As it turns out, sometimes you can grapple with a task you know nothing about and still achieve success. My story is a perfect example of this. I began sewing in 1997 when I was 27 years old and a mother of two. My profession was constructing and developing electrical and computing devices, but during the tough 90s in Georgia, it was impossible to find work in my field. No one in my family had any experience with sewing, but when a relative asked me to make children’s clothing for his store, I took the opportunity. A friend’s mother sewed a baby skirt and a bag for me as samples, and our products were so well-received that the next day, the same relative gave me ten new orders, and on the third day, twenty.
Initially, I sewed at home, but the business grew so quickly that within a year, I opened a small sewing shop with three employees. As things improved even further, I expanded our product range, purchased sewing machines, and began making women’s clothing in addition to children’s clothing, eventually opening branch locations.
This was a time when consumers were less receptive to Georgian designers, although Georgian products gained popularity in 2011. It was then that we proudly declared our Georgian roots and began rebranding our business. As a result, the new Georgian brand KABA emerged in the market.
My husband was also involved in the company’s rebranding process, but sadly, he passed away in 2018 after a serious illness. Consequently, the plans we made together remained unrealized. We had even purchased land in Natakhtari to build a facility. Neither my husband nor I were in Georgia during the rebranding, so my 22-year-old son managed the process. The family tragedy naturally led to difficult times, and I thought I would be unable to handle the problems alone. However, I found the strength to return to work soon after my husband’s passing. Reflecting on those years, I cannot comprehend how our brand managed to survive and remain in the market. Family and friends provided invaluable support during those tough times. We have since moved past our struggles, and I am extremely pleased with our current trajectory. Today, KABA offers high-quality clothing to our customers. The fact that we have clients who have been with us for 15 years is likely a testament to our edge in a highly competitive market.
Although I am not a professional designer, I have been personally responsible for our collections since the beginning of the business. Both then and now, my priority has been to offer quality products to our customers. When creating designs, I always consider what customers would be delighted to wear, resulting in a consistently loyal clientele. Naturally, as the business expanded, I no longer had time to focus solely on design, so I began collaborating with young designers in 2015. Their assistance has been crucial in assembling our collections correctly.
My life is filled with challenges, and I enjoy that. In fact, I love overcoming obstacles; it’s like a game of life for me. I’m constantly searching for solutions to problems, and this drive fuels me.
In addition to personal challenges, everyone knows that 2020 was a difficult year for all industries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To keep our business going during the ban on municipal transportation, I had to transport employees using taxis, which was both expensive and logistically challenging. It was during this time that the Georgian Apparel and Fashion Association (GAFA), implemented by GIZ came into my life. It’s has never been easy to me to to seek help from donors or appeal to them. The project Clusters for Development, funded by the EU and the German Government, successfully approached me, analyzed the issues affecting our enterprise. Moreover, they generously funded the transportation expenses for our cooperative efforts. This tremendous opportunity has immensely benefitted our organization, particularly by aligning us with the GAFA cluster. The GAFA cluster, known for its commitment to robust development, actively fosters collaborations and facilitates connections with key industry stakeholders. As a result of this collaboration, we have achieved significant and meaningful outcomes.
For a business to succeed, it needs constant development, which is what I focus on daily – thinking about future plans. If you remain stagnant, the business will stop growing and eventually disappear from the market. My immediate plans involve opening new branches. We recently opened a location in Galleria Tbilisi, and soon we will be in City Mall and Batumi by the summer.
The Article is prepared within the women empowerment campaign #ProudHer. The Campaign is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and funded by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).