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The Journey to becoming the First SPINNA Circle in Africa!

SPINNA Circle Ethiopia

Nigest Haile, Executive Director at Center for African Women Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) and Rupa Ganguli, founder of SPINNA Circle first met in 2007 in Niger. Since then, both Rupa and Nigest were keen to work on linking women from Ethiopia into the mainstream of the fashion and textiles world. Then again in 2012, both Nigest and Rupa had the opportunity to meet at the International Trade Centre (ITC) lead WVEF (Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum). This time they were both keen to transform their intent into reality. Nigest and Rupa signed their Letter of Intent to develop a plan and create linkages to make the connection a reality.

As part of the SPINNA Circle exploration team in June 2013, David Eaton left on an adventurous and exciting trip to identify what Ethiopia had to offer.  “I really did not know what to expect when I got onto that plane,” says David.

What David actually found when he got there was a “Dynamic set of people, ready to do business, with great communication skills, good business apparatus with a flexible and open mindset.”  A country which is home to some of the best cotton in the world, accompanied by weaving skills and enterprising business women and men everywhere all ready and thoroughly professional, it was a dream come true. Looking for the possibility to work with finished products, David was keen to identify workshops and women entrepreneurs who worked with local skill sets and brought local design inputs to the table. This was not about setting up a T-shirt factory. He was greatly surprised at the quality and sophistication of products, “It was not at all crude but in fact quite sophisticated. 90% of the product is there, it just needs tightening up,”  he says. “Definitely with market potential for Europe, US and the Far East.”

Two months later, in August 2013 at the AWEP event, during the AGOA trade at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Rupa Ganguli, founder director (SPINNA Circle) and Nigest Haile, Executive Director (CAWEE), tool the opportunity and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to make the partnership formal and set up the first SPINNA Circle in Africa – SPINNA Circle Ethiopia with Center for African Women Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) in Addis Ababa. The partnership will help link women entrepreneurs in fashion and textiles from Ethiopia to global mainstream high-end markets. “Having a strong local partner who shares our mandate and philosophy is critical,” says Rupa.

Seven women entrepreneurs immediately became part of SPINNA Circle Ethiopia. To meet these women and hear their stories, please see the short SPINNA Circle Ethiopia film : http://youtu.be/sToZiOw-SD4

As soon as the formal partnership was set up, David immediately put in place samples for development in Ethiopia to get them in time to showcase at the special Ethiopia focused fashion week event in September 2013 hosted in London at the Oriental Club. Buyers and designers a like had already heard about the Ethiopia story and were already keen to hear more and see the early developments. (Read more on the SPINNA Circle – Ethiopia event)

“It’s a very exciting time now… as this project is actually doing GOOD. Ethiopia adds greatly to the SPINNA Circle family. SPINNA Circle focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs while bringing textile skills to the mainstream. Ethiopian women entrepreneurs are very intelligent, cosmopolitan, and business focused. They bring a lot to SPINNA Circle, and SPINNA Circle in turn brings a lot in terms of exposure, training, market connections and growth. Its a win – win situation!” says David Eaton.

Posted by Rupa Ganguli

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