Maseru – United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean, Petronella Tayamika Mahachi Hughes is in the running for a prestigious mentorship programme with Mielle Cosmetics CEO, Monique Rodriguez, if she makes it to the top 10 of a global entrepreneurship programme she is involved in.
Taya, as she prefers to be called, is one of 60 black women from across the globe selected by the United States-based, Mielle Organics, for a global entrepreneurship scholarship with Rutgers University and Newark Business Hub.
Taya told The Southern Times Arts this week that she has already completed the first stage of the one-year-long programme.
“The final 10 women will be selected and flown to South Africa for mentorship with Monique Rodriguez the CEO of Mielle Cosmetics. The final 10 women also get to present their business plan to a top-notch global investment bank Goldmans Sachs which will invest in these businesses through this scholarship. I couldn’t be more grateful for such an amazing opportunity,” said Taya.
Besides the scholarship, the Liverpool-based designer has had a busy schedule this year.
She spent some time working on artwork for Statues Redressed: The Documentary.
“I created African Print Ruff Collars for 3 Explorer Statues and a wedding dress for the famous Eleanor Rigby Statue in Liverpool. We came out of lockdown in the UK in July as a result people that weren’t able to do wedding ceremonies during the pandemic had their ceremonies rebooked for a date after the lockdown. So, I had a couple of wedding orders. One really big one that took a lot of hours. I then also started filming for The Statues redresses documentary which aired on Sky TV this October.”
From losing family and friends to COVID-19, to stepping away from her design studio to focus on “home schooling my children”, the past two years have been a rollercoaster.
“Being a fashion designer, my career was almost put on hold, everyone had to deal with the emergency which was mask making and making scrubs for hospitals.”
Taya also counselled African artistes and designers to be original.
“Authenticity is a must. Understand yourself as an individual, understand your style. Just keep creating until you find your voice. Branding is important. You need to create a brand that is targeted at a global audience, don’t create a brand for a particular race or demographic if you are trying to be a global brand. Create a brand for a particular persona.”
And despite all the challenges, Taya still had major highlights this year.
“The highs have been high and the lows have been low. It’s been a tough year to navigate but I pushed on regardless. I would say meeting the Queen’s daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, is one of my highlights. It was such an honour to be invited to a private tea party where I got a personal introduction to the Princess and talked to her about my artwork, The African Print Ruff collars that were exhibited at the venue during her visit.
“Featuring on the Sky TV documentary, having photos of my work in all the national papers across the UK and the photo exhibitions of her work in public view in Liverpool was a highlight.
“The global entrepreneurship scholarship is also something I am immensely grateful for. It’s moments like this that make it all worthwhile. In all of it I am still proudly Zimbabwean,” said Taya.