Cases of people leaving high-paying jobs to do something else are not uncommon. Leandra Lyimo, 31, left her lucrative job as an architect to venture into macrame: the art of creative knotting.
Leandra saw a gap between the older and younger generations, in terms of the connection between traditional and modern designs – and wanted to bridge the gap. After leaving architecture, she started making macrame by mixing old and new designs.
“I started making macrame by hand in March 2018, for several reasons. First: I wanted to be a macrame knitter because I wanted to connect the tradition that uses natural resources and, at the same time, create products that catch the eye.
This led to the creation of Refixit, an eco-friendly design and manufacturing company that uses local skills and raw materials to deliver creative and “eco-friendly” products for building spaces. The company uses sisal fibers to create handmade interior design products.
“The other reason is that it was the right time to spread my wings because at one point when I was an architect, I knew I wanted freedom and independent work.”
Leandra’s love for crafts began when she saw her uncle teaching her mother how to make plant hangers. She was so interested in art that every time she thought of venturing into something that had nothing to do with architecture, the memory of her uncle making the hanger came back to her mind.
Before Refixit, Leandra worked as an architect for two years. She loved being able to bring the imaginations of buildings to life. “When I told my mom and my friends that I wanted to quit, they all hesitated because I was working with one of the best architectural firms in the country. They knew I was going to have a hard time since I had to start from scratch and that’s exactly what happened, ”says Leandra.
She asked her mother to put her in touch with her uncle because she hadn’t seen him since the last time he was teaching her mother how to make a hanger.
Her uncle hadn’t made macrame for ten years. It was after Leandra’s request and persuasion to start a macrame business that he agreed to return to the craft.
Their first office was at his uncle’s in Bagamoyo. Leandra was still a college student who only knew how to hold scissors to cut parts of macrame as it was being made.
After the first macrame samples were made by her uncle with Leandra’s help here and there, she showed them to her friends.
She asked her friends this question: “If I do this, will you buy from me?” His friends enjoyed his work, saying it was really eye-catching.
Leandra decided it was time for the business to take off. She formed a team of four, including her uncle.
With the turnaround of business, the office was moved from the uncle’s house to a garage at Leandra’s former residence in Upanga.
“We only did four samples at the start after all we had learned the basics of macrame knotting. It was not easy. It takes focus since each product is tied differently from the others, but we finally learned how to make them and here we are, ”Leandra says, introducing me to the current team of eight people working on different items.
In detailing the start of the business, Leandra recalled one of the most difficult times she had gone through when starting her business.
“My landlady knew my job as an architect, she didn’t know when I resigned. I had asked him to give me permission to use the garage as a team workshop when the macrame business was in its infancy. She has accepted.”
After quitting her job for a month, Leandra’s landlady turned around her decision to let Leandra live in her house and use her garage when she learned that Leandra had quit her job.
“She thought I couldn’t pay the rent, so she told me to find another place to live and run the macrame production,” she says.
Leandra asked the landlord to give her monthly notice over the phone, a request the landlord granted. Ten minutes after the phone call, however, the owner called and told Leandra that she only had a week to vacate the premises.
One day, Leandra was at the airport meeting a client when she received a call from the owner.
She asked him why her business was still at the apartment, even though the weekly notice was not finished.
“I had a breakdown at the airport. Although puzzled, I called several friends to ask for space to store my things. Two of my friends went to my old apartment and packed all the things and took them home. I will be eternally grateful to them, ”she emphasizes.
Leandra adds: “It was then that I became the property manager of the Baobab Village apartments. I have since used one of the spaces there as a workshop. Some team members work from home. “
Its customers have changed over time since the company was in its infancy. Her first clients were her friends, followed by foreigners and Tanzanians after she started frequenting pop-up shops and when she started selling some of her works to art shops.
She then created social platforms where all the products made at Refixit are displayed. Leandra says uploading their work online has since increased their customer base and engagement.
She further explains that another challenge facing her type of business is the export of macrame. According to her, the exporting process was never easy as there were times when the freight cost was double the price of the product.
Products made at Refixit include lamp shades, floor mats, partly wooded and partly knotted benches, wall decorations, key rings and plant hangers.
Despite purchasing sisal from factories in Tanga and Dodoma, Leandra befriended a local bead maker in Kisarawe, who supplies Refix with all the beads he uses in macrame production.
Refixit also works with a local welder and carpenter while both supply the company with metals and lumber.
According to Leandra, her career has been humbling and portrayed mental and spiritual growth.
“I remember how during the first meeting with the team, I opened the meeting by telling them that I had no money to pay them but I promised them that I would not let them go home. hungry.
“I kept that promise until we were able to have our own office. It was a really impressive start, ”says Leandra.