Christelle coming back to Cameroon from the UK was bittersweet for me. I was pleased that I was going to see her, but I was also very concerned. Christelle's life in London had been good, and I didn't want her to have to return to a life of poverty. I'd also given up my place at university so that we would have the money to send her to the UK to study, so when she told me she would have to come home, it was very deflating. I had to walk to an internet cafe to speak to her online, because we couldn't afford the internet at home; so when she told me she could no longer afford to live in the UK, we sat and cried together for what felt like hours. It felt like our dreams had been shattered. How would we make enough money to support ourselves?
I had always known that my sister was creative and had a million and one ideas in her head... so when she told me she had thought of a way to make money, I wasn't surprised.
She came to me one day, and said;
'Michele, we should start a clothing business'.
I looked her dead in the face;
'You're mad!' I replied. Who on earth would trust us enough to buy clothes from us?
Christelle was adamant that the idea would work, however, and her optimism rubbed off on me. Cautiously, I agreed.
(Our first shoot with Suzi, taken on Christelle's Samsung phone that she brought back from the UK!)
She used the small amount of savings we had to buy fabric, and we got started on the business that would eventually become Grass-Fields. We set up a Facebook page, and eventually managed to get fifty thousand likes... despite the fact that the only garments we had to sell at the time were a blazer, a skirt and one pair of trousers. The best part was, they were all made form the same fabric! In two months, we only had one order and I started to question what we were doing. Christelle stayed positive though, she said that all we needed was more money. It seemed obvious... but where would be get the extra cash from?
We were very lucky, as Christelle had a friend in the UK who agreed to lend us £1000. This was unprecedented! With that money, we were able to buy more fabric and launch a new collection. Things started to look up, but unfortunately, we still had an issue with shipping. We would send the clothes out on time, but we just had no way of guaranteeing when they would arrive. It would take so long, that sometimes people would even contact us to say that they didn't want their purchase any more! During this time, we received our very first negative review; a lady had said that it was like we had 'sent dirt' to her doorstep. Christelle read it before I did, and I found her in tears over it. It shook me a little, because she was always the one who stays positive and strong; I needed to fix the situation.
I called the client who had left the review, and apologised profusely for the fact that she was not happy with her purchase. I asked her for a second chance, a chance to put things right, and she graciously accepted. I knew that for our business to survive, we would have to have a relationship with each client; we had to make them feel like we were taking care of them! After the lady received our second package, she was incredibly happy with what we had done for her.
This personal touch worked... soon we had new collections to sell. We even had enough money to send Christelle back to the UK so that she could sort out the issues we had been having with shipping! We have always loved coming up with new ideas for our clients, and finding ways to make their experience with us better and better. We've had a little help along the way, but we hope all our hard work is apparent to the people to buy from us; our very valuable customers!
Come back next Monday when Christelle will fill you in on the next part of our journey!
Thank you so much for reading!