When the African television show, a Tailored Business was released online in May, I thought to myself: which entrepreneur who wants to set up a business in Africa wouldn’t want to see this? The television series brought a good perspective on how it is like to set up a business in particularily, South Africa. Then there is the charismatic presenter Tania Habimana, who was one of our contributors, hosting the show. I felt it is time to get to know more about this Rwandan young entrepreneur. And how this amazing concept came to being. So we had a chat with her.
ABINA: Where did you go to school?
Tania: “I studied for my undergraduate degree in Cardiff University. I did a great dual degree program which gave me the opportunity to study in Germany for a year and graduate with a degree in Business management and German.
“A few years later, I then enrolled onto a masters postgraduate program called CEMS, which is basically a consortium of 40+ business schools and you get to study at 2 faculties on this program. It’s very international which I loved. In my case, I’d chosen Rotterdam School of management in the Netherlands as my 1st semester choice and Bocconi in Milan as my 2nd semester.”
ABINA: What is exactly your profession?
Tania: “My profession? It’s very hard to say really. I’d started within the digital marketing sphere in my early career then migrated towards business development and now, I can only accurately describe myself as an entrepreneur. I’m trying to build my suit business and my show.”
ABINA: How has working in Africa come about?
Tania: “I was selected to lead the expansion of Suitsupply, the Dutch menswear company, into Sub-Sahara Africa and thus relocated to Johannesburg.”
- Be wise
Tania: “I have always had a very “fearless” mentality. I’ve never been afraid of taking risks, and sometimes that’s translated into rushing and not being wise. I’ve had to learn the hard way but you must be wise, think before you act, be wise while choosing “friends”, be wise while hiring employees, be wise while choosing a home, be wise with your money. Simply take the time to be wise. And if you’re not, ask advice from someone who is.”
- Be kind to yourself
“Be kind to yourself and offer yourself regular moral support. It’s important. The professional world can already be a tough place to operate in sometimes, so you need to make sure you’re kind to yourself. I’ve found that women tend to do this more often than men.”
“Don’t regurgitate past mistakes. Forgive yourself. Learn and move on. Eat well. Work out. Actually, I’ll elaborate on that, make it an obligation to work out, a priority, it has so many health and mental benefits, this is as important as eating, so yes, work out!”
ABINA: How has the show Tailored Business come about? You are obviously a fantastic presenter? How did that start?
Tania: “Thank you. I was headhunted by a news television crew in South Africa, who had spotted an interview I had done on TV for Suitsupply. I tried out the job of television anchor, and eventually they decided I wasn’t right for the role. Though I wasn’t given the role, that whole experience of being able to tell stories first hand really stuck with me and I spent the following 12 months thinking about how I could merge my role at Suitsupply and my newfound passion for telling the “African business story” (at the time, I was Commercial Director for their African branch).”
“And one day, I realized the answer was simple. Every day, really successful and interesting businesspeople were walking through my doors. I would have approximately 1,5 hour one-to-one time with all of them while they were being fitted, so I really had the time to get to know them and ask them questions on how to operate successfully in South Africa. And that’s how the Tailored Business show was born.”
ABINA: How did you meet the professionals who are featured in the show?
Tania: “It started with real past clients that I had, and then from there, simply networking. As we state in the show, we really used it. I was introduced to York Zucchi by a common contact and then from there, York gave me a few leads, and so on and so on.”
“However, I am looking to meet more entrepreneurs and expand my network though, within Africa but also in the Netherlands, in case you know of any entrepreneurs that wouldn’t mind sharing their knowledge.”
ABINA: It is obvious you have your eyes set on Kenya and Nigeria for your business. Why those countries?
Tania: “I love Nigeria. As a country, I just abso-lut-ely adore Nigeria.”
“From a business standpoint, both these countries have enormous potential. Demographics, disposable income, working environments and desire to spend on tailoring are all factors that contribute to this. Nigeria has a much more outspoken tailoring style while Kenya is much more traditional, almost British-style tailoring.”
Tania: “Haha, that’s a great question. I don’t sew the suits myself, if I did that, I’d have a delivery lead time of about 7 months per suit that’s how slow I am. But I did learn how to do it while I was living in Milan. I had a flatmate who was studying to be a pattern maker so I observed and learned with her. It’s helped me quite a lot to understand how a suit is constructed, because at the end of the day this is what makes the difference between an ok suit and a great one is how well it fits your body!”
ABINA: Which working experience has been your most memorable and why?
Tania: “Suitsupply, by far. For the lessons, the good times, the hard times, the loving times, the sad times, the journey. For all of it, my experience working there helped me grow as a professional but also as a person.”
ABINA: Will you ever come back to the west?
Tania: “Of course. I regularly come back for business anyway. There are my regular dates such as the fashion fairs in Milan; Pitti Uomo, and also the fabric fairs, and then to see friends and family that are here.”
ABINA: What do you aspire to be?
Tania: “I live by this sentence “either do something worth writing about, or write something worth reading”. I aspire to be someone who does that.”
ABINA: Thank you
The first episode of a Tailored Business can be viewed online on Youtube. If you haven’t had a look, watch episode below.