was taking my cloth-sowing business for granted”

“I had tucked away all my clothing material in a forgotten locker room in my house. I was sure rats were ready to have a field day and chew away the material.  was resigned to seeing tatters in a few months.”

These are the words of Grace Samupindi, a 57 year old tailor from Gazebo in Old Tafara as she reflects on a time when the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions had been announced and she had lost all hope for her 32 year old sewing business that had brought bread and butter for her and her family.

The widowed mother of 3 had left her the fate of her family in the hands of God. She says she did not know how she would survive during the lockdown.

“Just like other tailors, the Covid 19 pandemic had curtailed my business which I was already struggling. Before Covid 19 I used to have customers who would come from as far as Marondera. I used to make lobola dresses and repair work suits for the locals who work in the industries.”

“I could afford to buy day to day households for my family with my little business.”

“However with the announcement of the lockdown my clientele base suddenly dried. I did not know how I was going to feed my family.” said Samupindi.

This was until a sporadic series of events that culminated in a chance encounter in a constituency WhatsApp social media platform gave her a renewed glimmer of hope.

“During the lockdown I met Selina Chinembiri who is the co-ordinator for Women Alliance of Business Association for Zimbabwe(WABAZ). She talked me into joining Wabaz and encouraged me to look for innovative avenues to get capital during the lockdown period.”

She suggested that I look for innovative ways to use my skills on the sewing machine to eke out a living.

“I then attempted to make a masks and I managed to make just one mask. After I completed making the mask, I photographed and uploaded the image onto a community social media platform.”

She says that the mask was noticed by her neighbor’s daughter who is overseas in Ireland, who visited her inbox for further inquiries.

“After I posted the mask in the group, it was noticed by my neighbor’s child who is in Ireland. She sent me a private message and complimented my handiwork. She then said that she was interested in the type of masks I was making as they had 3 layers.”

“Coincidentally, the government of Ireland had regulated that citizens should have masks that have three layers. I later discovered that masks with 3 layers are encouraged because of the mostly cold climate, they are warm.”

“So she gave me an order of over 250 masks which I completed. She was quite happy with my products and now she has ordered 350 more which I am currently making. She is paying me 2 pounds sterling($2.69usd) per mask.”said Samupindi.

My neighbor’s daughter has said that more orders are coming as the masks I am making have been receiving positively among the Irish community.

Samupindi says that capital generated from the mask business has allowed her to branch out into other ventures. She has managed to set up a confectionery business which is also successful.

“I have managed to set up another baking venture because of the mask making business. As we speak I am baking buns which are quite popular in my area. That venture has also benefited other women from my community as they buy from me at a wholesale price and then they sell them at a retail price.” said Samupindi.

Zimbabwe is currently on a relaxed COVID 19 lockdown regulations.

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