The Story Behind The Business of Fashion in Africa

The global Fashion industry today is worth 3 trillion USD however, Sub-Sahara Africa accounts for only 1% of that.
A staggering statistic, considering that the apparel and textile industry has the potential both to create jobs and contribute to a country’s economy. In today’s digital world, consumers worldwide are eager to discover products from afar – in this regard, fashion is a powerful brand builder for a country interested in exporting their cultural capital.
Of all the potential obstacles to growing this market in South Africa, it seems creative talent and exposure are the least of what hinders upcoming fashion brands from thriving on the international scene, access to finance even less. There is a definite need for teaching the business of fashion – fashion entrepreneurs need to be supported in professionalizing their enterprises and running a truly profitable business.
There is real opportunity to take South Africa’s up-and-coming fashion designers and turn them into powerful fashion CEO’s. Given the appropriate support, these fashion entrepreneurs could be running profitable businesses capable of competing on the international apparel scene, creating jobs, and having an impact on the South African economy.
That’s why purpose-driven marketing agency NONZēRO partnered with Standard Bank to create: the Business of Fashion accelerator programme “Threads – stitched by Standard Bank”:
“Standard Bank is fully committed to driving sustainable, long-term growth on the continent. Our support of the Threads programme forms part of our greater vision, encouraging inclusive economic development for entrepreneurs across South Africa with the aim of creating positivity and prosperity for all in Africa – now and in the future. We look forward to the programme and the positive growth that is sure to come from it”, says Jayshree Naidoo, Head of the Standard Bank Incubator.
“What we’re looking to do is support the entrepreneurs’ creativity with the crucial business know-how, mentorship and support that’ll propel the business to the point where they’re experiencing real growth, and running like professional outfits. The partnership with Standard Bank is a key to delivering on this goal.”
In order to supplement the programme with an academic backbone, the team partnered with the e4 Impact Foundation, an initiative of the Universita Cattolico of Milan focussing on impact entrepreneurship.
Together they created a 12-week curriculum that focuses on the business operations of a fashion enterprise: From financing and retaining employees, to lean manufacturing and eCommerce, as well as specialized procurement methods and marketing.
The programme is open to all fashion entrepreneurs with existing business operating in South Africa, and is taught simultaneously from four regional classroom hubs: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth. The programme takes place two evenings per week for a 12-week duration. The participants will also be taken on action learning field trips across South Africa designed to showcase best practices’ across the country in various fields.
“It was important for us to see a strong tangible impact made from this programme, that’s why a trade trip to Europe was organized and why we decided to take it one step further, and work with industry experts for all of the individual modules of the course” explains Tania Habimana, co-founder of Threads program and Head of Content & Digital, NONZēRO.
Working together with the Standard Bank Incubator and a strong eco-system of partners in business (including Mercedes-Benz), government and civil society, the programme calls upon the expertise of some of South Africa’s top business minds and thought leaders as programme teachers. The programme uses real-life case studies and experiential learning exercises to reinforce the academic learnership of the programme with practical industry insights.
At the end of the programme, the participants will be invited to present their new business model in a business case presentation to a panel of judges, and the winning participant will be taken on an international trade trip to Europe. The key focus of this trade trip is a meeting with a high-impact private distribution network enabling the participant to liaise with and present their business/products to wholesale buyers and retailers, as well as attending trade fairs.
The winning participant will receive an SME start-up pack courtesy of Standard Bank, will become a Mercedes Benz brand ambassador and drive the brand new vehicle for a 12 month period, as well as benefit from continued mentorship by the Threads team.
To participate in the Threads programme, interested entrepreneurs can apply online, via Threads website. (Open to entrepreneurs with an existing business in operation in South Africa for at least one year)
The application process opens on 11th September, 2017 for a one-month period, ending on 11 October, 2017.

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