By Kadiatu Lamrana Jalloh
Kambia, SIERRA LEONE – Nbalia Kamara, affectionately known as ‘Balisha,’ has woven her way into the hearts of fashion enthusiasts with her unique hand-knitted creations. At just in her mid-20s, this talented fashion designer is not only a mother but also a dedicated partner.
In an exclusive interview with Awoko, Madam Nbalia shared the fascinating story behind the emergence of “Balish Crochet.” What started as a simple pastime has transformed into a thriving business, with orders pouring in regularly.
Madam Nbalia’s journey into the world of knitting began during her post-war relocation to Banjul, where she learned the craft from her mother, a skilled professional in knitting and tailoring. Recalling her early experiences, she said, “Honestly, I never took this seriously. I would always watch her and try to make something, but I was using broomsticks instead of needles.”
The turning point came when a close friend criticized the crochet dress she purchased, prompting Madam Nbalia to take matters into her own hands. After creating her first dress, she showcased it on TikTok, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response that marked the beginning of her entrepreneurial venture.
Despite facing challenges such as fluctuating material availability and high delivery charges, Madam Nbalia’s business has expanded beyond Kambia, with customers from Kenema, Makeni, and Freetown embracing her unique designs.
“The most expensive dress currently costs over NLe500, and it took me more than a week for completion, as different styles mean different expenditure” she added.
Furthermore, “There are times I pay NLe30 to and fro to buy materials and end up not getting what I went there for. There are wools here, but they are not good for knitting.”
She admitted “Yes, I do get financial support from my partner. I plan to get a place of business, get all the equipment needed, bring three (3) mentees to train them and work simultaneously when there is pressure.”
Working primarily from 2 am to 6 am to balance motherhood and business, Madam Nbalia expressed the physical toll of crocheting, noting, “Crocheting comes with so much back pain from sitting and bowing. I most times take pain killers before going to bed at night.”
Proudly sharing her achievements, she mentioned, One thing she is happy about is the fact that no one has given her a bad comment in all her projects. The prices of her creations vary based on style and body size, with the most intricate designs taking over a week to complete.
Madam Nbalia dreams of expanding her business, envisioning a dedicated space with trained mentees to meet growing demand. Supported by her partner, her ultimate goal is to take her craft to national and international markets, inspired by the success of role model Zainab Sheriff.
As Balisha’s popularity continues to soar, her journey from a small town in Kambia to the global stage seems inevitable, showcasing the power of passion and determination in the world of fashion. KLJ/20/1/2024