Tania Habimana is a 27-year-old Rwandan aspiring entrepreneur. She is a tailor and host of Tailored Business, a show she has created to share business insights on tailoring, entrepreneurship and business. She interviews business leaders across the continent while she fits them for a suit.
Tania shares why she started the show, the difference between a female employee and entrepreneur and what she’s up to next.
How did you get into tailoring?
As part of my masters degree programme in international management, I studied in Milan and there I was just a few miles away from Lake Como and Biella which are cities in northern Italy renowned for their textile industries. Biella is known in particular for wool. To give you some background knowledge, wool is the best fabric for a good classic suit. Of course, you can have wool-cashmere, wool-cotton mixes, anything as long as it’s natural fibres is ok, but for classic luxury suits, wool is needed.
Well anyhow, enough with the suiting lesson. I was living just a few miles from the fabric goldmine, Biella, which is home to mills such as Lanificio Egidio Ferla, who count Chanel, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga among many others as their clients.
I couldn’t count how many fabric companies reside in this area but there are many and with that a lot of extremely experienced tailors. That’s how it all really started for me.
Why did you start Tailored Business?
I felt guilty. On a day-to-day basis, whilst running Suitsupply in Johannesburg, I was exposed to a wide range of experienced, successful entrepreneurs and as I was fitting them for their suits they were providing me with valuable stories and tips.
There came the idea to turn these ‘conversations’ into a show.
And I felt ‘why just me?’, I’m not the only one who can benefit from hearing these incredible lessons and there came the idea to turn these ‘conversations’ into a show.
What advice would you give your younger self about being an entrepreneur if you could?
Don’t look to your right. Don’t look to to your left. Don’t look behind you. Just look up.
I spent an incredible amount of time worrying about what others think and observing what they were doing, not in a jealous or envious way but just curious, what I didn’t realise is that every time I did this, I was restricting a) my imagination and b) it was time I wasn’t focussing on advancing myself.
Also, just aim high. Always.
Instead, I’d advise myself to surround myself with people that are ‘higher’ than me. By higher, I don’t necessarily mean ‘superior’ but more in the same that they are people from whom I can learn and that’s in all areas of life. Surround myself with highly spiritual people and listen to how they do it, surround myself with highly organised people and see how they do it, surround myself with people who have been successful at x, and see how they do it.
That’s how you make progress. And also, just aim high. Always.
Do you think it’s harder to be an entrepreneur if you’re female?
No. I think it’s harder to be an employee and female.
As an entrepreneur, you are the boss, there’s no doubt about it. Either you’re in the process of making it or you’ve made it. Perhaps some doors may be difficult for you to open, but that’s a part of entrepreneurship in general, it takes a kind of attitude of perseverance (as York Zucchi very well explains in the show) so whether you are a woman or not, you’ll have to prove yourself.
As an employee, you have two battles.
However, as an employee, you have two battles – internally and externally. That’s way more work. You have your internal battles for promotion, more responsibility, advancing in your career etc. And then you have your other battle externally, closing deals, recruiting etc.
If you just look at the topic in itself, I’ve seen a lot more books about being a women written by female employees than female entrepreneurs.
You mentioned you want to give a true representation of Africa. Why is this important to you?
I see today that still in 2016, there is a very skewed image of Africa. It’s either the whole #AfricaRising narrative or the #ContinentInDespair and I feel that neither are true. Sure, the continent is rising, but it’s not a Disney joy ride either, there are still some major developments that need to happen and at the same time, the continent in despair narrative is too pessimistic. I want to show truth, or at least try.
That’s what we want to show. All perspectives.
And that’s why we’re speaking to entrepreneurs from all countries, in episode one, we have entrepreneurs from South Africa, Switzerland, the US and African countries. None of the entrepreneurs had heritage or large capitals to start with but rather tried to grow a business from scratch. And that’s what we want to show. All perspectives, not just one.
What are you up currently?
Right now, I’m working on the show mainly. We’ve just released part one of episode one and are about to launch a call out for entrepreneurs. So, over the next weeks – I’ll be going through (I hope) tons of entrepreneurial stories and picking out the people I’m going to be making suits for over the next month. First stop, my favourite city: Lagos! Can’t wait!
Watch the first episode of Tailored Business here: