An exclusive atelier from an inclusive project
Admin | Comune di Milano
Born in Senegal, Cheikh learned the craft of tailoring at the Center Handicapè in Dakar, where he lived for a while due to his illness. He came to Italy in 2013 with a group of musicians and dancers for a tour. Here he initially successfully developed his other great passion here, becoming a professional wheelchair basketball player, first in Cantù and then in Seregno.
Today, together with Valeria, an Italian communication expert with an artistic-literary background, Cheikh has dusted off her original dream by founding Kechic, a social tailor’s shop that also employs her old companions in Dakar. The project revolves around 4 key words: Encounter, Mix, Spontaneity and Irony.
Can you please tell us how you had the idea to start your business?
The Kechic project was born from the unexpected meeting and friendship between me and Cheikh, from our desire to create something beautiful together and to share it. As soon as we met, in 2018, Cheick shared with me his experience and asked me for help in finding a job in which to commit and fulfil himself by exploiting his talents and know how.
Given his previous experience as a tailor in Senegal, I thought that the simplest and most natural thing was to try to create the first clothes and sell them to my network of contacts, relatives, friends. From then on, it got a little out of hand … and here we are!
Thus, when they ask me how we had the idea to start a business, the immediate answer is: due to a concrete need, i.e.finding a job in Italy (and from my madness to always say yes!)
Can you please tell us about the main obstacles you have encountered and how you managed to overcome them?
The obstacles are and have been many since we started. As an example: the lack of funding; the complexity of the Italian bureaucracy, that makes you always feel in error; the managing difficulties due to the fact that we never had to deal with suppliers, customers or collaborators before.
Every day we learn something new, especially by making mistakes. I believe that the fundamental thing is to have a very flexible mentality to try to see things from different points of view and to always find some solution, even temporary. And then yes, it takes a lot of courage and determination.
The real challenge for us is to get people of different backgrounds, mentalities and cultures to talk and collaborate in harmony. And this is also the most beautiful adventure.
Has the recent pandemic affected your business and how did you overcome the challenges?
We were actually born with the pandemic. The first business incubation course we followed with Singa started on Zoom on March 8, 2020, the first day of the first general lockdown. A surreal situation. A few months later, we found a small laboratory for rent in an internal courtyard in the Isola district. But we were every other week in the lockdown.
In a certain sense, the pandemic has helped us because, due to the lockdown, I also was not working in that period and thus I was able to completely dedicate myself to this new project.
Besides, the market was also at a standstill, people did not leave their homes and certainly did not think about buying. But actually, we had the time to understand what we wanted to become, and to think about what to do and how to do it.
How do you see the future of your company?
Kechic’s future for the moment is to think about tomorrow, focusing on what we can do to improve day by day. Thanks to a contribution from the Municipality of Milan, our tailor’s shop has recently moved to a larger space, with a shop window on the street.
Every day we raise the shutter and we face lists of things to do and plan. At the moment it scares us to think of the long term. A group of fantastic entrepreneurs is supporting us in designing our path step by step.
And our goal at the moment is to be able to hire our first employee, a tailor, in September 2022.
Is there anything you would like to tell to your fellow entrepreneurs? #somethinginspirational
Always do what you really like, what fills your days with beautiful thoughts and colourful desires, what makes you go out and meet new people, what makes you afraid of failing and thus ask for help, what opens your mind to the outside world and makes you travel, even if only with your imagination!
The power of ideas is incredible. And being a team is the most important thing in the world. None wins alone.