When Qani Abdi Alin and her two friends bought their first sewing machine in 2009, none of them knew how to sew. They paid $160 for an instruction book and peered at the diagrams since the instructions were not in Somali or English.
The tailoring business in Somaliland is dominated by men, but Alin and her colleagues saw an opportunity. “We identified a market for certain women’s clothing,” says Alin. “We thought ‘Why do we have to look for a job? Why can’t we generate our own employment?’”
The three partners founded Dheeman Enterprise to create dresses “designed by women for women.” In January 2012 they saw a call for matching grants from USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth. They submitted a proposal – and their dream of growing their dress-making business became a reality.
The fund for small- and medium-sized businesses attracted nearly 300 proposals. The Somaliland Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of National Planning and Development, and Ministry of Commerce evaluated proposals with partnership team and selected 13 businesses to fund. USAID provided nearly $1 million to help the 13 grantees grow their businesses.
In October 2012, Dheeman finished a large order for hospital gowns from a local hospital, but the high quantity slowed down their other production. The Partnership funds will allow Dheeman to handle multiple orders by purchasing more equipment and hiring and training more staff.
An expert tailor will also teach Dheeman workers how to design wedding gowns. “With the new machinery, we can create wedding dresses for under $200 – and the brides can keep them forever,” says Alin. Currently gowns cost $200 to rent for one night.
“We want to produce our own designs, empower females and show them that we can design clothes for females. Women are interested in unique styles—and we are known as the fashion tailors,” she adds.
Last updated: November 07, 2013