The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in our family. We come from generations of small business owners and have always understood the importance of family and the support structure that this can provide so the idea of going into business with family members is nothing new to us.
Our names are Amina, Hafsa and Zara and we are originally from Tanzania. Despite growing up in different countries, we’ve enjoyed holidays as kids together and as adults we’ve shared endless phone calls, care packages and impromptu visits to spend time with each other. We have laughed and cried and lived together and those bonds of friendship stretch beyond the loyalty of family or the shared experiences of friends. We chose to team up to make Tausii a reality and find that the closeness and trust that we share is the perfect glue to hold our young business together. We are all about the same age and have been friends since forever so working with each other is just an extension of that. Our understanding allows us to be honest with each other to take risks and to feel secure that we are putting our futures in the hands of those we can trust and on whom we can fully rely.
We are now based on either side of the Atlantic, in New York and London, but rather than this being a problem for us we have used social media to constantly keep in touch and to tap into the American as well as the European markets. The wonderful part of running an online business is that it is a global enterprise and can be run from anywhere. This has allowed us to travel to Africa to work directly with our artisans and influence the products that we stock, bringing a bit of home to the western world. We’ve found that the interest for authentic African products is strong and growing around the world. However, it has been great to be based where we are as this has allowed us to better connect with our customers through feedback and face to face encounters through our pop up shops
Tausii was born from an admiration of African prints and vibrant colours and the idea was to bring the style and fashion of countries across Africa together under one digital roof. Tausii is derived from the Swahili word for peacock, a bird of unmatched style and effortless grace. We understand the need to make a statement so naming our brand after a bird that makes its presence known seemed appropriate.
We first started brainstorming the idea in 2015 for an online business that would draw together our expertise and passion for African culture and fashion. We wanted to bring these experiences to the world in the form of brightly coloured yet classy accessories and developed websites in the US (www.tausii.com) and in the UK (www.tausii.co.uk) so that our North American and European customers were ensured of a local experience. The sites went live in July of last year, so we have just celebrated our first birthday and we are very excited for what the future holds. We have built an intricate and extensive network of designers and artisans who hand make each of our products to specification, enabling us to sign off on every piece. We prefer this approach as while it doesn’t maximise profits in the same way as mass production would, the quality and authenticity of our products is something that we can be proud of and that will put us in a good position for the future.
Running a business as women, especially African women, has many challenges. Like all start-ups there is the challenge of securing financial capital to support our ideas. In fact, fewer than 1% of black female entrepreneurs in the USA receive venture capital. In addition, there is also the lack of social capital. There are few opportunities to benefit from mentors and role models that are other African women. Having meaningful collaboration with other women increases one’s social capital, be it helpful guidance from a mentor or benefitting from vital introductions to contacts that could push your business forward.
As African women, the stigma that we face is two-fold, but it is our responsibility to flourish as examples of what can be done through hard work and strong vision, making our voices heard and moving the needle towards real equality of opportunity in the workplace. Is it hard? Yes. Is it stressful? Absolutely! But our role as women in a business community means being passionate about our vision, growing as an entrepreneur regardless of the world around us, and empowering others so that we can support and develop a fairer and more equal society.
To sum it up in one word would be “Coordination”. There are an almost infinite number of shops and websites that utilise the expertise and contacts of the owners in sourcing products from Ghana or Tanzania etc. The thing that makes Tausii different is that we want to access the wider trends, those that bind African cultures together. We look for the best styles and fashions from across the continent and this has led to an extensive database of styles, colours and materials; from Moroccan leather to Zulu tribal accessories, from West African Kente to Masai beads. Coordinating orders, product development and deliveries to our “digital roof” is the most challenging aspect of our experience so far as the landscape is constantly changing and we need to stay on top of things. Despite this challenge, Tausii is a labour of love and we enjoy what we do, so we are happy to spend time on it.
We love to see someone enjoying our products. We encourage our customers to send in photos with their new purchases and any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or to tag us on our social media #tausii or @tausiico. This allows us to connect with people across time zones and provide a greater level of customer service. Their feedback pushes us to constantly adapt, improve, and grow. Far from resting on our laurels, we will always look to get better, expanding our horizons and never being afraid of a good idea. We are proud of the business that we’ve built and excited to take our next steps. We are always looking to the next big thing, working out a strategy for the future of Tausii.