Seychelles: Seychellois Woman Experiment Making Clothes From Banana, Raphia Tree Fibres Thanks to Grant Money

Imagine wearing clothes woven from organic threads like from a banana tree. You may soon be able to buy such an item thanks to a Seychellois entrepreneur.

Mariette Dine of M. eco - Fabrics has started her business, where she is weaving organic thread made from the fibres from banana and Raphia palm trees and even pineapple plants.

Dine's dream has been realized through a $5,000 grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Dine and another local entrepreneur Monia Florentine, were the two Seychellois amongst 1,000 Africans chosen under the foundation last year.

In all 216,025 applications from the 54 African countries were received for 2019. This year applications have already opened for the sixth Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme and aspiring entrepreneurs all over Africa have been called to apply. The deadline for applications is March,1.

The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is open to startup entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas or businesses that have been in existence for less than three years in any sector in all African countries.

Tony Elemelu is a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who founded the Africa-based and African-funded philanthropic foundation with the aim of empowering other African entrepreneurs.

Still at the experimenting stage, Dine also a model, said that as a fashion-aware young woman, she knows the industry generates a lot of waste.

"Fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world and through this business, Seychelles will be able to join the global sustainable fashion movement that is currently taking place in the fashion industry," explained Dine.

Dine, who is also at the University of Seychelles doing her BSc in environment, added, " aims to introduce an alternative variety of organic and eco-friendly textile products to its immediate customers."

Dine explained that processing the fibres is challenging and requires a lot of patience. "I do the processing myself with simple tools such as knife and water. I then twist the fibres together to produce yarn for weaving. This can also be done with banana trees but require a lot of patience and hours to get enough fibre to make yarn. The work is tedious but worth it."

Florentine, also in the fashion industry, specializes in bridal and evening wear and also makes jewellery and accessories from recyclable materials. She also produces Creole dolls in her business - Mo's Dream Creation - which she launched last year.

The entrepreneur told SNA that the foundation allowed her to "discover other fashion entrepreneurs like myself and through our interactions found out that each of us can help each other in whatever we do best."

"We have created a network. We do not meet for now but help each other through online training, help each other in identifying supplier for certain goods and services for the businesses."

Both agreed that the online training was intensive, where weekly assignments had to be submitted. But in the end, they were able to turn their ideas into a business plan with startup capital to start its implementation.

Florentine had words of encouragement for would-be applicants "I am encouraging young women and men entrepreneurs to take this challenge. Give it a try. Any business as long as it will have an impact on the community. You will not regret it. I have done it last year and was successful and you also can do it."

Noussira Daman, the TEF entrepreneurship programme ambassador in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Daman who is also a TEF alumna explained that it is an intensive six-week programme which requires full commitment from the candidates.

"It forces you to think outside of the norms, outside of the box that society wants to squeeze everybody in. The Tony Elumelu Programme destroys this box and forces you to think for yourself," added Daman.

According to Daman "entrepreneurs who come out of the programme are changed forever because it allows them to think in another way, which is different from what they learned in the normal school system."

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