The first thing that I noticed was how passionate Rael Adem was during our interview. She is a loving, gifted and passionate mom. I hope you enjoy reading her story that she shares through ‘how sewing my wedding gown turned into a stellar career.’
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My passion for stitching clothes is a testimony that God made me to be Rael By Design. However, all this wouldn’t have happened had it not been for my husband’s belief in my gifts. He is actually the one who coined Rael By Design before we got married.
I met him in college and he stood out from the rest of the other guys. I know everybody’s husband stands out in their own unique way. Unlike the other guys who were focusing on dates and fun, my husband focused on the future. He would ask about my future plans and what I was doing about it.
When he discovered I had a gift in sewing, he encouraged me to pursue it. Just before our wedding date, my husband asked me to make my own wedding gown. This came as a shock to me. I had never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I could design my own gown. And that is how sewing my wedding gown turned into a stellar career.
My mom’s sewing machine
Funnily enough, when my mom was relocating to the village, she left a sewing machine dad had bought her back in the 60’s. None of us had any interest in sewing; therefore the sewing machine lay dormant. With time, I got interested in learning how to use it and began stitching window curtains, cushions and hair bands.
In 1995, I accompanied my husband to be to meet his mother. Since I was wearing a hair band I had made, my future mother-in-law asked if she could introduce me to Lucy Rao. When we visited Rialto Fashions, Lucy became my biggest source of inspiration.
How sewing my wedding gown turned into a stellar career
Before we got married, I ripped my husband’s old shirt apart, got another material and sewed it back together. It came out so well and I forgot about the issue. Because we did not have enough money for a wedding, we wanted to wed on a Sunday afternoon. Since we were serving at the AIC Jericho Church, the youths did not want us to marry without a proper wedding. They arranged for a fundraiser and managed to raise about 57,000 shillings.
Everything has to fit within this budget, my husband said. We should go to Ngara and buy material so you can make a wedding gown instead of spending 15,000 shillings. He soon started bringing magazines that had wedding gowns and asked what was so hard about making a wedding gown. Because he kept insisting, we ended up going to Ngara to buy satin material where we bought enough material for a simple gown.
I came to the house and stitched a simple and special white wedding gown. It was straight, had a short slit and a small tail to cover the slit while I walked. The unique thing about it was the fact that my flower girl and the page boy walked ahead of me. Normally, they walk behind the bride so they can hold the long tail. Most of my friends were wowed and thought my wedding gown had been a unique dress. That is how Rael By Design was birthed.
Two weeks after the wedding, a friend of mine, who is one of my long-time clients, came to my house. I heard you made your own wedding gown, she said. I’m getting married and you’re making my gown. Here’s a deposit of 10,000! Because I had spent less than 3,000 on my wedding gown, I freaked out.
Finding my niche market
I didn’t even know how to use a tape measure. Yet, there I was, receiving 10,000 shillings as deposit from Elizabeth Muranda! I was just about to say ‘this is a huge mistake’ but my husband kept saying, ‘Rael can do it!’ I got up, picked the tape measure and started taking measurements. After that I told Elizabeth I would call her for fitting in a few days.
“What on earth just happened?” I asked my husband after Elizabeth had left.
“I know you can do it,” he replied.
When Elizabeth came back for fitting, she brought an additional 5,000 shillings. And so officially I decided I was going to charge 15,000 shillings for wedding gowns! If Elizabeth had not paid an extra 5,000 shillings, I would have set my price at 10,000 shillings! Of course, I have charged 12,000 and even 5,000 shillings for brides who are where I was before I got married. It is my way of honoring and thanking God.
Gradually, my business grew and I began asking for outside help from other tailors. I had also started making seat covers and window curtains for people. However, moving from one house to the other was becoming too much for me. I decided to learn new things from the tailors I began working with. Every time they made something I had not made before, I would ask questions and take notes.
The more I kept asking, the more I learned and started mastering. One of the guys I worked with was a very good kitenge designer. I shared my desire to learn and kept asking one question after the other until I eventually mastered the art of designing kitenges. And that is how I ended up cutting a special niche that has made Rael By Design popular.
The benefits of working at home
My work as a stay-at-home clothes designer has enabled me to reap benefits that surpass financial gains. It has enabled me to find fulfillment from being a stay-at-home mom. Because I am actively involved in my children’s lives, I don’t worry about the issues that stress other mothers. I don’t spend my time worrying about what a house help has done or failed to do.
I have also learned how to spend my time wisely online and social media. Sharing and talking about my stitching promotes and adds value to what I am good at. A perfect example of this comes to my mind. There is an African attire I made for my husband and I. When the two of us shared it on Facebook, people started liking and asking for the same designs.
Working from home has also enabled me to closely monitor my children and their progress. I know all of their friends. I also know what my children are up to because we have created a safe environment for them. This being so, our children feel safe and secure, which improves their confidence and boosts their academic performance.
This does not mean that I don’t face challenges. Since my husband is not employed, the financial strain is a huge burden to shoulder. However, our children have learned they cannot have everything they want. Instead, they have come to learn how to value work and money.
Our children all help with designing stuff such as earrings, necklaces, purses as well as modeling my clothes. They also help in selling and promoting the business. It has also enabled them to contribute towards meeting the needs of their other siblings. There is nothing that one of my children will desire without thinking about the rest of the family members.
Leading by example
This is not something we just stumbled upon by accident. My husband and I have had to constantly involve our children in everything. The only things we don’t involve them in are quarrels between the two of us and other negative vibes.
Children pick up everything that happens around them at home. We therefore ensure that our children are exposed to things that will influence them positively.
Involving our children in everything has enabled our family to thrive. When we have a bill that needs to be settled urgently, we share and discuss the best solution.
This has enabled our children to fully embrace and accept who we are as a family. It has also enabled them to know how to effectively find solutions and deal with life issues.
Because our children know the state of our finances they only ask for things when they really need them. Involving our children in our affairs has bridged the gap and enabled our bond as a family to grow stronger. Our children are able to take care of each other by sharing what they have. They have also come to learn to make things using their own hands.
My husband is fully involved in my work too. There was a time he drew designs of a bag and encouraged me to make them. After I made them, we sold and make very good money out of them. He also helps with difficult clients who aren’t willing to pay for my services.
As a creative person, my biggest weakness is book keeping, setting prices and making sure a client pays the full amount agreed on time. That is where my husband ably comes through. I have also learned how to fully depend on God for provision by just watching my husband.
Ministering to clients through stitching
I know tailors who make good money by doing that. But because you will find me chasing and playing with my children, I don’t treat my clients differently whatever their status. I put in the same effort in every clothe I make without discrimination.
I make very good and quality clothes for house helps in the neighbourhood. The only thing I do is caution them not to reveal the price I have charged them. I do a good job and let it speak for itself. That is how I minister to clients. I also pray a lot for the person I am sewing for right from the rime I am cutting the material.
My work also enables me to counsel young women who seek my services. Most times I discover it is not just about designing clothes, some of my clients need someone to talk to. I therefore ask the Holy Spirit to empower me to share my 20-years experience in marriage.
I believe that I am in full time ministry too, just like my husband. Most of the times, I end up sharing with brides whose wedding gowns I am making. I share with them why trusting and depending on God will sustain their marriage.
I am a strong believer in the Word of God and His divine promises. Most people think that the Word of God is not alive. There are numerous instances where God has come through during a family crisis such as getting school fees.
My future plans
My deepest and sincere heart desire is to establish a place where young women can come and learn. They don’t have to pay school fees. All they need to have is a talent and the desire to learn. I want to offer a platform where they will learn how to make stuff and earn at the same time. When they reach a point they want to break away, I will gladly give them my blessing and allow them to fly. I will even provide them with a sewing machine to start them off.
Not only am I planning to train them as designers. I would like to empower them to be honest tailors whose hearts are after pleasing God. They will be young women who will make good and responsible wives and mothers. Above all, they will be designers whose work blesses and ministers to every client they will ever come into contact with. That is where Rael By Design is heading.
In the mean time, I am grateful that God has enabled me to embark of this wonderful journey of designing and stitching clothes. It has brought me personal fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. I look back at everything that has happened in my life and realize I was meant to do this. I also look at where God has brought me, and considering where I am heading, I believe I am Rael By Design
Rael Adem is married to Shadrack Adem. Shadrack is a full time pastor who also ministers online by encouraging people to read the Bible for themselves. Feel free to like and follow The Bible 2017 page on Facebook. He also earns from editing books and small scale farming.
The couple is blessed with 7 children namely Prudence (20), Michelle (18), Shalom (16), Jeremy (14), Joy (11), Jotham (8) and Zachary (3). Rael also designs earrings, plays the guitar and has a passion for woodwork.She is also the deputy women’s ministry leader at Global Revival Ministries, Railway Museum.
James Ouma is a CTI Clarity Coach, Cyclist and Writer. He is passionate about positive masculinity and helping incarcerated male teens to reconcile with their families and their communities. He loves staring at his bicycle, flipping through movies without watching them, and playing ‘tap out’ with his wife.