Chantal Fraser: When I switched careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby

Chantal Fraser is a fashion designer and house singer based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.  She started her fashion label Chante Clothing in 2010 as a side hustle and transitioned it to full time in 2014.

Her clients comprise of everyone from local celebrities, to brides and bridesmaids and any young lady wanting to look chic and well put together.

Chantal also works with locally based international brands like Edgars which is part of the Woolworths Group of companies.

Following the family tradition, Chantal finally decided to venture into music in 2017 and released her single Better than Yesterday. 

When did you fall in love with fashion?

I’ve always had a passion for it since I was young – like seriously young. My passion started with creating beadwork and eventually sketching fashion ideas. 

What gave you the courage to pursue Chante Clothing full time?

Passion full stop! My passion was burning so much that I just could not ignore it. I was miserable, working and doing other things. Even though I was getting paid well, I just didn’t have the passion. 

I said to myself, if others can dive into their passions and do it, why can’t I?

What setbacks did you have during that transition period?

Definitely, finances.  I was jumping into an unknown business. Yes, I had passion but obviously, I was still trying to weave my way through it.

In addition, I had to patiently grow my clientele which took a lot longer than I anticipated. When people are committed to their designer you know that’s it. It is hard to convince them to try someone new.

Before setting up Chante Clothing, what were you doing and how did it help you later on?

I was doing accounts. I hated it! But for some reason, I’d find myself doing accounts in jobs. But when I did switch careers, I began looking at design as more than just a hobby – but a legitimate way of making an income. This made establishing the business easier.

Do you feel like there are enough structures that help women build a business?

Yes and no. There is still a mindset that it depends on what the trade is. Some people don’t look at design as a business; they still see it as a plaything. But if there are women seeking financial assistance for something like chickens they are able to source funds much easier than us. I believe that there is a bias against fashion to some extent. 

Have you had any mentors help you in your entrepreneurial journey?

Yes, I have. I’m privileged to know loads of people in the same business as me. My fiancé has been in the fashion industry much longer than I have. Since we collaborated on C and C Clothing, I have been able to learn a lot from him and his support.

I also have friends who helped me learn to sew. While I did have the passion, I needed to acquire the skill. This led me to camp at a friend’s house and eventually learn how to sew. I really appreciate her for doing that for me.

What has opening a business taught you about yourself?

It’s taught me that I can have discipline when it comes to money lol. Initially, I didn’t think I would be this disciplined, but opening a business had really exposed me to some of my strengths.

Fashion fades but style never fades - @chanteclothing Click To Tweet

What do you want Chante Clothing to represent as a brand?

I want it to represent elegance and style. 

It’s about bringing out the inner you. It’s about genuinely feeling confident and beautiful and not conforming to what people say is the latest trend. That’s what my business is all about!

Who are your style or fashion icons?

I really like David Tlale and his tenacity. Dolce and Gabbana are also inspiring as they are a team like my fiancé and I. We look up to them. If they can do it, so can we!

You currently have a single out, Better Than Yesterday. How did you get into singing and why a motivational track specifically?

My parents are actually musicians, they had a band ages ago. I didn’t choose music, music chose me! It was in the blood!

I’ve always had the passion and have been singing from forever. When I released my track, I chose motivational music because there’s a world out there that is extremely confused. A lot of people do not know who they are really.

If media says this is the style everyone moves to that. No one has a backbone to stand on. So, with my motivational music, I hope to inspire people to be who they are no matter what situations they are going through.  

The themes vary but basically, it’s about you being you being proud of who you are! 

So where did you get your obviously innate sense of confidence?

I think I got it from my parents (Not I think, I know!) and especially my mum. She was a very bold person and I learnt a lot from her.

I was fortunate to have parents that allowed us to be who we wanted to be. No matter what you wanted to do they supported you all the way.

What advice can you give about being true to yourself and following your dreams?

Every child is born with a dream, and as time goes on, people that surround you can slowly discourage you.

Don’t forget what that first love was. Go back to it and don’t allow anyone to stand in your way. Even if it seems hard just keep going, keep at it because at the end of the day, that’s what you were born to do.

There’s nothing as depressing as doing something because it’s a trend or because family is pressuring you.  Misery is the most disheartening thing ever. Indulge your passion and you’ll get there eventually.

How do balance two careers (and a personal life!)?

It can get difficult at times. What I’ve learnt to do especially with two careers is put timelines and plan to do specific things within certain time frames. Planning is essential.

I go as far as saying when I get home, there will be no work talk but it can definitely get hectic.

What does success look like to you at the end? How will you know you have achieved your dreams?

Success is when I can look back at my life and say well-done Chanty and I’m happy and I have tried everything. If you haven’t tried it all how would you look back and truly be satisfied?

That’s where I find success even in failure. Failures can be a success because you made the effort. You don’t want to have a what if in your mind. What ifs are horrible!  

Success should be about inner satisfaction and being happy. It’s not something that can be equated to a particular amount of money or how many likes you get on Facebook or how many people follow you on Instagram. It’s about self-contentment and being able to say at the end of it I tried it all.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Ntombizodwa Sibanda: Contentment is the realisation of how much you already have

Ntombizodwa Sibanda
Our ultimate goal is to holistically fulfil our guests @ZoeOmza co-founder of @TheHighTeaZA Click To Tweet

Ntombizodwa Sibanda and Bonnie Chimanikire recently hosted a successful high tea event in Harare, Zimbabwe. The High Tea concept is an initiative that was co-founded by the two ladies, Ntombizodwa and Bonnie. They wanted the event to be an afternoon of encouragement, pampering and positive interaction for women.

SLA contributor Makhosazana Ndlovu recently caught up with Ntombizodwa to learn more about the concept and discover their secrets to running a successful event.

What inspired you to start The High Tea initiative?

My partner, Bonnie and I had successfully run a campaign to assist displaced xenophobic victims in the Germiston area. After the campaign, Bonnie approached me about her vision to host a women-focused event.

We agreed that we wanted the event not only to be informative, but to be an afternoon of encouragement, pampering, and positive interaction of women, which is contrary to the general negative narrative of the interaction of women.

Empowerment, fashion, food. Why these themes specifically?

Our ultimate goal is to holistically fulfil our guests. Our guests are encouraged to dress to the nines, we ensure that our menu and refreshments are fit for the palate of queens and carefully select our speakers with a simple mandate to encourage our women. No woman can ever get enough of these themes.

How did you deal with the challenges that you faced when you first introduced the initiative?

Determination: We knew what we wanted. We knew what had to be done to achieve it, and we set out to do it. Most importantly, we were prepared for the worst; which was very low numbers. But we knew that if we succeeded in executing the first one, we would have the most effective publicity (word of mouth) going forward.

Support structure: We had friends and family who stood by us and gave us the necessary support and advice we needed.

Prayer: Some situations were beyond us. Those are the ones we left to God to handle. And He pulled through for us… a lot of fasting and prayer comes into every edition of The High Tea.

We knew what we wanted. We knew what had to be done to achieve it, and we set out to do it Click To Tweet

Who do you work with to ensure that The High Tea events are a success?

When we started, it was just Bonnie and I. However, as the vision grew, so did the need to incorporate much-needed help. The core team has grown by an extra four members, namely, Pam, Zihlobo, Gugu, and Sidumisile.

We also have a large network of successful women who are originally from Zimbabwe but are resident in South Africa. They are affectionately known as the SQUAD and we rely on them for valuable advice and direction. I could never forget our friends and families who have all played various roles in assisting us to meet our goals.

What impact does the events have on African women?

The event is not limited to Zimbabwean women but attracts women from various African countries. This is also evident in our diverse speakers. We aim to encourage inter-dependence amongst African women. Our struggles are, after all similar, regardless of our different countries. This means that viable solutions can be found in positive interaction with each other.

We aim to encourage inter-dependence amongst African women @TheHighTeaZA Click To Tweet

What are your words of advice to young women who would like to start initiatives such as The High Tea?

Regardless of how many times you have seen something being done, no one can ever do it like you.

Identify your target market, identify a mentor, identify what and whom you will need to assist in bringing your vision to life, stalk them. It is possible.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Maria Ebenezer: I decline clients unwilling to comply with our standards

Maria Ebenezer Emerald Green Ushering Services
Maria Ebenezer: I believe women should enjoy exclusivity in this particular profession Click To Tweet

Emerald Green Ushering Services is a Nigerian-based event hostess agency, providing professional staff for international corporate and luxury social events. Founder, Maria Ebenezer’s entrepreneurial drive was birthed from modelling and her experience in ushering, which gave her the basic knowledge to kick-start Emerald Green Ushering Services.

Though Emerald Green Ushering Services’ clients include multinational and indigenous firms, catering for weddings, birthdays and annual general meetings are also par for the course for the firm.

Why was it important for you to hire only female ushers as opposed to a mixed staff?

Ushering is a profession I have always considered to be best suited to women considering the glamour and hospitality skills that are often required.

I believe women should enjoy exclusivity in this particular profession. More so, I have found that it is easier working with female staff as they maintain a better professional conduct.

Quality customer service is quite difficult to come by in Nigeria. How does Emerald Green Ushering Services avoid this pitfall?

We pride ourselves in excellent service delivery. One of our basic requirements for recruitment is work experience; afterwards hostesses undergo basic training. We are constantly researching innovative ideas to ensure our services are on a par with global professional standards.

Feedback forms are given to my clients at the end of each event to evaluate the quality of our service for improvement purposes. So far, feedback has been great.

Maria Ebenezer's core focus for @EMushers is attracting multinational corporate organisations Click To Tweet

How do you handle difficult clients?

Initially, I accommodated excessive, unreasonable demands because we needed to build a portfolio. But now, I decline clients unwilling to comply with our professional standards.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Emerald Green Ushering Services, and how has it been able to overcome or mitigate it?

In our first year, we were enlisted by an indigenous multinational company to bid for their annual conference. Their vendor’s form stated ushering companies were required to have 5 years of experience with renowned firms. Clearly, we didn’t have that and though we lost the bid, I was grateful for the experience because it gave me a clearer picture of what was required to win my dream clientèle. It made me re-strategise.

I put in a lot of work to improve staffing and our brand, and in a couple of months, I landed my first international client and then another.

But like every other service provider, our biggest challenge has been acquiring new clients. Plus, my core focus is on attracting multinational corporate organisations, which require more work as they are highly competitive and often require rigorous processes.

@EMushers aims to be the first firm companies looking for ushers will call upon Click To Tweet

What does the future hold for Emerald Green Ushering Services?

Currently, every business move we make is geared towards our 5-year goal of establishing Emerald Green Ushering Services as a model framework for event collaboration and partnership between West Africa and multinational companies globally.

We aim to be the first firm companies looking for ushers will call upon for their corporate events in Nigeria.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

How to get discounts and sponsors for your next event

When you’re just getting started, the hustle for customers and publicity is real. You need to get your product in everyone’s face in the cheapest way possible.

Events seem to be a favourite for their ability to generate brand exposure and activate your fans. But events cost money and most companies just starting out, don’t really have any so the hunt for sponsors and discounts is on.

Everyone wants sponsors, and discounted products and brands get requests from everyone all the time. If you want to stand out and get brands on board for your event, follow these steps for your next event.

1. Start early

Give yourself at least 3 months before the event to start looking for sponsors.

This can be a long and tedious process and you don’t want to rush at the last minute.

2. Pull together your facts

Create a budget as if you were going to pay for everything. This way you are clear about what everything you want costs.

Then decide what things are the most important and what things you can afford to lose, if you had to.

3. Decide what you are able to pay for

Most of the time it is advisable to pay for the items that the event can not run without. This way no matter what happens, you’ll still be able to run your event and be in control even if a sponsor falls through. 

However having the money and being prepared to pay for them does not mean you cant ask for sponsorship. You can also use this during negotiations to let them know that you aren’t just looking for handouts.

Brands want to know that you’re investing your own resources to make the event a success as well. 

4. Determine if you want a discount, product or cash

So many start-ups request cash for their events but that is always the hardest thing to get from a sponsor.

Think about what kind of support a brand can provide via in kind services or through exchanges. By being creative in this area, you can strike deals.

5. Decide which sponsors you want to approach and why

Beyond just the financial value, think about which brands you want to be associated with your business. Even though you’re just starting out, you want to make sure you’re working with brands that connect to your values and identity.

You also want to target brands where whatever you’re offering in return actually matters to them. Most companies that provide sponsorship are looking for the advertising opportunities or to connect to your community.

Some may just be happy to support but these companies are few and far between. Generally, everybody wants something in return and you need to figure out what that is.

6. Do your research

Call people you know and find out as much as you can about other events this company may have sponsored. Look online for their values and if they have a sponsorship request form.

Use LinkedIn to find the right contacts in marketing or communications departments. 

7. Prepare a sponsorship package that is targeted at the sponsor

Do not ever send a generic proposal. That is the fastest way to get your proposal ignored. Looking for another way to get your proposal in the trash? Have another company’s information in the proposal.

That’s a big no no. Spend the time demonstrating that you’ve done your research and know exactly why you want to work with this brand. 

8. Send your e-mail

Be clear, polite and straight to the point. Ask for a meeting, whether online or face to face so you can explain further and build a relationship.

If you have chosen your sponsors carefully you should at least peak their interest in you.

9. Keep track of who you have approached and when

If you havent heard within 5 days try and follow up with a phone call.

10. Ensure you are able to fulfil the offers you provide sponsors

Sponsors can become long term partners if they like your work ethic, product and customer service. Treat sponsors the same as customers.

Ensure you have clear agreements so that everyone is on the same page and you keep in touch after the event.

Be creative, keep going and good luck with getting them coins!

How to start an event planning company with no money and no clients

So you want to quit your job to start your own event planning company (or any other one) but you have no money and no clients, yet. What do you do?

Have a roof over your head and food to eat

JamJar Frances Frances QuarcoopomeFirstly, if youre going to quit your job, make sure you have some back up. This doesnt necessarily have to be cash, but a family or someone that is willing to maintain a roof over your head and food on your table. If you dont have that, then you will need to ensure you have some cash back up to keep yourself going through your start up phase, this will be a minimum of a year – two years, depending on your company.

This back up, in whatever form is comes is essential! Its essential because you will need all the energy and focus to get clients and start earning an income.

For an events company, you should be earning a small income within your first year to at least cover some costs.

Once youve figured out your back up, quit your job! It will be the scariest but most liberating thing youve ever done, but a word of caution, you will now work 24/7. Be prepared!

What makes your company unique

The next step is to figure out what your unique selling point (USP) is, what sets you apart from all the other event coordinators. As JamJar, our USP is customer service, efficiency and pushing the boundaries. We are willing to go the extra mile for our customers and promise to push ourselves as we create concepts and experiences that are truly one of a kind for the customer.JamJar Frances QuarcoopomeOnce  you have your USP, start using your contacts. Your first job is likely to be someone you know. If you do a good job, the word will start to spread. E-mail people you know and ask them to recommend you. Send out your company profile to people and test their reaction to your information.

Be realistic and original. People can tell when you are trying too hard or being fake. Initially, you may need to take a few jobs that you do not make much money from but is worth value in terms of marketing, building your portfolio and experience for yourself. Keep note of this, however: there will become a point where you no longer need exposure, and exposure wont pay your bills. Be aware of your business and your value and continue to reflect. Once you reach that point, own it and do not be ashamed.

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Listening is key

Until you reach that point, continue to work, listen and learn from your jobs and experiences. Make sure the experience of working with you is memorable from when the person first takes your card to the end product. This is everything! Even when something goes wrong or you have a difficult customer, remember your response is key and will last forever.

People will tell 4 out of 10 people about a positive experience but 8 out of 10 for a negative experience.

Jamjar Frances Quarcoopome

Get to bookkeeping

Slowly you will start to increase the number of customers you have, do your best to keep them. As you start to grow, make sure you have a good financial system, this does not have to be fancy. Keep track of what you are receiving and what you are spending.

The event planning industry is one that is not heavily reliant on start up equipment – your brain and a piece of paper are all you need to be organised, efficient, and reliable, the main characteristics an organiser should have. Take advantage of this fact, it means your start up capital required is much less and you can pace the growth of your company.

Jam Jar

Share with like-minds

Lastly, Collaborate. Collaboration is powerful if you are strategic. Dont just collaborate because someone asks you to. Collaboration usually means you will foot the bill for whatever you are willing to contribute to the project, or provide your time for free.

Be sure you are prepared to lose or not gain as much as you hoped. Moreover, make sure you do what you can and get the most as much as possible for your brand while working with your collaborators.

Good luck starting up and enjoy the journey!