Evelyn Seltier Public Information Officer International Trade Centre
The opportunities are here for SAFI KRÉATIONS
Being a micro entrepreneur in Côte d’Ivoire can be arduous, especially in the creative industries. But there are ways to push through. And this is exactly what Safi Kréations is doing.
I am an artist. It is in my blood. It is my passion. But the market is tough.
Safiatou Kone produced her own accessory creations before she started her education. Exploring her artistic drive, it has been a familiar way to earn some money on the side. Seriously considering the creative industries as a major source of income was, however, not an option for the artist from Abidjan.
The economic value of the cultural and creative sectors in developing countries, such as art, handicraft, fashion and music is at times overlooked as a valuable source of income generation or driver of job creation – even though the ‘orange economy’ contributes to creating around 30 million jobs worldwide, according to the World Bank.
Despite her talent, Safi, as her friends call her, felt she needed to pursue a higher education.
To be able to earn her diploma in commercial management, the 28-year old had to work twice as hard – to finance her schooling, she worked on her creations every free minute she had, selling them locally, thanks to friends, word-of-mouth and Facebook. She named her creations, Safi Kréations.
In Côte d’Ivoire, making fashion or art does not earn much respect – or money. It is hard to follow this career path if you like to be financially independent.
Even though it is only my mother and I, I have a big, extended family. I need to support them financially.
After graduating, Safi secured a couple of temporary jobs at MTN, one of the largest telecommunication agencies in Africa. With COVID-19, however, Safi lost her job. Her only solution was to sell her accessories to make ends meet. The entrepreneur gathered up her savings and invested them in a little workshop of 3m2 to have a dedicated workspace.
Fast forward: 1 year later This year, Safi is hopeful that her situation might change. Believing that she might get the financial support that she needed to buy equipment and materials, Safi heard through a friend of a contest promoted on Facebook for artists, models and fashion designers, called “The Opportunities are Here”, an Ethical Fashion Initiative of the International Trade Centre.
It was really hard with COVID. When you struggle for survival, nobody is interested in buying accessories. I had zero income for some time. My savings helped us survive.
Safi Kréations signed up—and won first prize for best stylist.
Safi grew with the contest, learning that to be successful you have to differentiate yourself from the competition. And this is what she did – even though the young artist struggled.
She had to borrow beads for her creations from friends and fellow artisans and stitch every product by hand.
Her hard work paid off. She convinced over 28,540 social media followers as well as a jury of Ivorian celebrities and influencers, and won $1,370 seed capital to invest in her fashion business.
It was challenging. Without the jury’s help, I would not have won. They pushed me to create unique fashion items that would sell internationally.
© ITC / Cloudias Lakshan Mendis
What now? Accessing finance to kick-off her business is still Safi’s challenge number one.
The seed capital Safi won is not enough. Renting a space in the Abidjan Mall to sell her jewellery and accessories costs 500,000 CFA that Safi does not have.
On the other hand, selling online means having e-commerce skills and resources to create such platforms, which Safi does not have.
I am still facing many challenges. But I hope that one day soon I might have a chance to get investors or donors interested in my business, so I can sell my fashion locally and internationally.
The three winners of the International Trade Centre’s Opportunities are Here challenge will benefit from further training on marketing/promotion through e-commerce and a mentorship programme with social company Incub’Ivoir. After this interview, Safi learned that she would travel to the Ethical Fashion Initiative event in Paris in 2022, where, together with all the other winners from Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda, she will be able to show her talent. The European Union finances this Identity Building and Sharing Business Project of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
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