Thursday , October 6 2022

Meet MIZIZI, as an age of twenty-four, a Ghanaian American is an African inspiration to stay rooted



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Paakow Essandoh President / Head of MIZIZIThe photos were shot by Fredy Mejia. (@ Bxe.v)

Now that we are all aware that the traditional methodology of the fashion ecosystem has been rewritten; Consumers need an immediate reception of brand information and brand culture has contributed to an important change in the fashion industry. The game has changed and rightly so. Currently, brands must pay attention to the customer's adaptation to fashion trends. Today, the interests of consumer fashion come from a collective response, globalized and with an infinite reach of social networks. In fact, this interruption that has allowed fashion merchants to become closer to their customers; and this may be good if a brand understands how to use this data as a powerful tool to increase the awareness of the brand.

A recent movement that has been on my radar is the accumulation of online communities in the information age. It is about this accumulation in itself that has proved to be one of the most dramatic changes facing the industry today. In a nutshell, the content generated by the user has democratized the industry in general. In addition, social communities are presented as the future power, and may alter the role of brands in a volatile market for men's fashion. This is a reversal of the type of roles within a rapidly changing industry. I would like to introduce an idea in such a way that the interruption of the transition to joining a whole continent together, based on the evolution of the Internet and the significant impact of social networks In the future of fashion, as well as in the future of consumerism itself.

MIZIZI Brazil Jersey. & nbsp; Model: Devarius "Devy Stonez" Jackson.The photos were shot by Fredy Mejia. (@ Bxe.v)

Delivering the right marketing message requires developing a strategy around the collection to attract the interest of potential consumers to product offers. A sure way to achieve positive results is to leave a series of first impressions that will most likely convert into a sales conversion. Like any successful company, the fashion industry is forced to constantly adapt to social and economic changes that undoubtedly impact on supply and demand. But what seems to me most important today is that the consumer concept process is the influential consumer, whose commitment has the power to promote a brand. This is where social innovation begins.

We move forward, the fashion stories of those who form a movement can be better explained by the same individuals. I'm often interested in finding companies that inspire the next generation for profit. It is a wonderful feeling to inspire future generations to succeed and their own leadership potential. I recently found a brand that focuses on the greatest trip to the African diaspora. The information I have compiled is sufficiently convincing and resonant to guarantee a characteristic about the change in the trajectory of clothing brands.

I had the privilege of speaking President of Paakow Essandoh MIZIZI about how the "& nbsp; progressive & nbsp; idea of ​​Africa & nbsp; Diaspora became a powerful brand, & nbsp; where MIZIZI was manufactured & nbsp; and how and why technology has Helped in the development of e-commerce, social networks and technical fabrications?

President and Head of MIZIZI by Paakow EssandohThe photos were shot by Fredy Mejia. (@ Bxe.v)

Joseph De Acetis: talks with Forbes about how, when and why the brand was developed? & Nbsp;Paakow Essandoh: The idea of ​​MIZIZI was born when I was about 19 years old at the University of South Florida, currently studying Biomedical Sciences to become a pharmacist. In my first year at the USF, & nbsp; My intention was to recreate and connect with new and related people. Unfortunately, things are not always so planned and I found myself in this weird social space. I was in a new state, in a new school, with absolutely no one with whom I could relate, even those who shared the same ethnicity as myself. I could not relate to the Africans because, despite my Ghanaian heritage, I was never in spaces to fully experience the growth of my cultural heritage and reached the point where I rejected it. For the early part of my childhood I lived in New Albany, Ohio … look for it. I could not relate to the mainstream African-American, in the sense that I could not ruin it, I could not freestyle and I did not see sports. & Nbsp; My lack of afro-typical hobbies made me feel extremely disconnected from the wider black community. In addition, I could not relate to the people of the Caribbean because, curiously, I did not realize that people still listen to Dancehall music in 2013. I raised refuge in the small suburbs of Ohio and Dallas, so, what did you know out of that? Everything I heard was the music of Dallas and I thought our genuinely good and quality music was all I needed.

MIZIZI started an inspiring friendship between me and my Kenyan friend, George. & Nbsp; George was one of my first good friends in Florida, because although he was directly from Nairobi, Kenya, he was also lonely, halfway across the world in a completely new environment, with no friends either beloved people One thing that I noticed from him is that he would always come to Fresh Foods in our university, with the biggest gear. It was, literally, everything that we bring here to the states, but with the Kenyan fabric stuck to the design. This friendship awakens my inner creative business man and it did not take long to meet and map out all the clothes that we could refer to the United States. I was confident in our market niche and trusted my commercial influence in Dallas. & Nbsp; I noticed that the world still did not know the giant giant 1/2-generation bubble – African workers, many of them creating extremely innovative and drug products. However, I knew that our product would be perfect for this market.
As the idea grew, George and I started exploring options for a clothing label name. & Nbsp; We wrote a list of words related to Africa in some form or form and translated into the mother tongue of George, Swahili. When we arrived at the translation "Roots" and we discovered "MIZIZI", we knew that we did not have to look beyond. After that, I began to strategically investigate US manufacturing partners that could create a wide range of clothing products, from hats to socks. The catch was that I needed to allow me to work remotely. & Nbsp; I wanted the entire process, from product design, to manufacturing, to logistics and distribution, to be a practical experience since I had no idea where my journey was going. However, at the end of this first year year, I decided to leave the USF and go home because it might take a while and imagine what I wanted to do. Before leaving, George and I agreed that it should be MIZIZI's life, because he was too busy for his other efforts. & Nbsp; If it was something I have learned about Africans directly from the continent, it can be very lucrative, especially when they are serious people and George was no exception. With the blessing of George, I went back to Texas and I started growing MIZIZI what you see today. After completing the first course, I took the savings I had and I flew to New York to meet a potential manufacturer with the hope of seeing where the relationship was going. Unfortunately, the relationship was short and the manufacturer has discouraged to start MIZIZI, saying it was too great an idea that would require his factory to acquire more personnel. & Nbsp; I continued, but this time I turned my attention to the fabric district. I went to different fabric stores to see what was their African fabric; cheap I have visited some other manufacturers to see if they could do at least 1 or 2 of the concepts; I clearly remember this moment. I felt defeated in the subway as I walked towards the place of R & D in Harlem. & Nbsp; I thought how far my dreams were pushing after having invested so much. I had to ask myself: "Am I trying to do too much at the same time? If I was really doing too much, how could I reduce it? What was the product I still had the most likely to sell?" I went Think that at that time, baseball jerseys were the current trend and each retailer had his own version of. I decided, very well, that we ran with African Baseball Jersey.
During this time I was still in Plano, Texas living with my mother and working two jobs that changed the course of my life. & Nbsp; My life has changed because they taught me the importance of mental health and the forecast and how your environment can impact. & Nbsp; First of all, I was a sports bar server, sometimes I worked for 14 or more shifts during the management of a lively social life after work. Next, I was also a pharmaceutical technician at a local pharmacy, which was a job that took my life. & Nbsp; I found that going from the animated and conversational atmosphere of the sports bar to the stressful and slow environment in which I was essentially doing jobs for pharmacists outside the document signing was really wrapped up with me I remember spending a few nights out of my garage with my older brother, Anthony, questioning my address. At this time I went to the pharmacy school, so I was also questioning my future decisions. & Nbsp; I could not do it. So, it gave MIZIZI my fuel idea to grow.
As my ideas continued to grow, I noticed that I needed a new location, a new change of pace and a new floor to plant my idea. So really during these 3-4 months at home, I started taking MIZIZI's idea more seriously, because I really had no idea what I was about to do with my life. I decided to go back to school in Tampa and surf the couch until I imagined everything. I started on my Shai friend's sofa and finally I finished at Homie Cj apartment. & Nbsp; I want you to take a moment to imagine: 9 college students in a 4-bedroom apartment with 2 dogs, 2 sugar gliders and an angry cat that smiled everywhere because the owner never fed. We go to sleep completely dressed every night, not letting a single piece of leather touch this sticky black leather sofa. There were days that instantly rose crazy, simply because of the smell that was awakening. Now imagine how this affected the relationships you had with the people. & Nbsp; The few relationships that I had around me were literally crumbling. All my paintings were escaping. And to make a long story, I fell into depression. In retrospect, I noticed this time that in my life it was hard to learn the necessary thing that it was only to have your own space, your own room; where you do not want to face the whirlwind of the world and be for yourself in the name of your own peace. It was hard, it was really. The little money that my mother could send me at this time was dedicated to deciding whether she could continue developing the designs of MIZIZI or if she had to eat that day.I could not give up. & Nbsp; Through a little search online, I was able to find a new manufacturer in California that really helped me prepare the first real designs of MIZIZI at a higher price. I approached, but things were not improving. & Nbsp; After a semester of life, he just struck me, after a uppercut, I found myself wrapped up and down, in my little car, headed for Orlando to leave from Tampa to the summer.

I had a good friend called Zane, who grew up with the one back in Dallas. & Nbsp; Fortunately for me I was currently attending the University of Central Florida. That the friendship turned out to be a saving grace because I needed to be around someone who could be myself, be vulnerable. & Nbsp; I had friends this way in Tampa, but there is something about the time a friendship is in a different way. Zane and I had history. We all spend this summer drinking a lot of rom, doing odd jobs for money, and honestly just keeping the hope alive. I accepted the fact that it would only cost me to make the sweaters by myself. And what was once an African Baseball Jersey had become a complete collection of "Getting Started" with Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea. He now had a 50-page business plan that explains why countries were chosen based on their market size within states, where their populations were located in states that influenced their communities by gaining inventory and followers. & Nbsp; And, coincidentally, there was a tendency for African dad to social networks where everyone would represent the typical father archetype of West Africa, and I only saw the emphasis on the rise of the Afropolità and the its traction within the popular culture. I had an idea of ​​doubt, at the perfect moment, with the know-how to sell, but there are no funds to make it happen. Tragic
However, I started reaching out to all the fashionable African brands around the world to see if anyone was interested in my idea. After all the time I put in that, I aspired to at least get paid royalties and teach someone how to sell. & Nbsp; That by itself would have been a victory for me. I informed about the states, throughout Canada, with partners in London / Europe and finally in the rest of the world. Since there was no true North African Streetwear industry, these local designers and small and medium-sized businesses did not have the resources or the desire to bring MIZIZI to life. It's safe to say that this was my background moment. Imagine working hard on a project and trying to find all the possible solutions to make it happen and each door closes one after the other. He was minimal and was desperate. & Nbsp; Despite the push of rejection, I have been able to establish close contacts with some of the businesses and people I've consulted with. On today's day, I am eternally grateful for the roles each one played individually in my life and what I learned about myself through this adversity. With that, I have had a more tree that I have not lost and I have enough energy to do the move.My friend, Zane, suggested that he speak with the brother of his roommate, who was the co-founder of an exclusive hosting company for celebrities in Miami. & Nbsp; Without a doubt, for many, this company also created custom jerseys for select celebrities. With that in mind, I have used it as an approach strategy. I was talking to the phone saying: "I know that this is not your basic competence, but if you could give me the opportunity to give me the opportunity, I know it's worth adding to your business ". What do you think he said? & nbsp; No, of course. & Nbsp;I was beginning to be very accustomed to rejecting, but this one came with a silver lining. & Nbsp; It was very hesitant to pick up MIZIZI, but he advised you to verify the foreigner to find an affordable manufacturer and headed to a website where I could get a quote. & Nbsp; In the past, I have always been hesitant to do business abroad, simply because if something went wrong, I had no idea how we would get my money. Even so, once I reviewed some different platforms, I received some different quotes, it did not take long to understand that starting at MIZIZI would only be 1/3 of the price that I had been using my previous manufacturer. & Nbsp; Boom In 2 weeks I received my first sample and it was already 10x the quality of the LA manufacturer for a fraction of the cost. I sold! I called all the homies in Texas to let them know that they needed their help for the next stage of MIZIZI's development. Finally, I was getting the traction he had been to pray. I asked for a small sample to use the photo session and go home to Dallas to get things moving.
Once I had the content, I created the website myself, I registered MIZIZI as a DBA and opened my first banking business account. Throughout this process, my mother saw my dedication to MIZIZI and finally I could convince her to be officially my angel investor, who forced her to sell the last one of its shares and invest a total sum of $ 6,000 to finally get MIZIZI out of the ground. $ 4,500 were used for production and manufacturing and the remaining $ 1500 for marketing and additional unforeseen expenses. On August 30, 2015 I sent strategic text messages to all the people on my phone based on their nationality and they asked me if they could retweet / tag or share MIZIZI with anyone who knew who he was. this country They said yes. And that day at 6 p.m. EST, with help from relatives, friends and God, MIZIZI was viral. & Nbsp; All Ghanaian baseball jerseys were sold out in the first 13 minutes, all Naija shirts during the first hour, all Ethiopia jerseys at 3rd hour, and then sold the remaining jerseys at night .

Finally, what started as a personal search of my own identity became an international movement that reminded members of the Diaspora that they stay connected, stay represented and # StayRooted. Since then, my life has changed dramatically. & Nbsp; Now I am responsible for a company that touches almost every corner of the earth and has the mission of truly representing people from all over the world. & Nbsp; Once MIZIZI began, I returned to the USF to finish my senior year. I made every effort to balance the passion of conducting a business and diligence to finish my degree. & Nbsp; Although I went to the stage, I still have 6 credits before the USF provides me the degree. So, if the USF is reading now, and everyone feels good enough to give an honorary title to a boy, do it. Otherwise, I will reach these loans over time. We are working at this time.

MIZIZI Brazil Jersey Model: Devarius "Devy Stonez" Jackson.The photos were shot by Fredy Mejia. (@ Bxe.v)

JD: What is your comparative advantage: what makes you unique?PE: If there is any pattern that is clear in our era of technology, social media and applications, we are all trying to find a way to connect-a way to belong. & Nbsp; The core of MIZIZI consists of the family and the connection with the family through streetwear that represents our heritage. MIZIZI returns to your roots to discover who you are. & Nbsp; Nobody does what we do or how we do it to MIZIZI. Each of our exclusive designs are weaved with unique cultural motifs for this specific country. This serves as a point of connection with our customers, who feel happy to see genuine parts of their culture represented in their shirts, in fact, makes consumers even more attracted to the wide family system that MIZIZI has created. & Nbsp; Even more, MIZIZI has become a source of education for many individuals who do not have much knowledge about their roots. They are capable of studying the designs and self-education about their heritage. Our shirt is not clothing, they are multi-faceted tools that serve the diaspora and anyone who uses them.
JD: Why is it so important to talk about the African diaspora?

PE: Reflecting, fighting and representing the African diaspora is about my personal journey towards the actual update and understanding of my identity. & Nbsp; As a child of an immigrant, my nonimmigrant counterparts did not always receive me very well, and I know that my co-workers of second generation immigrants feel my pain. When I was a child, I deceived myself to believe that being an African came with more shame than pride and I know that the experiences of many people reflected my own. & Nbsp; It's essential to talk about the African diaspora, because my people and Africans need to rewrite what it means to be an African-born homemaker and an African on the continent. At the end of the day, we are the best allies we have. If our Africans do not rewrite our stories, then who does the responsibility? & Nbsp; We all know what happens when foreign history is rewritten, important aspects are lost or incorrectly documented all together. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who realize that they are the best person to solve a specific problem. I am doing my best to increase self-esteem and trust in the Diaspora, while helping everyone to express their cultural identity in a subtle but powerful way. When it looks good, it feels good. And when you feel good, it attracts you great things.
JD: What are the young men who are looking for today in men's fashion? How is it addressed to your needs? – Are we talking about creativity with respect to the current collection?PE: If I am totally honest with you, I have no idea nor has my focus been. We, in MIZIZI, design with the intention of evoking the emotions of anyone and everyone, both men and women. & Nbsp; In fact, MIZIZI was never created to attend to men, my vision was always to represent all the members of the Diaspora through streetwear that evokes an emotional connection. If the product does not move you, then why are we posting it? It is only about cake ice that our product looks good.

JD: What is the title and work responsibilities of the day to day?
PE: my team refers to me as head. My daily roles grow from product design, content creation, content marketing, logistics, etc. However, my strength is in public relations and in reality I am talking about MIZIZI; So come 2019, I want to take the global brand, start logistics and distribution in more countries, and introduce MIZIZI to the world as if it were the best kept secret.

However, I would like to call my team. Little people know that although I am the face of the brand, MIZIZI is a company run by women. My sister, the best friend of more than 12 years and a business partner in crimes, Vivian Asonye is our operations director and is in charge of most of the administrative tasks of MIZIZI. She assures that people handle their shit. My mother, MIZIZI Mama, is our main investor and our warehouse manager. She is in charge of all the points of contact from the moment the customer orders the product to its packaging, sent and delivered from our garage. Next, we also have our beautiful ambassadors of brand Sasha Lane and Poizon Ivy the DJ. Sasha is an actress and stars Alice in the upcoming Hellboy movie scheduled to be released in April. Poizon Ivy is the Dallas Mavericks' DJ and moves the culture wherever I can. Both are sisters that have made you rock, even before MIZIZI, but they still connect and connect the brand everywhere.

Honorable mention to my great brother, Stephen Asonye, ​​also for all the digital marketing jobs he has done for the company. Without him, the online presence of MIZIZI would be a fraction of what is today, and that is why I am eternally grateful. I also want to call Seynabou Ciss & eacute; to be my creative eye, always having reason and having my back despite knowing that I am wrong. Devy Stonez to be my brother whenever I need it and remember every day the life so beautiful that can be when only concentrate on creating. Hayley Mulenda to present the motto of MIZIZI #StayRooted and always keep the family in their prayers. Frank Mensah to be always disinterested in my way of dealing with me, my people and MIZIZI. It is truly inspiring to see someone moving in love. Sergio Lane to be Sasha's rock and be an individual of the drug that allows me to bounce my ideas more fashionable. Dominique Robinson for the loyalty and commitment he has made since the first day and since then has not been vacillating. Coker Themes to save us when we needed it more and be my marriage advice. Sakhile Nkambule reminds me that I am not alone and that I have a network of hard-working people like me who only try to do their best. Obiora Anozie to be the most inspiring person I know. I've never seen someone moving people so easily and from such a good place. If someone deserves to win, you are you, my friend. And, finally, Shahd Batal to remind me that the miracles can happen every day. I love you, thank you for loving me back.

JD: What more celebrity would you like to see using your brand and why?PE: Easily my two great inspirations for celebrities are Bozoma Saint John, a Ghanaian heritage, and Mo Gawdat, who identifies himself as an Egyptian. Bozoma is the epitome of the phenomenal woman of Maya Angelou. She is completely comfortable in her identity and clearly takes advantage of her power. & Nbsp; On the other hand, Gawdat inspires his leadership style and aspires to lead with such vision and vulnerability as he does. I've been listening to your interviews and being motivated by your book. & Nbsp; If there is anyone, you will feel honored to see using MIZIZI, these would be both simply based on the knowledge and understanding they should share.

JD: Where is your product manufactured and why?
PE: MIZIZI is currently manufactured throughout Asia due to fast response times, high quality and affordable cost. However, the manufacturing industry is similar to a large number of congregated, nothing more than fleeting, bouncing on the best conditions to improve. However, the goal is to start producing our T-shirts in Africa before the end of 2019. In order to have a label "Made in Africa", at the same time, promoting local economies would be incredible. With incentives such as the African Growth and Opportunity Law, I think it could be a great opportunity for us if it is positioned correctly. And the truth is said, I look in South Africa right now … let's see how the wind blows.

JD: Who is your favorite icon all the time? give reasons why?
PE: Tell the truth, I have never been the greatest of fashion. & Nbsp; I grew up in my sense of fashion and design, and I'm still learning. & Nbsp; Two men I have studied since the beginning of MIZIZI are Virgil Abloh and Edward Enninful. & Nbsp; Studying what each one of them does with their respective fashion houses this past year, has only inspired them to work more. There are Ghanaians here really doing great things and configuring the world; I aspire to be one of them.

JD: give 3 adjectives to describe your brand and why?

& nbsp; PE: MIZIZI is more than just a piece of clothing, it's authenticity, connection and self-knowledge. It is a declaration of the power that comes from connecting to our roots and feeling culturally represented. Our respective cultures have always been dope and worthy of representation, we now have an exit to do it. "The beautiful and new African boy of the block" also works very well.

JD: How did you help your technology (if there is) its evolution – be specific – e-commerce, social networks, technology in manufacturing?

PE: I run the whole business from the palm of my hand. We live in a day and age where it is possible to travel the world, although passively spend passages at the same time, all for the ease of access to the global market that we have at our disposal. MIZIZI is completely electronic commerce and we use digital marketing through social networking platforms to spread our movement. & Nbsp; Without technological advances only in the last decade, MIZIZI would not be alive or growing as quickly as it did. And I appreciate having noticed this at such an early age and take full advantage of it. I believe in "luck" and in business, Lady Fortune only smiles those who are prepared.

JD: What is the biggest risk for developing the brand?

PE: My biggest risk with MIZIZI has been to manage the strong growth of the brand, at the same time as replacing the resources of the company and developing myself as a leader. & Nbsp; As a leader, my company can only grow as much personally as personally and personally. Odiaria que MIZIZI s&#39;alineés perquè jo i el meu equip no podien manejar la responsabilitat d&#39;aquest moviment. & Nbsp; La idea de MIZIZI és més gran que jo, només sóc el vaixell aquí per portar-lo al món.

JD: Quin és el teu màxim èxit?

PE: Honestament, el meu major assoliment és jo mateix. & Nbsp; Quan em trobo i penso en això, la transformació i el creixement que he viscut en mi durant els últims 3 anys és realment boig. & Nbsp; Vaig estar en el punt més baix de la meva vida quan vaig portar vida a MIZIZI, que acaba de demostrar que la creació és una de les millors formes d&#39;antidepressius. & Nbsp; En retrospectiva, he de dir que sóc el meu major assoliment, perquè aquest viatge amb MIZIZI és simplement un reflex del viatge d&#39;identificació que he seguit amb mi. & Nbsp; No puc esperar per veure quin tipus d&#39;home tenim en 10 anys i, consegüentment, quin tipus d&#39;empresa MIZIZI és també.

No obstant això, suposo que partenariar amb un conglomerat d&#39;entreteniment de mil milions de dòlars per alliberar el Jersei de beisbol de Wakanda oficialment llicenciat en honor a una estrena de pel·lícula tan monumental de només 3 anys, sens dubte és un finalista proper.


JD: Quina és la vostra estratègia de creixement per als propers 5 anys?

PE: Honestament, la meva estratègia de creixement per a MIZIZI és per a mi fer el que faig millor: sóc jo mateix. & Nbsp; L&#39;objectiu és convertir-se en una marca d&#39;estil de vida totalment realitzada que ofereix un vestit esportiu a tots els membres de la Diàspora i més enllà. & Nbsp; Durant aquest procés, MIZIZI espera patrocinar organitzacions, lligues i països per esdeveniments esportius internacionals com els Jocs Olímpics i la Copa del Món. Des de la seva creació, MIZIZI ha comptat amb innombrables plans de negocis, contractes i presentacions per seguir endavant. & Nbsp; Tanmateix, al llarg d&#39;aquesta experiència vaig aprendre una lliçó integral sobre la connexió i la manifestació. Sóc un ferm creient que, sense importar on visiteu, sempre que tinc el meu espai, les persones adequades gravitaran cap a mi en el moment adequat. Déu m&#39;ha portat. I això és com anem a rockar.

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Paakow Essandoh President / Cap de MIZIZILes fotos van ser rodades per Fredy Mejia. (@ Bxe.v)

Ara que tots som conscients que la metodologia tradicional de l&#39;ecosistema de la moda ha estat reescrita; els consumidors necessiten una immediata recepció de la informació de la marca i la cultura de la marca ha contribuït a un important canvi en la indústria de la moda. El joc ha canviat i amb raó. Actualment, les marques han de prestar atenció a l&#39;adaptació del client a les tendències de la moda. Avui en dia, els interessos de la moda dels consumidors provenen d&#39;una resposta col·lectiva, globalitzada i amb un abast infinit de les xarxes socials. De fet, aquesta interrupció que ha permès als mercaders de moda esdevenir més propers als seus clients; and that can be a good thing if a brand understands how to use this data as a powerful tool to increase brand awareness.

One recent movement that has been on my radar is social media&#39;s build-up of online communities in the information age. It is this buildup in itself that has proven to be one of the most dramatic shifts facing the industry today. In a word, the user-generated content has democratized the industry overall. Additionally, the social communities are slated to be the future power, being able to alter a brands role in a volatile menswear marketplace. It is a role-reversal of sorts within a rapidly changing industry. I would like to introduce one such fashion idea that transitioned disruption into uniting an entire continent together, based on the evolution of the internet and the significant impact of social networks on the future of fashion as well as the future of consumerism itself.

MIZIZI Brazil Jersey.  Model: Devarius “Devy Stonez” Jackson.Photos were shot by Fredy Mejia.(@bxe.v)

Delivering the right marketing message requires crafting a strategy around the collection to pique the interest of potential consumers to the product offerings. A sure-fire way to achieve positive results is to leave a string of first impressions that will hopefully develop into a sales conversion. Like any successful enterprise, the fashion industry is required to consistently adapt to social and economic changes that surely impact supply and demand. But what I find most important today is the process of concept to consumption is the influential consumers whose engagement has the power to push a brand forward. This is where social innovation begins.

Let&#39;s face it, The fashion stories of those who shape a movement can be best told by the individuals themselves. I am quite often intrigued to find companies who inspire the next generation toward achievement. It is a wonderful feeling to inspire future generations toward success and their own leadership potential. I recently came across a brand that is focused on the greater journey of African Diaspora. The information that I collected is sufficiently compelling and resonant to warrant a feature about the change in trajectory of apparel brands.

I  had the privilege to speak with Paakow Essandoh President of MIZIZI about how the a progressive idea of African Diaspora developed into a powerful brand, where MIZIZI is manufactured and how and why technology has aided in the development of e-commerce, social media and  technical fabrications?

Paakow Essandoh President and Chief of MIZIZIPhotos were shot by Fredy Mejia.(@bxe.v)

Joseph De Acetis: Talk to Forbes about how, when and why the brand developed? Paakow Essandoh: The idea of MIZIZI was born when I was around 19 years old at the University of South Florida, currently studying Biomedical Sciences in order to become a Pharmacist. In my freshman year at the USF,  my intention was to recreate myself and connect with new like minded people. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned and I found myself in this weird social space. I was in a new state, at a new school, with absolutely no one I could relate to, even those who shared the same ethnic background as me. I couldn’t relate to Africans because despite my Ghanaian heritage, I was never in spaces to fully experience my cultural heritage growing up and it came to the point where I rejected it. For the beginning portion of my childhood I lived in New Albany, Ohio… look it up. I couldn’t relate to the mainstream African-American man in the sense that I couldn’t hoop, I couldn’t freestyle, and I didn’t watch sports.  My lack of Afro-typical hobbies made me feel extremely disconnected from the wider black community. Evermore, I couldn’t relate to Caribbean people because oddly enough, I didn’t realize that people still listened to Dancehall music in 2013. I grew up sheltered in small suburbs of Ohio and Dallas, so what did I know outside of that? All I listened to was Dallas music and I thought that our genuinely good, quality music was all that I needed.

MIZIZI eventually started out of a inspiring friendship between me and my Kenyan friend, George.  George was one of my first good friends in Florida, because although he was straight from Nairobi, Kenya, he too was alone, halfway across the world in a completely new environment with no friends or loved ones around. Something I noticed about him is that he would always come into Fresh Foods at our university, with the flyest gear on. It was literally everything we wore over here in the states, but with Kenyan fabric stitched into the design. This friendship awakened my inner creative businessman and it wasn’t long before we were getting together and mapping out all the clothing we could cross reference over in the US. I was confident in our niche market and I was confident in my selling influence in Dallas.  I realized that the world was still unaware of the giant bubble of 1st/2nd generation-African creatives out there, many of them creating extremely innovative and dope products. Nonetheless, I knew our product would be perfect for this market.
As the idea grew, George and I decided to begin exploring options for a clothing label name.  We wrote down a list of words that were related to Africa in some shape or form and translated each into George’s native tongue, Swahili. By the time we got down to the “Roots” translation and discovered “MIZIZI,”  we knew we had to look no further. After that I began strategically researching U.S. manufacturing partners who could create a wide range of clothing products, from popular hats all the way down to socks. The catch was that it needed to allow me to work remotely.  I wanted the entire process, from product design, to manufacturing, to logistics and distribution, to be a hands off experience since I had no idea where my journey was heading. However, by the end of that freshman year, I decided I wanted to leave USF and return home so I could take some time off and figure out what I wanted to do. Prior to leaving, George and I agreed that I would have to be the one to bring MIZIZI to life, since he was too occupied by his other endeavors.  If it was one thing I’ve learnt about Africans straight from the continent, is that they can be really lucrative, ESPECIALLY when they’re serious people, and George wasn’t an exception. With George’s blessing, I went back to Texas and began to grow MIZIZI into what you see today. Once freshman year ended, I took what savings I had and flew myself to New York to meet with a potential manufacturer in hopes of seeing where the relationship would go. Unfortunately, the relationship was short lived and the manufacturer discouraged me from starting MIZIZI, claiming it was too big of an idea which would require his factory to acquire more staff.  I kept going, but this time I directed my attention toward the fabric district. I went to different fabric shops to see what their African fabric was like; cheap. I visited a few more manufacturers to see if they could do at least 1 or 2 of the concepts; expensive. I remember that moment clearly. I felt defeated on the subway as I rode towards my homie R’el’s place in Harlem.  I kept thinking about how far back my dreams were being pushed after having invested so much already. I had to ask myself, “Am trying to do too much at once? If in fact I was doing too much, how could I downsize this? What was the 1 product that still had the highest probability of actually selling?” I figured that at the time, baseball jerseys were the current trend and every retailer had their own version of one. I decided, alright cool, lets run with the Africa Baseball Jersey then.
During this time I was still in Plano, Texas living with my mother and working two jobs that changed the course of my life.  They changed my life because they taught me how important mental health and foresight are and how your environment can impact that.  Firstly, I was a server at a sports bar, sometimes working 14+ hour shifts while managing a lively social life after work. Then, I was also a pharmacist technician at a local drugstore, which was a job that drained the life out of me.  I found that going from the lively and conversational environment of the sports bar to the stressful and slow environment in which I was essentially doing the pharmacists jobs outside of signing documents, was really messing with me. I remember spending nights outside of my garage with my big brother Anthony questioning my direction. At this time I was going to school for pharmacy so I was questioning my future decisions too.  I couldn’t do it. So it gave my MIZIZI idea fuel to grow.
As my ideas continued to grow, I realized that I needed a new location, a new change of pace, and some new soil to plant my idea.So it was really during those 3-4 months back at home made me start taking the idea of MIZIZI more seriously, cause I really had no idea what I was about to do with my life. I decided to go back to school in Tampa and couch surf until I figured everything out. I started on my friend Shai’s couch and eventually ended up at my homie Cj’s apartment.  I want you take a moment to imagine this: 9 college guys in a 4 bedroom apartment with 2 dogs, 2 sugar gliders, and an angry cat that hissed at everyone because the owner never fed it. I would literally go to sleep fully-clothed every night, not letting a single piece of skin touch that sticky black leather couch. There were days I would instantly rise up mad, simply because of whatever smell I was waking up to. Now imagine how that affected the relations I had with people.  The few relationships I had around me out there were literally crumbling. All of my grades were slipping. And to make a long story short I was falling into depression. In hindsight, I realize this time in my life was about me learning the hard way how necessary it was to just to be able have your own space, your own room; where you just don’t want to deal with the whirlwind of the world and be to yourself for the sake of your own peace. It was rough, it really was. What little money my mom could send me at the time was now being spent on decideding whether I could further develop MIZIZI’s designs or if I should eat that day.I couldn’t give up.  Through a bit of online searching I was able to find a new manufacturer in California who really helped me flesh the first real MIZIZI designs out at a premium price. I was getting closer, but things weren’t getting better.  After a semester of Life just knocking me out, uppercut after uppercut, I found myself packed and flying down ’75, in my little beat up car, headed to Orlando to get the hell out of Tampa for the summer.

I had a good friend named Zane who I grew up with back in the day in Dallas.  Lucky for me he was currently attending the University of Central Florida. That friendship turned out to be a saving grace because I needed to be around someone I could be myself around, be vulnerable with.  I had some friends like that in Tampa, but there’s something about time that ages a friendship in a different kind of way. Zane and I had history. All and all we spent that summer drinking a bunch of rum, doing odd jobs for money, and honestly just keeping hope alive. I accepted the fact that it would just be too expensive for me to manufacture the jerseys by myself. And what was once originally an Africa Baseball Jersey had now developed into a full “Starting Lineup” collection, complete with Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. By now I had a 50 page business plan explaining why the countries were chosen based on their market size within the states, where their populations were located in the states, and which influencers in their communities were gaining inventory and followers.  And coincidentally, there was an African Dad trend catching on social media where everyone would impersonate the typical West African father archetype and I was already just seeing the rise of the Afropolitan being highlighted and how it was gaining traction within pop culture. I had a dope idea, during the perfect time, with the know-how to sell it, but no funds to make it happen. Tragic.
Nevertheless, I started reaching out to all the African streetwear brands throughout the world to see if anybody was interested in my idea. After all the time I put into it, I aspired to at least get paid royalties and teach someone else how to sell it.  This in itself would have been a win for me. I inquired around the states, throughout Canada, with associates in London/Europe and finally throughout the rest of the world. Since there was not a true industry leader for African Streetwear, these local designers and small / medium sized businesses didn’t have the resources or desire to bring MIZIZI to life. It’s safe to say this was my rock bottom moment. Imagine working so hard on a project and trying to find every solution possible to make it happen and each door getting shut one after another. I was at my lowest of lows and I was desperate.  Despite the sting of rejection, I was able to make close connections with some of the businesses and individuals I inquired with. To this day, I am eternally thankful for the roles that they each individually played in my life and what I learned about myself through that adversity. With that being said, I had one more tree that I hadn’t barked up and I had just enough energy to make the move.My friend, Zane, suggested that I speak with his roommate’s step brother, who was the cofounder of an exclusive event hosting company for celebrities in Miami.  Unbeknownst to many, this company also created customized jerseys for select celebrities as well. With this in mind, I used it as my approach strategy. I was literally on the phone saying “Yo, I know this isn’t your core competency but if you could please just give me chance man, I know it’ll be worth adding to your business.” What do you think he said?  No, of course. I was starting to get too used to rejections, but this one came with a silver lining.  He was extremely hesitant to pick up MIZIZI, but he advised that I check overseas instead to find an affordable manufacturer and directed me towards a website I could receive a quote.  In the past, I had always been hesitant with doing business overseas simply because if something went wrong, I had no idea how I would get my money back. Still, once I checked a few different platforms, received a few different quotes, it wasn’t long before I realized that starting MIZIZI would only be a 1/3rd of the price than it would have been using any of my previous manufacturer.  Boom. Within 2 weeks time I received my first sample and it was already 10x the quality of the LA manufacturer for a fraction of the cost. I WAS SOLD! I called all the homies in Texas to let them know I needed their help for the next stage of MIZIZI’s development. Finally, I was getting the traction I had been praying for. I ordered a small sample order to use for the photoshoot and flew back home to Dallas to finally get things in motion.
Once I had the content, I built the website myself, registered MIZIZI as a DBA and opened up my first bank business bank account. Throughout this process, my mom saw my dedication towards MIZIZI and I was finally able to convince her to officially be my angel investor, which required her to sell the last of her stocks and invest a total sum of $6000 to finally get MIZIZI off the ground. $4500 was used for production and manufacturing and the remaining $1500 for marketing and any additional unforeseen expenses. On of August 30th, 2015 I strategically texted every person in my phone based off their nationality and asked if they could retweet/tag or share MIZIZI with anybody that they knew who was from that country. They said yes. And on that day at 6pm EST, with the help of family, friends, and God, MIZIZI went viral.  All the Ghana baseball jerseys were sold out in the first 13 minutes, all of Naija jerseys within the first hour, all of the Ethiopia jerseys by the 3rd hour, and then the remaining jerseys sold overnight.

To sum it all up, what started as a personal search for my own identity grew into an international movement that reminded members of the Diaspora to stay connected, to stay represented, and to #StayRooted.Since then, my life has changed dramatically.  I am now responsible for a company that touches almost every corner of the earth and has a mission to authentically represent people all over the globe.  Once MIZIZI launched, I went back to USF to finish my senior year. I tried my best to balance the passion of running a business and the diligence to finish my degree.  Although I walked the stage, I still have 6 credits to go before USF provides me with my degree. So hi, if USF is reading this right now, and anyone is feeling generous enough to give ya boy an honorary degree, please do. If not, I’ll get to those loans eventually. We’re working right now.

MIZIZI Brazil Jersey Model: Devarius “Devy Stonez” Jackson.Photos were shot by Fredy Mejia.(@bxe.v)

JD: What is your comparative advantage – what makes you unique?PE: If there’s any pattern that is clear in our age of technology, social media, and apps, we’re all trying to find a way to connect—a way to belong.  The core of MIZIZI is all about family and connecting to family through streetwear that represents our heritage. MIZIZI is about going back to your roots to discover who you really are.  No one does what we do or how we do it at MIZIZI. Each of our exclusive designs are woven with cultural motifs that are unique to that specific country. This serves as a connecting point with our customers, who are overjoyed to see authentic parts of their culture represented in the jerseys—in fact, it makes consumers even more drawn to the extended family system that MIZIZI has created.  Even more so, MIZIZI has become a source of education for many individuals who are not well versed on their roots. They are able to study the designs and self educated themselves on their heritage. Our jersey’s aren’t pieces of clothing, they’re multi-faceted tools used to serve the Diaspora and anyone that wears them.

JD: Why is it so important for your to talk about African Diaspora?

PE: Reflecting, brainstorming, and representing the African Diaspora is all about of my personal journey towards self actualization and understanding my identity.  As a child of an immigrant, I wasn’t always well received by my nonimmigrant counterparts and I know my fellow second generation immigrants feel my pain. As a child, I was deceived into believing that being African came with more shame than pride and I know many people’s experiences reflected my own.  It is crucial to talk about the African Diaspora, because my people, African people, need to rewrite what it means to be an African outside of your home and an African on the continent. At the end of the day, we are the best allies that we have. If our stories aren’t being rewritten by Africans, then who does the responsibility go to?  We all know what happens when one’s story is rewritten from the outside—important aspects are lost or incorrectly documented all together. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who realize they’re the best person to solve a specific problem. I’m just doing my part in uplifting the self-esteem and confidence of the Diaspora, while also helping everyone express their cultural identity in a subtle but powerful way. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you attract great things to you.
JD: What are young men seeking in menswear today? How are you addressing their needs. – talk to us about the creative with respect to the current collection?PE: If I’m being completely honest with you, I have no idea nor has it been my focus. We at MIZIZI, design with the intention to evoke emotions out of anyone and everyone—men and women alike.  In fact, MIZIZI was never created to cater to men, my vision was always to represent every member of the Diaspora through streetwear that evokes an emotional connection. If the product doesn’t move you, then why are we releasing it? It’s only icing on the cake that our product looks this damn good.

JD: What is your title and your day to day job responsibilities?
PE: My team refers to me as The Chief. My day to day roles are ever-growing from product design, content creation, content marketing, logistics, etc. However, my strength is in public relations and actually spreading the word about MIZIZI; so come 2019, I want to take the brand global, start setting up logistics and distribution in more countries, and introduce MIZIZI to the world like it’s the next best kept secret.

I would like to give a shoutout to my team though. Little do people know that although I&#39;m the face of the brand, MIZIZI is a women led company. My sister, best friend of 12+ years, and business partner in crime Vivian Asonye is our Chief Operations Officer and handles most of the administrative work for MIZIZI. She makes sure that people are handling their shit. My mother, MIZIZI Mama, is our primary investor and our warehouse manager. She handles all points of contact from when the customer orders the product to when its packaged, shipped, and delivered from our garage. Then we also have our beautiful brand ambassadors Sasha Lane and Poizon Ivy the DJ. Sasha is an actress and is playing the lead role Alice in the next Hellboy film scheduled to release in April. Poizon Ivy is the DJ for the Dallas Mavericks and moves the culture forward wherever she can. Both are sisters to me that have been rocking with me even before MIZIZI, but still plug and connect the brand everywhere they go.

Honorable mention to my big bro Stephen Asonye as well for all the digital marketing work he has done for the company. Without him, MIZIZI&#39;s online presence would be a fraction of what it is today, and for that I&#39;m eternally grateful. I also want to shoutout Seynabou Cissé for being my creative eye, always being right and having my back even when knowing I&#39;m in the wrong. Devy Stonez for being my brother whenever I need him to be and reminding me every day how beautiful life can be when you just focus on creating. Hayley Mulenda for coming up with MIZIZI&#39;s slogan #StayRooted and always keeping the family in her prayers. Frank Mensah for always being selfless in how he&#39;s treated me, my people, and MIZIZI. It&#39;s truly inspiring to see someone who moves out of love. Sergio Lane for being Sasha’s rock and being a dope individual that allows me to bounce my most fashionable ideas off of. Dominique Robinson for the loyalty and commitment he&#39;s made since day one and hasn&#39;t wavered since. Temi Coker for saving us when we needed it most and being my go-to for marriage advice. Sakhile Nkambule for reminding me that I&#39;m not in this alone and that I have a network of hard workers just like me who are just trying their best. Obiora Anozie for being the most inspirational person I know. I have never seen someone who moves people so effortlessly and from such a good place. If anyone deserves to win, it&#39;s you, my friend. And lastly Shahd Batal for reminding me that miracles can happen every day. I love you guys, thank you for loving me back.

JD: Which celebrity would like most to see wearing your brand and why?PE: Easily my two biggest celebrity inspirations are Bozoma Saint John, who is of Ghanaian heritage,  and Mo Gawdat, who identifies as Egyptian. Bozoma is the epitome of Maya Angelou’s phenomenal woman. She’s completely comfortable in her identity and clearly draws her power from it.  On the other hand, Gawdat inspires me with his leadership style and I aspire to lead with as much foresight and vulnerability as he does. I’ve been listening to his interviews and been feeling motivated by his book as well.  If there’s anyone I would feel honored to see wearing MIZIZI, it would be those two, simply based on how much knowledge and insight they have to share.

JD: Where is your product manufactured and why?
PE: MIZIZI is currently manufactured throughout Asia due to quick turnaround times, the high quality, and the affordable cost. However, the manufacturing industry is similar to a gaggle of flocking geese, nothing but fleeting, bouncing from best condition to better. Nonetheless, the goal is to start producing our jerseys in Africa before 2019’s end. To be able to have a “Made in Africa” tag while simultaneously boosting local economies would be incredible. With incentives like the African Growth and Opportunities Act, I think it could be a great opportunity for us if positioned correctly. And truth be told, I have my eye on South Africa right now…let’s see how the wind blows.

JD: Who is your favorite all time style icon? give reasons why?
PE: Truth be told, I was never the biggest fashion guy growing up.  I grew into my sense of fashion and eye for design, and I’m still learning.  Two men I have studied since MIZIZI’s inception are Virgil Abloh and Edward Enninful.  Studying what each of them have been doing with their respective fashion houses this past year alone, has only inspired me to work harder. There are Ghanaians out here really doing great things and shaping the world; I aspire to be one of them.

JD: Give me 3 adjective to describe your brand and why?

PE: MIZIZI is more than just a piece of clothing, it’s authenticity, connection, and self-awareness. It’s a statement of the power that comes from being connected to our roots and feeling culturally represented. Our respective cultures have always been dope and deserving of representation, now we have an outlet to do so. “The cool, new, African kid on the block” works pretty well too.

JD: How has technology ( if any) aided your development – be specific – e-commerce, social media, tech in fabrications?

PE: I run my entire business from the palm of my hand. We live in a day and age where it’s possible to be traveling the world-while still passively making income at the same time, all because of the ease of access into the global marketplace that’s at our fingertips. MIZIZI is completely e-commerce and we utilize digital marketing across social media platforms to spread our movement.  Without technology’s advances in the last decade alone, MIZIZI wouldn’t be alive nor growing nearly as rapidly as it has. And I am grateful to have taken note of this at such a young age and utilizing it to my full advantage. I do believe in “luck” and in business, Lady Fortune only smiles at those who are prepared.

JD: What is your biggest risk in developing the brand?

PE: My biggest risk with MIZIZI has been managing the intense growth of the brand, while simultaneously replenishing the company’s resources and developing myself as a leader.  As a leader, my company can only grow as much as I personally develop myself and my team. I would hate for MIZIZI to plateau because me and my team were not able to handle the responsibility of this movement.  The idea of MIZIZI is bigger than me, I’m just the vessel here to bring it into the world.

JD: What is your greatest achievement?

PE: Honestly, my greatest achievement is myself.  When I sit down and think about it, the transformation and growth that I’ve witnessed within myself in the last 3 years is actually crazy.  I was at the lowest point of my life when I brought MIZIZI to life, which just goes to show that creating is one of the best forms of antidepressants.  In hindsight, I have to say that I am my greatest achievement, because this journey with MIZIZI is simply a reflection of the identify journey I have been on with myself.  I can’t wait to see what kind of man I am in 10 years and consequentially what kind of company MIZIZI is as well.

However, I suppose partnering with a multi-billion dollar entertainment conglomerate to release the officially licensed Wakanda Baseball Jersey in honor of such a monumental movie release at only 3 years old is definitely a close runner-up though.


JD: What is your growth strategy for the next 5 years?

PE: Honestly, my growth strategy for MIZIZI is for me to do what I do best—be myself.  The goal is to become a fully realized lifestyle brand that provides athleisure wear to all members of the Diaspora and beyond.  During this process, MIZIZI hopes to sponsor organizations, leagues, and countries for international sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup. Since it’s inception, MIZIZI has had countless business plans, contracts, and presentations to further it’s future.  However, throughout this experience I learned an integral lesson about connection and manifesting. I’m a firm believer that no matter where I go, as long as I’m owning my space, the right people will gravitate towards me at the right time. God’s got me. And that’s just how we’re gonna rock.

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