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Artisan shop lets you buy a piece of authentic Africa

updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
In a small street in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town, a shop, Aromas of Zanzibar, sells authentic African clothing and accessories crafted by local artisans on site. In a small street in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town, a shop, Aromas of Zanzibar, sells authentic African clothing and accessories crafted by local artisans on site.
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Aromas of Zanzibar
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Aromas of Zanzibar sells clothing and accessories crafted in vibrant African prints
  • All products are made on site by local artisans, using only locally sourced materials
  • The shop is the brainchild of former hotel assistant manager Rizwan Janmohamed

Every week, African Start-Up follows entrepreneurs in various countries across the continent to see how they are working to make their business dreams become reality.

(CNN) -- In a tucked-away corner of Zanzibar's historic Stone Town lies a little shop of curiosities.

Colorful bags, necklaces and hats hang on the racks, and beautiful African prints line the walls. In the back room, a low hum of sewing machines is a sign of busy artisans at work.

Welcome to Aromas of Zanzibar, a clothing and accessories store that's different to others on the island.

Founded by the 29-year-old entrepreneur Rizwan Janmohamed, every single thing the shop -- from guitar cases to can holders -- is made on site by local craftsmen, using only locally sourced materials.

"Since my childhood, my dream has been to own my own business," says Janmohamed, "so I thought to myself, what is missing in Stone Town? At the time, everything was coming from China, India, Thailand, so I decided to make something which is produced here. That's my concept," he adds.

An ornate entrance in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town.
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Janmohamed left his job as an assistant manager of a local hotel and used a bank loan, with added help from family and friends, to set up his shop.

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Thousands of tourists come to Stone Town each year and visit its many knickknack stores, but Janmohamed thought he would stand out by providing a piece of authentic Zanzibar for them to bring home.

A melting pot of cultures

He started with colorful beaded necklaces and then moved on to spices and aromatic cardamom tea. Today, his most popular items are small wallets, pouches and cosmetics cases made out of vibrant African prints known as Kitenge.

Since my childhood my dream has been to own my own business, so I thought, what is missing in Stone Town?
Rizwan Janmohamed

However, beginnings were tough, and Janmohamed found it difficult to market his products: "When I started the business a few years back, you can say it was a nightmare. It was really a challenge. Because you don't know what to produce first and you don't know what's expected tomorrow," he says.

At the moment, his shop is breaking even, but the businessman hopes to start making a profit within two years, and says his shop is frequented not just by tourists but local people as well.

Janmohamed attributes his success to Zanzibar's unique handicrafts, which display a fusion of Swahili and Arabian culture, but stresses that creating a welcoming environment is just as important.

"It's not just about selling your product. It's about maintaining your service, it's about how you talk to your customer and maintain that relationship as well," he says.

His products may be local, but Janmohamed's ambitions run significantly further: "I want to become one of the largest companies on the African continent for production of fabric accessories and clothing," he says.

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