Author: Nigina Sodikova
Export success story: Sanobar Tojiboeva
May 24, 2022
“I was 8 when I first saw my father skillfully working with fabric. He was a tailor in a garment factory”, recalls Sanobar Tojiboeva, head of “Uktamjon Servis LLC” in Chust district of Namangan region. That is when her love for the sewing business was born. Having founded her business in 2013 with four employees and four sewing machines, the company now employs more than 150 people and exports more than USD 90,000 per month.
When people ask her why she is in the sewing business, Sanobar answers with a smile: “The people of Chust district have been tailors for centuries. It is something we have inherited from generation to generation.” She spent her childhood in the garment factory where her father worked. After school, she spent a lot of time in the factory, sitting among the vast amount of fabric and thread. “My father would give me fabric scraps and I would make dresses out of them for my toys,”she said.
In the early stages of developing a sewing business, she had a lot of apprehension. “I came into this business not knowing what my product was – just knitwear,” she says. “I didn't have any work experience, just a strong interest in entrepreneurship.” Focusing on the local market, “Uktamjon Servis” initially offered high-quality products made of expensive fabrics, but the market price did not match their costs.
In 2014, the UNDP project "Aid for Trade in Uzbekistan" recognized “Uktamjon Servis” as a promising business project and provided a grant to buy 11 sewing machines. Sanobar received training to develop her business, so she managed to expand her knowledge in all areas of sewing and fashion. Following the changes of the market and its new needs, Sanobar has learned to evolve and develop her business to meet the market demands.
Exporting: difficult, scary, but she kept pursuing her goal
Having earned its reputation for high quality products at reasonable prices, thus establishing her business in the local market, Sanobar decided to promote its products internationally. “Our products are made from 100 percent of cotton; so,they are all-natural. That's what we wanted to convince our foreign buyers,” she said. “We also wanted to make sure our products would be competitive in the international market.”
The first export experience was a great case for Sanobar. “We received a list of requirements on colors that our factories were not yet ready to fulfill. To create one red, we developed 40 shades, of which only one was approved. To create 10 colors that would meet our customer's requirements, I spent 15 days and nights in the laboratory,” she recalls with a laugh.
“Unfortunately, when we first exported, there were no opportunities to get such strong state support available as now. There were serious difficulties with the execution of documents, drawing up the contract and its terms, customs clearance issues and a number of other aspects - we had to deal with all of them on our own,” she says.
Now the first steps in exporting are long behind, and “Uktamjon Servis” boldly negotiates for new export contracts and, as of today, cooperates with more than five international companies to fulfill export orders.
Onward to the international level
In 2021, 22 businesswomen from Namangan, among them Sanobar, presented their products at the international Middle East Organic and Natural Products Expo Dubai, held in the United Arab Emirates. There were more than 6,000 visitors and 250 companies from 48 countries. Participation in the exhibition was organized by the UNDP project “Aid for Trade in Uzbekistan” and the Business Women’s Association.
During the exhibition Sanobar was able to meet her target market, conduct business negotiations with potential customers and buyers from different countries and sign new export contracts. “The demand for my exhibited product surprised even me, Sanobar noted. I opened new opportunities to develop my business.”
As a result, “Uktamjon Servis” signed an export contract for USD 700,000 in Dubai with the representative of Russian trading company “NamTex Group LLC”, well represented in Middle East countries, and now Sanobar is negotiating with representatives of companies in the UAE for new export contracts.
Since 2013 “Uktamjon Servis” has increased its workforce by 40, and has created more than 100 jobs for women, who were unemployed during the quarantine period and in need of social protection, her business produces more than 1,000 types of knitwear and exports about 82,000 items each month.
Sanobar is proud of what she has built and credits the main reason for her success to the faith she received when she started developing her business. “I got support from my family, staff and UNDP, which gave me the confidence that I could be a successful entrepreneur,” she said.
“It is harder for a woman to achieve great results in business because as a mother she also takes care of home and family,” she said. “However, we women, facing challenges, don't stop. We overcome them and move on”.*
Now Sanobar is inspiring the women of Chust to take their first steps into the world of entrepreneurship. She has mentored 10 women entrepreneurs and continues to mentor aspiring women entrepreneurs in starting and growing their own businesses.
* UNDP advocates an equal division of household labor as well as systemic and institutional measures to remove barriers to women in business.
“I didn't have any work experience, just a strong interest in entrepreneurship.”Sanobar Tojiboeva