One of the key challenges often facing talented and ambitious African women fashion designers is how to access global markets and successfully position their brands to international buyers. Tamara Watkins and her business partner Akila Hunte have a solution - their passion for raising awareness of emerging design talent, particularly from the African continent, led the team to set up an online marketplace, shopDOKU.com, retailing the creations of emerging designers to buyers in North America and the United Kingdom.
What does your company do?
We are an e-commerce based retailer of women's apparel and accessories to women in North America and the United Kingdom. DOKU is the premier online marketplace offering access to the latest trends from a wide range of globally acclaimed emerging designers.
Through our website, we offer unprecedented access to a growing number of designers from all over the world, including places like Ethiopia and Ghana in Africa, and elsewhere, Chile, Singapore, New York, and more. Wherever there is a strong fashion presence, DOKU will take you there.
"After travelling to a few countries in Africa, we fell in love with the emerging fashion design talent."
What inspired you to start your company?
After travelling to a few countries in Africa, we fell in love with the emerging fashion design talent. However, when we returned to the States, we found it very difficult to support those designers (high shipping costs, delayed correspondence, etc). After getting feedback from a few friends, we decided to launch shopDOKU.com a platform that would give fashion designers across the world access to customers beyond their local markets. Currently, we are retailing African designers such as Ame’yo (Ghana), ZAAF Handbags (Ethiopia) and Bello/Edu (Ghana). Many of the designers we feature currently boast a list of celebrity clients like Kim Kardashian-West, Erykah Badu, and Beyonce.
Why should anyone use your shopDOKU.com online platform?
You are directly supporting and helping to employ local artisans in Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Singapore, India and more. We offer designs and products from many of Africa’s most exciting emerging fashion designers, so if you are located in North America or the United Kingdom, then we can ship to you directly and ensure a quality product, as we inspect all the garments.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Both of us, (Tomara Watkins and Akila Hunte), as founders of ShopDoku.com have parents that are entrepreneurs. We have always been dreamers since we met in college at Howard University in Washington, D.C. We formed a friendship and travelled together. We literally fell in love with all the designers we met on our journeys and just knew that we weren't the only ones who wanted to look as fabulous as the women in the places we traveled. It took us a year to officially launch the website, as there was a TON of work to do, such as sourcing the designers, taking the photographs, developing a marketing plan, raising money and working with a development team to build the site.
"Through our website, we offer unprecedented access to a growing number of designers from all over the world, including places like Ethiopia and Ghana."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We would love to continue to grow the brands that we retail, in addition to growing our sales. We want to have a designer on our site from every country in the world. Our goal is for shopDOKU.com to be a global closet for the culturally fashionable woman.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Knowing that you are making a difference. There is also the aspect of being in charge of yourself professionally.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Why LoA loves it….
At LoA, we love that fact that these innovative young entrepreneurs have a genuine passion for African women’s design and fashion, and are leveraging their online talents to bring the world’s most exciting markets and buyers to Africa’s most talented women fashionpreneurs. Such wonderful exposure for these unique African fashion brands will open up new markets and help these women fashionpreneurs to build genuinely exciting and truly global brands that will make people sit up and take notice. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa