She took two suitcases with tops, skirts, and dresses and started a fashion business that now has about 37 full time tailors.
Joselyne Umutoniwase is a fashion designer from Rwanda. She specializes in colourful print designs and putting African fabrics with international style clothing.
She was a video editor for 5 years before she decided to take a leap of faith, in 2010, by following her dream of becoming a fashion designer.
During her high school years she decided to start her own small business, inspired by her father and uncle’s businesses, of braiding hair.
This made her see the positive and negative of owning a business as she saw her father and uncle’s businesses go through ups and downs, as well as her own small business.
Her first fashion collection came about when she travelled from Rwanda, her home town, to Germany for a film scholarship.
She stated that the young Germans were interested in the style and colourful African wax prints.
This first collection was sold within 3 months, and this astounded her as she stated that she did not know that she could make serious money by selling her own creative work.
This made her feel more confident and gave her some sort of financial stability.
Having seen that she is able to make money, she decided to stop working as a film editor and decided to buy three sewing machines, hire two tailors and began founding her own fashion brand, Rwanda Clothing.
Joselyne loved clothing as she grew up in a middle-class family in Rwanda’s capital and she wore second hand clothes.
She stated that she could separate all the parts of the clothes in order to see where they were connected and how they were made.
Considering there were many clothes being imported into Rwanda from China and India, she did not see her passion for being a designer becoming a career, therefore she studied film and Information Technology (IT) in order to make her parents happy.
Getting funding was also a challenge for her as banks did not want to give her a loan for a “clothing company”.
She stated that banks did not take her seriously firstly because it was the clothing industry and nobody had faith in that, Secondly, a 24-year-old woman being the founder was not so convincing.
In 2010, she met a lawyer and investor, Roman Schulz, during her visit to Germany. Her creative work made him interested and excited to work with her. He later became her husband and business partner.
They both put in $10 000 of savings and she hired her first staff with it.
She admitted to making a few errors – in her first fashion show, she stated that she could have found a cheaper and clever way to do it instead of hiring 25 models, a stage, free beverage, and inviting a VIP.
In 2018, her workshop had 37 full-time tailors, and items that were sold-off-the-peg from $50-$120.
This was the year that big things were happening for her.
One of Joselyne’s biggest dreams came true when she was invited to the Milan Fashion Week.
She stated that it was an honour to be there.
In the same year, she stated that she would love to have her items sold internationally but at that moment could not afford customers sending items back, which is inevitable within the fashion industry.
She planned to have an online store in Europe for a few items.
She still keeps her first clients in mind and states that if one forgets about their first clients they may ruin their businesses reputation.
Her plans for her online store were stopped because of the corona virus, they have now opened up again but customers are still sceptical.