When Ugandan Valerie Muigai first moved to the US, she was expecting her first child. She and her husband lived on a student budget and she had to figure out a way to save up. And that was when the idea of Kijani Baby Uganda diaper was incubated; after she discovered reusable Diapers.
And then, when she was expecting her second child, her friend taught her how to make reusable diapers. Afterwards, when she took up a job in international development in Uganda, in 2012; she continued producing diapers and made extra to gift to family and friends. “I saw a gap in the market; people were keen on reusable diapers in Uganda. I started a small business, which I ran from home with one tailor, even as I continued my work in international development,” Muigai recalls.
Kijani Baby Uganda
In 2014, Kijani Baby Uganda was founded and her hobby turned into a business. For the first two years, it operated from Muigai’s house and depended on the fabric she or her friends brought back whenever they travelled to the US. Muigai saw the potential to provide reusable diapers in the region and internationally. She hired more tailors, moved to a workshop and contracted a fabric supplier in China that did commercial shipping to Uganda. She opened a retail store in Kampala and expanded to have Kijani products stocked with about 40 third-party retailers in the Ugandan capital.
Kijani uses distinct African-print fabrics which have proved attractive to an international clientele. The company exports to Kenya, the US, the UK, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium and is hoping to expand into more countries by the end of 2021. The export market has proven lucrative and will be a key focus area for the company. Distributors in the US and UK provide stock for smaller retailers but Kijani also sells on Etsy and Amazon and ships directly from Kampala to retailers in Europe via DHL.
The company has had a 50% growth rate year on year despite the small market for washable diapers. “Globally, reusable diapers enjoy 5% market share,” Muigai notes.