Does my startup look big in this? Mixing startups and style

By: Editorial Team 


What can entrepreneurs learn from fashionistas? More than you would think, says Perry Kamel, business development lead for Microsoft 4Afrika. At first glance they may seem poles apart. But as a lover of fashion and through her role supporting African small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Perry has found the parallels useful in her own approach to the workplace, and in guiding budding entrepreneurs.

Plan B, C and D

In entrepreneurship as in fashion, sometimes the best ideas appear as alternatives, rather than the initial strategy, suggests Perry. “For example,” she says, “when you have planned an outfit of black and white stripes, but you can’t find your black blazer so you pull out a yellow one, and it looks amazing!”

She continues: “In the business world, sometimes the best solutions are in response to a need, and tapping into what consumers need can be more productive than what you originally planned to push in the market.” This also offers a vital lesson in learning to roll with the punches, according to Perry. Entrepreneurs need to be flexible and adaptable to make the most of exciting possibilities when they arise – no matter how unexpected.

Make room for your passion

Entrepreneurs tend towards obsession, working and thinking about work every day. But “work life balance” isn’t just a nice to have. Perry believes it’s important to make time for your hobbies, passions and family, and not to think of yourself as one-dimensional.

“I try to integrate my passions into my daily routine. I am an early riser by nature, so I spend my first two hours going through Vogue, Marie Claire, Glamour and Elle, and so on, before I get immersed in work. This allows me to feel that I have put myself first and done what brings sunshine to my day,” she says.

Dress for success

Of course, a sharp suit won’t save you if you haven’t done your ‘homework’ first – polished your business plan and strategy, worked with the numbers for realistic projections and good data. Still, Perry argues, dressing the part can affect how you are perceived, and critically how you feel about yourself and your start up.

“Definitely your overall look makes a statement about your level of confidence, the level of care you show to the people you are going to meet. And it can reflect some key aspects of your personality, such as whether you are more passive or aggressive, for example. For an interview or potential funding meeting, Perry advises you wear black and white to reflect confidence, professionalism and drive focus to the conversation at hand.

Seek connections

Finally, Perry believes that fashion can help us stay connected to ourselves and to broader trends, as fashion often reflects the mood of a society. “I believe that when you reach out to fashion, you get connected to your inner self and what is happening around you at the same time,” she says.

As part of this, color trends, flashbacks and futuristic looks all reflect something – such as an economic downturn, a booming bull market, positivity and excitement or negativity and austerity. A move towards green sourcing on the runway reflects a general interest in sustainability – and that’s insight any entrepreneur worth their salt should be able to exploit!


“The entrepreneurship world is as dynamic as the fashion world. Both of them are in constant evolution, there is always a new trend to follow, a new community to belong to, a new idea that is under the spot light,” explains Perry. “Adopt the trends that work for you and leave the rest – but keep an eye on the bigger picture too. It never hurts to be informed and aware, even if it’s not the right ‘fit’ for you.”


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