TAILORED BUSINESS: HIGHLIGHTING ENTREPRENEURS ON THE CONTINENT

TANIA HABIMANA

The concept is simple and straightforward, but never done on the continent before. The creator of Tailored Business, TANIA HABIMANA is a Rwandan, Europe-raised, South-African based entrepreneur. She is most known for her position as African shareholder and Retail Director for Suitsupply (www.suitsupply.com), the Dutch Menswear company ranked no.1 suit in the world. Tailored Business kills two birds with one stone. It is a program that simultaneously give its viewers a true real-life experience of what it is to start a fashion business on the continent, whilst learning from the continent’s top entrepreneurial talents.

The concept struck the 27-year-old as she was working for Suitsupply. As part of her dedication to superior customer service, Tania would personally take all made-to-measure suit fitting appointments. That’s when she realized that her clients were all high-level businessmen, corporate executives, politicians etc. and that they all had incredible knowledge on building companies in Africa.

With this concept in mind, Habimana filmed a mock trailer with the help of a friend and went to present her idea to Nadira Peer (who was a producer for CNBC) for review. Together with Nadira, who now runs a production company in Johannesburg named Freshly Cut and Skip Jurian of Deep Thought Productions in the Netherlands, a close connection, whom Tania knew as the behind-the-scenes video producer of all the Suitsupply marketing campaigns, the team worked to create the Tailored Business show as you see it today.

The show targets People wanting to do business in Africa of all ages, backgrounds and most especially locations. Habimana herself grew up in the UK and got her start in the fashion industry while studying a MSc. degree in the field of Fashion & Luxury brand management at Bocconi University, Milan. “It wasn’t so much the school program that gave me the passion, but more the tailors. Milan is just a short drive away from Biella, fabric heaven. Everywhere I turned there was an old Italian tailor that just had pure passion and love for tailoring and were ever so eager to share their knowledge,” says Habimana.

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So far the show has received an overwhelming response. “In just a month, we’ve received over 200 emails from entrepreneurs and students asking for advice and connections on how to move to Africa, start a business, who to speak to etc.,” says Rachel Duquesne-Shema, the Communication Head for the venture. She also revealed that they have been invited to speak at several forums such as the Africa Business Summit in London Business School.

The entrepreneurs featured on the show are from Habimana’s network from when she was heading Suitsupply but they wish for the future to feature entrepreneurial stories from their audience and build on that. Soon they will be launching a call-out for entrepreneurs to tell their stories.

Some of the challenges they have faced include the fact that going in, Habimana had no production know-how. The business-side of the show such as getting sponsors, even to sourcing guests were more elusive. However, it was not all bad. “The storytelling in itself, is an art form, so we’re not really concerned with how everyone else is doing it, there is no right or wrong, it’s just the expression of how we want the show to look like,” reveals Duquesne-Shema. On top of that brands wanting to sponsor the show have threatened the production integrity of the show. From thus though, they have snagged a sponsorship with airline KLM which will include co-hosting interactive networking events and business conferences on the continent as well as personalized engagements with their Club Africa platform.

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The show is looking to cover various cities on the continent such as Nairobi, Johannesburg, Accra, Abidjan, Kigali, Luanda and Kinshasa.

The aim of the show is simple, for people to realize that ‘Africa is a cool place to do business’. As Duquesne-Shema puts it, “We hope that people in Africa but also the diaspora will watch the show and be inspired. Inspired about Africa, Inspired about Entrepreneurship, and why not? Inspired to become an entrepreneur in Africa.”

To catch the first episode, visit their website here.

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