29-year old Amon’s fascination with school bags began when he was in primary school and his father rewarded him for good grades with a brand-new school bag. Amon dreamt of making his own bags ever since. After graduating school, he joined a professional football club and planned to play for two seasons to make just enough money to start his business. However, he soon got injured, which ended his football career early, along with his plans to save up money for starting his business.
Amon didn’t let this setback stop him from pursuing his dream. With only TSh 700,000 (around £240) in his pocket and with the help of a friend and a sewing machine, he started his own school bags business in 2015, MAB Industries. At the beginning, Amon and his partner faced many challenges. They did not know how to manage their business, market their products effectively or reach their customers and had problems accessing capital.
In 2017, Amon joined the VIA Jiandalie Ajira programme run by YBI’s local member organisation, Tanzania Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness Centre (TECC). The goal of the programme is to provide youth with entrepreneurship, business management and life skills that will enable them to start or grow a business and create employment opportunities for others. Amon learned how to properly run his business, manage his staff and resolve conflicts. The training also helped him understand who his customers are and how to use social media to advertise his products and find new markets.
In addition, he was connected to the Presidential Trust Fund from which he received an affordable loan. This enabled him to go from one to ten sewing machines of different sizes. “This programme has changed my life. I now understand what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and the direction I’m heading”, Amon says. “I have become independent and can help others in society.”
Before participating in TECC’s programme, Amon and his partner used to sell around five bags per week. Now they sell up to 15 bags per day and even export to neighbouring countries Kenya and Uganda. Many of their clients are parents who request personalised school bags for their children, however, they also have corporate clients.
Amon now employs 20 youth directly and another 50 indirectly who act as agents, selling the bags around Tanzania. Through his income, Amon supports his four siblings and pays school fees for two other children in need. He has ambitious goals for the future: In addition to his factory in Dar es Salaam, he wants to open two more shoe, bag and clothes factories in other Tanzanian cities, taking advantage of the raw materials available in different regions and providing employment opportunities across Tanzania. His advice to aspiring young entrepreneurs is:
“First get the training, then put in the work – you will see the benefit!”
Amon was one of the participants of the African Community of Practice held in Kampala, Uganda, in Februray 2020. The workshop is part of YBI’s High Flyers Youth Entrepreneurship Programme in Sub-Saharan Africa, supported by Argidius Foundation.