Twenty-seven-year-old Equatorial Guinean entrepreneur Melissa Mbile Sánchez cares as much about the bottom-line as she does about social inclusion. Melissa is the CEO of La Capacidad, a clothing line in Equatorial Guinea; but she is also driven by a passion to empower the young people in her country.
She has two business projects under La Capacidad: “The first is textile-related—fashion design, the printing of garments and, in the future, a fashion house. The second is artistic and cultural, which will consist of establishing a school of arts in Equatorial Guinea—this is a long-term vision.”
There is a third, social project, “which aims to empower young people, to foster their social and economic inclusion,” she says.
In this regard, her Malabo-based company offers internship opportunities to the youth to “enable them to learn and quickly understand the value of work, the importance of customer relations and efficient service delivery,” she says.
La Capacidad currently has five employees while about 12 young people have gained valuable experience having completed their internship programmes with the company.
Melissa began her forays into the textile sector in 2018, designing Afro-contemporary clothing and costumes bearing her company logo.
Her country has been receptive to her fashion creativity. She says: “Equatorial Guinea is a small oil-producing country, but there is still room for creativity and culture. We take immense pride in our cultural uniqueness; therefore, among various textures and colors, traditional materials will always be cherished.”
Melissa was born and raised in Malabo, the country’s capital city. She describes herself as a “Multidisciplinary artist with an understanding of economic policies. I am a fashion designer, dancer, choreographer, singer and actress.
“I am a defender of the preservation of local culture and its expansion in the world,” maintains the entrepreneur who speaks fluently Spanish, English and French.
She bagged a bachelor’s degree in economics at age 23 and gained valuable experience in the private sector analyzing, developing, supervising and overseeing projects. She aspires to complete a postgraduate degree in digital marketing.
Melissa believes globalization offers both opportunities and challenges. While artistic disciplines are on a new course because of a mixture of cultures resulting from globalization, she insists that “We must continue to reinforce the foundations of our roots, remembering once again who we are and where we are willing to go.”
Despite what her compatriots may see as a rosy outlook for her business career, she says there is more to be done in terms of “gaining more visibility at the national and international levels and just being able to develop a marketing and advertising plan, both virtual and physical.
“Also, I would like to be able to, in a year, establish structures for the fashion house and the art school.”
She acknowledges the difficulty in getting financing for her kind of business but she’s confident of getting a small bank loan soon. “It is a bit difficult because we are pioneers, the first art school in Equatorial Guinea. But with effort, we can achieve it,” she explains.
She would like to be able to support other young entrepreneurs and young people in general and hopes that her story can inspire them.
Melissa needs African youth to “Believe that they have unique potentials and talents; they must stand out professionally in whatever they’re doing; they should strive to become positive role models for others.
“Believing in yourself is the basis for making others believe in you. Then, you can work to improve, little-by-little, your society and the world,” she concludes.