Mellisa Mazingi

2014 Dartmouth YALI Fellow
Managing Editor, Zim Fashionista and Founder, zedlabel

Mellisa returned home on August 1, 2014 and hit the ground running to launch zedlabel, an online store for local fashion designers created with the objective of increasing the market for locally-designed clothing and accessories. zedlabel is an extension of her existing fashion events and PR company Runway Productions and addresses the need for easy and affordable market infrastructure for fashion designers in Zimbabwe. The YALI experience and the learning and opportunities that came through it re-shaped her business plan such that it came to be much more than just an online store.

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The zedlabel Fashion Finance Program, made possible through a U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) grant she was awarded through YALI, offers loan financing to talented Zimbabwean fashion designers to produce ready-to-wear collections for sale, whilst the zedlabel Fashion Fund Program facilitates training and mentoring for local designers to increase the knowledge pool in the industry. They ran their first Fashion Finance program in November 2014, funding two experienced fashion designers to produce retail collections for the website launch, and opened the website for trade in December 2014. The company is currently running a second Fashion Finance program, funding four young fashion designers - the designers are going through a 3-month training and mentoring program focused on design and fashion as a business. The designers graduated in March 2015 to move on to produce their own retail collections.

zedlabel also has set up a fashion-focused co-workspace that offers low-cost workshop space to local fashion designers to design and produce in a shared work environment. From January to March 2015, zedlabel hosted two interns for work experience and personal growth, including one from Dartmouth College who lived in Zimbabwe and worked alongside the zedlabel team for a period of two months.

In March 2015, Mellisa was invited to be an associate of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance. Locally, she has been participating in the US Embassy's Women's Development Dialogue, which provides mentoring from experienced and accomplished businesswomen, female entrepreneurs, and professionals.

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The John Sloan Dickey Center