Zerrin is a graduate of our Mentoring Women in Business Programme, working together with her mentor ‘La’Vita from May 2019 to May 2020. Read about her experience as a mentee and the impact the programme had on her and her business,
Pioneering entrepreneur Zerrin is the founder of a semi-couture clothing brand based in North Cyprus, who is pursuing her childhood dream of being a fashion designer. Previously, Zerrin studied Marketing at the University of Greenwich, London. She then worked in the marketing and communications field for two years before studying fashion design at the University of Nevada in the United States.
Despite being awarded an ‘Outstanding Emerging Designer’ accolade in Los Angeles in 2012 and presenting her collection at the Orange County Fashion Show, Zerrin realised that, as a designer, she is expected to keep up with key developments and trends in her industry, but also keep up with her competitors. In order to learn how to factor competition into her business, Zerrin applied for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business programme to get support in rewriting her business plan, so she could expand her seasonal collection and better manage her finances.
Zerrin first heard about the Mentoring programme through our partner, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), when she attended one of their seminars. EBRD recommended that Zerrin apply for the programme to work with one of our mentors in order to help tackle her professional needs. As a result, the Foundation paired her with a terrific mentor based in South Africa, ‘La’Vita—also an entrepreneur, and runs a business consultancy. ‘La’Vita’s expertise in business planning, financial management, marketing, and personal development made her a great match for Zerrin.
During their year together, the pair collaborated to rewrite Zerrin’s business plan and cash flow forecast. Zerrin was able to think through things she had never considered before, thanks to her mentor prompting and initiating ideas. During their monthly meetings, ‘La’Vita challenged her with various questions “that [would] brighten and widen [her] perception and challenged [her] in a positive way”. Through this method, the pair were able to brainstorm ideas and note down the long-term strategy for Zerrin’s business. Zerrin is positive that working with her mentor to develop a new sub-brand helped her to increase profit.
As well as making changes to her business plan and forming a new brand, with ‘La’Vita’s help and guidance Zerrin also achieved a better balance between her working and personal life. Together with ‘La’Vita, she created targets on a personal level as well as professionally, and she can now spend more time with her family as a result.
The global COVID-19 pandemic hit just over halfway through Zerrin’s participation in the programme—a terrifying time for small businesses across the world, however Zerrin maintains that, as a creative person, she managed to turn the adversity into an opportunity. The pair had to adapt Zerrin’s business model in order to respond to and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. Zerrin saw this as an opportunity for her to look creatively at innovative approaches and review what to do with her current collections, which remained unsold as a result of the global crisis. Thankfully, the new sub-brand Zerrin launched pre-pandemic is a causal brand which is sold online, which trends well with the current fashion for working-from-home attire, so she believes that she has successfully been able to steer clear form the worst effects of the pandemic.
While working with Zerrin, ‘La’Vita says that she benefitted by forming a long-lasting professional relationship and from exposure to the world of mentorship. She also maintains that the pair achieved their goals due to both having good communication skills and using them effectively to identify business needs and targeted solutions.
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