Zimbabwean banker quits job to open UK fashion boutique

(l-r) Tafadzwa Dhliwayo with sister and business partner Tatenda.

A woman has given up her job with a New York investment bank to open a shop in Middlesbrough in pursuit of her dream of creating a global fashion brand.

Twenty-seven-year old Tafadzwa Dhliwayo says hard work and business is in her blood.  At the age of 12 she was selling sweets in her native Zimbabwe.  In the early 2000’s her father, who is also about to launch a new business, moved to Teesside and worked in a factory in pursuit of a better life for his family.

Her mother Constance runs the Ebenezer Bag Boutique in Dundas Market and, when a shop became available next door, Tafadzwa said it was the opportunity she, and her sister and business partner Tatenda, had been looking for: “Once I saw my mum’s shop I got interested.  It was amazing watching her live her dream and I knew it was similar to mine.”

TT Styles – named after the sisters’ initials – will sell women’s clothes and accessories that are “classy, trendy and chic”, said Tafadzwa, who was a successful pageant model.

“I am into beauty and empowering women, elegance and grace,” she said. “I believe in the strength of women.  I wanted to have a brand that appreciates women and makes them feel good without breaking their bank account, so I’m making sure my prices are available to every lady out there.”

The sisters’ ambition for TT Styles is to make a success of the Dundas Market store and then open more boutiques around the UK.  Their aim is to one day emulate companies such as PrettyLittleThing which launched in 2012 and now has a turnover of £300m.

Tafadzwa is “excited but nervous” about the Middlesbrough opening, but is so convinced she is doing the right thing that she quit her job with The Bank of New York Mellon in Manchester where she worked for five years.

She had moved to Manchester after studying Business and Management at university in Leicester. When she first came to Teesside in 2004 she went to school at Our Lady & St Bede Catholic Academy in Stockton and St Mary’s College in Middlesbrough.

Tafadzwa continued: “We knew we were lucky, so we used that opportunity to go to school and university.  The reason we work so hard in our businesses is because we know that if we hadn’t had this chance I am not sure where we would have been.

“ I am so grateful to God, my husband Charles Dhliwayo and parents Constance and Christmas Darlington Jambwa for believing in me before no one could.”

The launch of Tafadzwa’s Middlesbrough shop has already gone international, with H-Metro (Harare Metro), a leading Zimbabwean tabloid newspaper picking up the story.

Dundas Market is home to more than 25 independent traders and, said its manager David Harris, TT Styles will be a welcome addition.

“We’ve got so many different types of business – from a vegan supermarket to a pet supply shop – but all the traders share a similar passion and commitment and that’s why it’s such a pleasure for us to do all we can to help them succeed,” he said.

“Although space on our market is at a premium, I am still are keen to hear from new and established retailers, especially from the types of business we know are in demand and which will enhance our offer.  I would be especially interested in hearing from greengrocers, bakers, ethnic food suppliers, vintage memorabilia retailers, sweets sellers, and fruit juice or milkshake bar operators.

“Start-up businesses can rent one of a small number of Enterprise Units.  They cost from just £60 per week and are available on a short term tenancy agreement.”

Dundas Indoor Market is located in the Dundas Shopping Centre where all the shops offer value for money, from national brands like B&M, Fulton Foods and Cooplands to well-known local independents like The Festival Shop, Tik Tok, Homefair Blinds, Buckshees Military Surplus, LD Printing and Miss Unique, many of which started life trading in Dundas Market.