Although other 1000 Shillings women are owners of successful tailoring businesses; Grace, has taken steps to make herself as a tailor stand out from her competitors in the community. She is committed to not only providing excellent customer service and quality work, but also creating unique designs. In addition to the usual blouses, skirts, and dresses available, Grace sets her business apart by crafting aprons. Her designs include an abundance of ruffles and bright greens, blues and purples that pop against the rusty browns of Namatala. Each apron sells for 30,000 Shillings (shillings, the equivalent of $12 USD). She hopes to sell her aprons at a church conference aimed at helping the attendees become women of faith.
Grace’s religion has had a prominent role in her business history and success. Although she learned to sew in 1999 at the age of 14, she did not tailor for business initially. For two years, she brewed waragi, a type of local gin that is very prevalent in Namatala. When someone came to her and preached the gospel, she turned to religion and ended her brewing business. That was five years ago, and now she attends church every Sunday.
Grace’s childhood memories comprise only of life in Namatala. The earlier years in her home village are omitted and encompass a time of strife in Uganda that forced her family to move from their home village to Mbale. The conflict came to a head in 1986 when the current president, Yoweri Museveni overthrew the incumbent president Tito Okello, resulting in a full-blown insurgency throughout northern Uganda. Grace was very young at the time, and grew up hearing stories about their life in the north and the transition to Namatala.
“I was born in the village there, so my parents just came here during the regime of the war, so that’s when they came here, to Mbale,”
Grace’s father passed away before the family moved to Namatala, so her mother led her and her siblings to Namatala. After the war, some of her siblings returned to the village.
Now, her brick home is all she knows, and times of peace are all her children know. She lives in an enclosed circle of traditional grass-roofed huts and one larger brick building.
Her husband, David, is a carpenter who builds the benches and chairs for 1000 Shillings’ partner organization, Child of Hope, where where 1000 Shillings works and two of Grace’s children study. Grace and David met when they were in school. Grace was 16 years old and in primary school, while her husband was in secondary. They have now been married for 13 years.