Marketing agency NONZeRO has teamed up with Standard Bank to create a fashion business accelerator programme called Threads Stitched by Standard Bank. They are looking to support an entrepreneurs’ creativity with crucial business know-how, mentorship and other support.

In order to give the programme an academic backbone, the team worked with the e4Impact Foundation, an initiative of the Universita Cattolica of Milan, Italy, that focuses on entrepreneurship.

Together they created a 12-week curriculum that teaches students about the business operations of a fashion enterprise. They will learn everything from financing, retaining employees, lean manufacturing and e-commerce, to specialised procurement methods and marketing. The programme is open to all fashion entrepreneurs with an existing business in South Africa.

Participants will be taken on field trips across South Africa that are designed to show them best practices in various fields.

At the end of the programme, the participants will be invited to present their new business model to a panel of judges: Basetsana Kumalo, Timothy Maurice Webster, Jackie Burger, Vincent Hoogduijn and Laduma Ngxokolo.

The winning participant will be taken on a trade trip to Europe, will receive an SME start-up pack courtesy of Standard Bank, will become a Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador – which means getting to drive a brand-new car for a year – and receive continued mentorship from the Threads team. Now that’s the chance of a lifetime.

Although the global fashion industry today is worth $3 trillion (R40.8 trillion), sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 1% of that.

A staggering statistic, considering that the apparel and textile industry has the potential to both create jobs and contribute to our country’s economy. In today’s digital world, consumers worldwide are eager to discover products from afar. In this regard, fashion is a powerful brand builder for a country interested in exporting its cultural capital.

There are several potential obstacles to growing this market in South Africa and ensuring upcoming fashion brands thrive on the international scene.

Yet it seems creative talent and exposure are the least of our problems; access to finance even less so.

There is, however, a definite need to teach the business of fashion. Entrepreneurs have to be supported in turning their passion into professional and profitable business.

The competition is open to individuals with an existing business in operation in South Africa for at least one year. The application process ends October 11