ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Pursuing the American Dream looks different for everyone. Maybe it’s going to college, starting a business or investing in stocks. For most in their pursuit of happiness, it doesn’t involve fearing for your life and moving halfway across the world.
For Ndulu Amagito, that story begins nearly 20 years ago in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the DRC, in central Africa. Amagito and his family faced many insecurities back home, to the point where they feared for their lives.
As a 17-year-old, Amagito fled his home country, leaving everything he knew behind, making his way to the neighboring country of Tanzania, where he wound up in a refugee camp. His life was filled with a lot of unknowns, and said at times, he felt ‘hopeless’ waiting for answers.
It was in the Tanzanian refugee camp where Amagito began searching for ways out of the country, applying for any kind of immigration plans he could. But while he waited, another member of the camp took Amagito under his wing, mentoring him and teaching him how to be a tailor. What started out as helping press and iron clothing moved to learning to sew and measuring for outfits, skills Amagito said he never thought he’d use.
Three years later, Ndulu Amagito was approved to come to the United States, landing in Abilene in 2010 at the age of 20. However, the transition wasn’t an easy one. He told KTAB/KRBC he started over, not knowing anything about the area, the people or the culture. But it was members of the Big Country community who proved to be his biggest asset. They helped him find housing, his first job and supplies he needed to get started with a new opportunity.
“When I was in Africa, my life was hopeless,” Amagito said. “But when I got to America, my life totally changed. There was new opportunity, even though I left my home, I could feel the freedom and there were no limitations.”
After working at a local Goodwill store for two years, Amagito applied and got into another local men’s suit shop. Remembering those skills he learned in Tanzania, Amagito put those skills into practice, soaking up everything he could about the industry and developing strong relationships with his customers over the years.
It was those strong bonds he made that made him realize there was more out there for him, potentially starting his own business. Amagito said his manager decided who would get help and who wouldn’t, sparking an interest in him that would be the turning point in his career.
“I thought if I could do it on my own, I could have no limitations on my skill to reach the people,” Amagito said. “All the skill that I have, I can implement it and I can make a beautiful garment that is designed for that customer and when he puts it on he smiles, I smile, and he’s happy then I’m happy.”
Taking a leap of faith, Amagito opened two storefronts of his own custom men’s suit shop, one in Wichita Falls and most recently, Abilene’s location opened about a month ago.
While a small company still, Ndulu prides himself on his relationships with his customers and his employees. For his two Abilene sales associates, Joshua Massey and Jesse Barron, they’d never dreamt of working in a custom men’s clothing store, but can’t see themselves anywhere else.
Massey, 28, formerly worked as an assistant manager at a 7-Eleven convenience store, finding the application for Amagito’s shop on Facebook. After applying and getting trained at the Wichita Falls location, he helps run the sales floor in Abilene and said it has given him a much-needed confidence boost.
“When you put on a new suit, it changes the way you feel,” Massey said. “The second you put it on, you start building that confidence and start feeling like, ‘I can do anything.’”
As for Barron, 38, he spent nearly his whole career working outside on construction sites. He said as he’s gotten older, his body began to wear down and found a similar Facebook application shared by Massey. After seeing little interest, he reached out and found himself going from long hours in the extreme Texas heat to dappered up, indoors, in a three-piece suit.
Barron said he never saw himself working in the field he’s in now, but said he has found his passion watching other men gain that confidence putting on a new suit. He said he feels like he is bringing a new, positive perspective to men across Abilene.
“When I see these men get in their clothes that Ndulu is making, and I see their smile, and if their spouse is right there… There is just something that – wow! You know what I mean,” Barron said, with a smile from ear-to-ear. “They stand up a little straighter and model in the mirror for themselves, man, I love that. To be able to be a part of that is a blessing to me.”
Now, neither Barron nor Massey can see themselves working anywhere but beside Amagito. It’s Amagito’s passion, finding his second home behind the sewing machine, to please the customers that step in his front doors.
Without limitations, Amagito said he wants to provide the best service and product on the market in his very own custom suit shop. But that’s not all, he also became a United States citizen this year, fulfilling a truly tailor-made American Dream right here in Taylor County.
Amagito said he hopes his story inspires a new wave of tailors in the Big Country, which he said was a dying artform.
Nyota Bush Suits, Tuxedos & Alterations is located at 3301 South 14th Street in Abilene, and 1700 9th Street in Wichita Falls.