A desire to live through fashion and to share that passion with others are at the heart of Kem’s Fashion, a business founded by Marlyse Tchuigoua in September 2016.
Hailing from Cameroon, she turned to the fashion world during her teenage years. “When I was in High School, I majored in the clothing industry. I already knew that’s what I wanted to study going in. I was already making outfits for people, including ministers’ wives and government officials.”
Her goal? “To create my own business and train other young people who were interested. I also wanted to provide services to other businesses.”
After High School, she packs up her bags and heads to Italy to study fashion at the Accademia della moda. “I also trained at the Istituto Carlo Secoli, then worked for big brands in Italian fashion, like Gianni Molaro and Dolce & Gabbana, where I worked from 2008 to 2015.”
The one problem? Italy wasn’t an ideal place to start a business – at least when it came to the clothing industry. “There’s too much competition. And when you are from abroad, it’s even more complicated. You don’t have a choice but to be an employee for other businesses.”
Marlyse decides to look for other avenues to achieve her goals. It’s at that moment that coming to Canada became an interesting opportunity. “My first motivation was to become an entrepreneur in my industry.”
“First, my husband and I wanted to go to Montréal. By after doing a bit of research, we realized that Calgary was more suitable for us – there is less competition in the sector. We thought it would be the ideal city for us.”
In June 2015, the designer arrived in Calgary with her husband and their son, where she immediately takes the first steps to create her own business. She called upon the Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta (or the Economic Development Council for Alberta, a member organization to RDÉE Canada) to help her in her process. “I told them I wanted to launch my project and become an entrepreneur.” A little more than six months later, she launches her own business.
Through the CDÉA, Marlyse Tchuigous leans of the Futurpreneur Canada program. With their help, she develops a business plan in June 2016. “It was a big launch. With their financing, I was able to buy the latest sewing machines, which allowed me to work faster and with better precision.”
In September 2016, her business becomes incorporated. Kem’s Fashion is officially born. So, why ‘Kem’? “I design in the same style as I do for my son Kemi. Even since he was born, I’ve always dressed him up to the nines. When we go out, people ask where they can buy the clothes he’s wearing, I answer that I’m the one who makes them.”
Today, her business already has six employees. “This includes me, a marketing director and a fashion stylist. She takes care of design and I make the patterns. We also have associates that are responsible for making the clothing.” Since early September 2017, Kem’s have moved to a new, bigger location, and the business makes clothing for other businesses and local designers. Within the next few years, she aims to hold the top spot in midrange and high end made in Canada clothing manufacturing for the Alberta region.
What does she wish for the future? Training other young people into the trade. “I love to share knowledge”, says the entrepreneur, “At the moment, I have a lot of demand and not enough workforce! I’d like to start a project where I can train people, and if it works, hiring them so they can work with me.”
Meanwhile, Marlyse Tchuigoua had a chance to head to Montreal for a great business opportunity. “Through the RDÉE Canada Network, I was able to attend the Grande rencontre de jeunes entrepreneurs du monde francophone 2017 (2017 Young Entrepreneurs Francophone World Summit), hosted by Quebec International Youth Offices and the Montreal Youth Chamber of Commerce. It was a wonderful surprise for me.”
The invitation offered her the opportunity to develop her network. “I was already in contact with businesses in Montreal, but I took the opportunity to visit them in person. It will give me a chance to better understand the fashion industry here in Canada. The fashion world is different here from the one I know in Italy.”
The founder of Kem’s Fashion has three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs who are about to launch their business:
- Be bold: “Having your own business can be scary, but it’s important to be brave.”
- Be patient: “Entrepreneurship requires a lot of patience. You can’t expect results right away.”
- Have a good head on your shoulders: “You have to be incredibly organized. Be optimistic, but stay realistic. Don’t jump into unrealistic projects, as you have to know your own limits. You’ll have to ask yourself: “does this ask stay within what I’m able to do?”, “can my employees achieve a certain task?” If it’s not the case, you have to lean to say no.”