Making Fashion Entrepreneurial


Making Fashion Entrepreneurial

Seedstars Global

JULY 14, 2023

The creative industry in Africa has plenty of opportunities. According to a recent report by UNESCO, the creative sector provides over 30 million jobs worldwide and employs more young people aged 15-29 than any other industry.



Here are more numbers:

  • GIZ’s recent German Supply Chain Due Diligence reports that Ghana's textile sector is projected to grow by 15.20%, up to $208 million by 2027.
  • Statista estimates Nigeria’s Apparel market to grow by 7.75% between 2023–2027, resulting in a market volume of $11.60bn in 2027.
  • Rwanda’s Fashion segment is set to grow by 15.05%, resulting in a market volume of $140.00m by 2027.

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Despite the ongoing challenge of youth unemployment in Africa, there is potential for young people to find work in the creative sector. However, development leaders and governments have yet to fully explore this untapped prospect to create opportunities for young people.

According to recent projections, Africa's population could grow to 2.5 billion by 2050, a 160% growth from 2010. The surge in population will result in most countries in the region having an abundance of labor force. And such a demographic shift could positively affect the region's development and comparative advantage.

As the human population grows, countries must advance their human capital with quality jobs to achieve economic progress. According to OECD, with the rapid developments in technology and globalization, creating job opportunities has become necessary for countries to bridge the development gap and remain competitive in the global economy.

But for that to happen, entrepreneurs in verticals like the creative economy need business skills, financing options that are affordable and flexible, as well as access to eCommerce platforms, and the removal of red tape that prevents economic growth.

Aware of the significantly-untapped potential of the apparel and footwear vertical, combined with an evolving global fashion industry, the African Fashion Futures selected 14 rising designers from Ghana, Nigeria, and Rwanda to help them become minimally viable for international markets. The pilot incubation program began in January 2023.

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African Fashion Futures Incubation: Seedstars Strategic Partnership Fosters Growth

Seedstars envisions a world where every talented and determined entrepreneur has the resources to grow their business and create a lasting impact in their communities. As part of these efforts, Seedstars joined a strategic partnership with Impact Fund For African Creatives (IFFAC) and African Fashion Foundation (AFF) for the inaugural African Fashion Futures Incubation (AFFI) program.

AFFI provides a space to challenge ideas and business concepts and gives access to mentors and resources for the fashion designers participating in the program. The incubator also covers topics on business models, market positioning, comparative advantage, and sustainability and impact.

The six months of programming saw designers receiving tailored guidance from creatives, designers, and business leaders in Africa and elsewhere, including Sprayground's Vice President, Sandflower Dyson, art director and futurist Malik Afegbua, International trade professional Maya Demeke, filmmaker and television producer, Parminder Vir OBE and pioneering fashion designer Ruby Wallen, co-founder of Published By.

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Unlocking Resources for Fashion Entrepreneurs

Fashion designers are often perceived as primarily creative artists rather than business-focused entrepreneurs.

But for emerging designers going through the AFFI program, it was a timeless opportunity to complement their artistic expression and creativity with an entrepreneurial mindset. They learned how to restructure their ventures through expert business development training and access the resources they needed to capture a share of Africa’s $31 billion fashion economy.

“Building a solid character is excellent, but that’s not enough to run a fashion business. Thankfully, after countless struggles and shedding tears of frustration in front of my loved ones, the universe handed me an incredible opportunity to be part of the African Fashion Foundation‘s groundbreaking AFFI program! I jumped on it without knowing what to expect, but I knew it would take me one step closer to my dreams.

These past few months have been a wild ride: from attending classes and completing assignments to engaging with mentors and colleagues, not to mention pitching my heart out (something I feared doing), all while designing and sewing my upcoming collection for 2023. But I’m beyond excited to share more of my brand’s journey with all of you. And with your support, we will turn into a global sensation.

I express my deepest gratitude to Miss Roberta Annan and the incredible teams at AFF, IFFAC, and Seedstars. These past months, they have been my guiding lights, showering me with invaluable knowledge and information. I’m excited for the second half of this incubator to begin!” – NADIA IBRAHIM, FOUNDER OF TABOU

“I launched my brand two years ago with so much zeal and creativity but had to put it on hold after I made terrible business decisions that affected the brand drastically. The AFFI came along and equipped me with the necessary tools to manage a fashion brand on a global scale. With the help of our mentors and trainers, I’ve unlearned everything I thought I knew about the industry and learned how to properly work with a team, manage my time and make outstanding business deals.

Anku will continue to contribute to the sustainable development of society, empower women and inspire the world with a sophisticated lifestyle by giving them an experience through modern African culture and timeless styles.” – KELVIN VINCENT, FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF ANKU.

“As a fashion entrepreneur, I have always believed in the potential of African fashion and its impact on the global fashion industry. However, I knew that I needed more than just passion to succeed.

That's where African Fashion Futures Incubator came in. The program has been a game-changer for my brand Atto Tetteh, providing us with invaluable insights and resources on everything from legal compliance to the importance of digital marketing, how to pitch our business to investors, and how to access new markets while upholding sustainable practices.

The program has also allowed us to connect with investors and industry leaders, helping us take our brand to the next level. I am genuinely grateful for the support of IFFAC, Seedstars, and the Africa Fashion Foundation, and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn from this fantastic community.” – GEORGE TETTEH, FOUNDER OF ATTO TETTEH.

“As a result of being part of the AFFI program for the past five months, my brand has witnessed exponential growth. With the help of my mentors, Julia Plangger and Samuel Mensah, I have set realistic short-term and sustainable long-term goals for the brand.

At the moment, we are getting ready to launch a studio space for AMIKE. I learned not to be intimidated by competition but to observe how they work and find ways to work smarter, even with limited financial resources.

The production process has been expedited in the two months of having in-house full-time artisans. I plan to push myself out more and take advantage of network spaces, especially now that I am part of the Kigali creative community that gives me access to conversations with potential partners and investors.

I am still learning; I rewatch some recorded discussions, especially on the law side of the business, pitching, and digital marketing.” – ALINE MUKAMUSONI, CREATIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER OF AMIKE.

Following this digital skills and investment-readiness training phase, the designers will receive further market development support from IFFAC, with grants of $5000 to further prove their business concepts. These tools will set them up to become sustainable and high-growth fashion businesses.

“I had the distinct pleasure and honour of participating in the African Fashion Futures Incubator (AFFI) programme, showcasing the incredible talent of 14 African fashion designers. Over three months, I had the privilege of mentoring two exceptionally gifted fashion entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Ebuka Omaliko and Omafume Niemoha. I must commend the impeccable organisation of the programme, led by Tom-Chris Emewulu, the Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Programme Manager.

Participating in the AFFI programme was a transformative experience and gave me insights into the challenges and opportunities within the African fashion industry. I expanded my knowledge and understanding of the intricate process of bringing a fashion design from its inception to a finished product. All the fashion designers showcased the exceptional craftsmanship and skill of African artisans who breathe life into the vibrant world of African fashion.

I am sincerely grateful to AFFI for inviting me to mentor in this remarkable programme. The experience has enriched my understanding of the industry and reinforced my appreciation for the immense value that artisans contribute to the African fashion landscape.” – Parminder Vir OBE, Film Production, AFFI Mentor

Industry records on venture capital investments into Africa’s digital economy indicate rising interest in the continent’s untapped potential from big tech companies and foreign investors. Meaning skills development and startup funding are pre-requisite to unlocking the future for young innovators to create a more prosperous Africa and address many of the issues the continent faces.

The African Fashion Futures incubator systematically develops fashion entrepreneurs who will shape the continent's future.

About the Author:

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Tom-Chris Emewulu is Seedstars’ Program Manager and Entrepreneur in Residence. An exceptional business leader, Tom-Chris spent the last 8+ years of his professional career creating innovative change across organizations and communities, including working with several global entrepreneurs and executives to fuel innovation at the intersection of technology and social impact, with Forbes, DW, Business Insider, SABC, Next Billion, and other publications have featured his works. You can find him on social media via @tomchrisemewulu.

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