Our “possible” started with a mission … but our mission also seemed impossible (the best ones always do). We knew we had the skill to design high-end bags and backpacks, but we also wanted to do something unexpected, something hopeful and redemptive in a place that desperately needed both. We wanted to launch a bag and backpack company in Gulu, Uganda, ground zero in the decades-long civil conflict led by the infamous warlord Joseph Kony.
A Winning Combination
Uganda is not exactly known for bag manufacturing, but the town of Gulu does have a unique distinction, a surprisingly large number of highly-skilled sewers. Many are women who were trained in the aftermath of the war as a means of rebuilding their lives and generating a livelihood. Unfortunately, even with this training, employment opportunities for these skilled sewers were still few and far between.
We believed if we could combine our skill in design with their skill in sewing, we would have a winning combination that could provide sustainable employment in Gulu for generations to come.
It is not just unexpected to build a backpack factory in Uganda, it is unexpected to build a backpack factory at all! Normal bag companies design their products, then work with contract manufacturers to build those products, usually in Asia. This is the “normal” way to do it.
But we knew that in order to fulfill our mission of providing sustainable jobs for the women of Gulu, we would have to build our own factory … we would have to be both “designers” and “makers.” And so, GULU Made was born.