This August, Bel Deluxe, a startup creating luxurious sleepwear for urban women celebrated its first birthday. This is no ordinary feat for a Ugandan startup in the ecosystem where there is an inglorious record of startups that never live to see their first birthday.
Within one year, the startup has not only survived its first birthday, but it is also thriving. Bel Deluxe was founded by 25-year-old Belinda Regina Esaete whose entrepreneurship dream bloomed in 2020. In the middle of the nationwide lockdown, she found the time to reflect about her own life as a young urban woman.
Working seven days a week in a construction firm, Esaete felt that there had to be more to life than spending one’s life in a routine that gave her little opportunity for rest. She also sought to engage her mind and time in more meaningful ways.
Resting at night barely came with ease. This sent Esaete searching the internet on how to get better quality sleep. Findings indicated that sleeping attire played a part in helping someone have a more restful night. She began reading about the fabric that provides comfort during the night.
Her research led her to commit to helping young urban women get rest and quality sleep through good sleeping attire. She began working on a range of silk products including silk robes, sleeping masks and silk nightwear.
“There was an option of shipping already made pieces from China, but I realised that we need to end the cycle of importing things we can make. I decided that we will do production here and create jobs for urban women and youth while we are it,” Esaete resolved. When the lockdown was lifted, she met with seamstresses and production began.
Like many beginnings, this one was also rocky. The first batch of silk wear had flaws that did not meet the standards of the premium product she envisaged. More mistakes were made. However, for Esaete, it became a journey of lessons, and this has facilitated her personal growth and entrepreneurial growth.
With a degree in Procurement and Logistics, she integrated her supply chain management skills in the business. She was able to plan production, do inventory management and manage customer relationships thanks to her qualifications.
She says the construction industry where she’d worked required a lot of shrewdness and aggressiveness, traits she has since brought into her business.
“It has taught me a lot on a personal level. I have learnt to be patient with people. I have learnt how the market works. I know right now that building relationships in business is the most important thing and I have learnt to leave room for disappointment,” Esaete recounts the lessons she has learnt.
With the lessons has come growth as well. From an initial investment of Shs300,000, the business now rakes in approximately Shs1.5 million per month. When she started out, she would make one sale in two months. A year later, she makes 15 to 18 sales a month.
From being a one-woman dream in 2020, Bel Deluxe has nine people earning along its production line including models, seamstresses as well as those that deliver the products to her customers.
Esaete says the growth of her business has solved many of the problems she set out to solve for herself. The first being a healthy work and life balance as well as the privilege to do meaningful work.
Always passionate about entrepreneurship in the past, Esaete is happy that at 25 years old she is running her own business and living up to the principles she has gathered in the past about entrepreneurship.
She is one of many creatives who belong to the MoTIV tribe, a community of artists and artisans working in the medium of wood, metal, fabric, acrylics, and other forms. This creative ecosystem consisting of community, mentorship, workspace, and a marketplace nurtures ideas and provides mechanisms for business’ survival.
Esaete says this ecosystem has been beneficial to Bel Deluxe, especially via Omwoleso, an online marketplace that has given her access to a wider market.
“Joining Omwoleso has been extremely helpful. The platform has resources that help me track my business. I can see the products I am selling, what I am doing right and what needs to be modified. It helps me plan our production and progress,” she says before adding that the team at Omwoleso is proactive and helpful whenever she reaches out.
“This September, I have been able to earn Shs900,000 from the platform and this has come from repeat purchases. This is in a period of 11 days, don’t forget that,” Esaete says. She attributes part of her success to the knowledge, resources, networks, and marketing partnerships received through the MoTIV Tribe.
Between August 2020 to August 2021, a young business sprung up to change the life of not just its owner but set off a chain reaction of jobs while solving a problem. These stories are the realisation of a conviction that MoTIV and The Mastercard Foundation holds- that young people have the solution to problems, both personal and communal.