“When I bought 3 washable diapers for my son, I could see a remarkable reduction in the volume of household waste we produced and cost of diapers, I needed more washable diapers and soon realised I could also sell what I had experienced.” – explains Liz Nyamuda- Founder Tamba Washables
The birth of Liz’s second son in 2016 at a time when she was unemployed marked her first encounter with using washable diapers. She and her husband also considered the poor waste collection by the local municipality, which made disposable diapers difficult to dispose. Liz, who was already into sewing a variety of items, soon used thrift fabric from her home to make her first disposable diaper. It was a mission to make time to juggle caring for her two children, while also making room to create an adequate workspace in the constricted Budiriro house they stayed in.
Once she was satisfied with the washable diaper design, Liz approached her husband for one hundred dollars. Having convinced her husband of the vision she had, he became the business’ first investor. Liz had to learn from others in similar business and frequently attended trainings as well as networking events. After several false starts, Liz was overjoyed when she finally tested on her son, the first diaper which did not leak. She was now ready to produce washable diapers for sale.
“With the initial investment from my husband, I bought 10m of water proof fabric and made some pads and my first diaper. Sadly the diaper leaked, and after several attempts to perfect it, I even gave a relative to try the diaper but they too said it leaked. I didn’t give up, I went on to perfect it”.- adds Liz
Initially she produced the diapers as per order. At the start of 2018, Liz purchased a variety of fabric prints and marketed these online, giving customers the opportunity to select a fabric print of their choice. However she soon realized that online marketing was not suitable for her product. Most people expressed a desire to feel the fabric texture and see the diaper before considering to purchase the product.
Liz had to change her approach and began attending baby fairs flea markets but this was not sustainable as she was working alone and had to take a whole month producing diapers to sell. As the business model evolved, she realised she was overwhelmed and thus employed her first seamstress, Mavis.
“It was very difficult to market the washable diapers in my community because most mothers do not realise how much they spend on disposable diapers in the long run. Many of them struggle financially and cannot afford to buy an entire pack of disposable diapers. The challenge with reusable products is that you are asking someone to buy into the future”. – says Liz.
She entered a competition, The Green Enterprise Challenge, at a time when the business had taken a major blow, having gone without electricity for three months. She won and received five thousand dollars prize money which came with mentorship and a yearlong business coaching. With a staff compliment of 3, the business has since moved to a more comfortable space in the CBD, and plans to automate their entire production process.
Liz is also working on expanding the product range to include adult diapers and has received positive feedback from the initial test product.
“At the moment, I can see that we are producing far less than the demand. My vision is to industrialize and grow Tamba Washables beyond Harare, I want to get our product on the supermarket shelves”, Liz concludes.