Small Business Spotlight: MansaWear

July 10, 2019 09:17 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Somehow Nita Brown says this was her destiny -- to be a clothing designer with her own shop on Park Avenue in Rochester, New York.

Brown was born and raised in Ghana and her business is a reflection of what she learned from her family while growing up there.


"Growing up in Ghana, my mom had always had dressmakers, fabric makers, bringing her tons of fabric," she said. "So as a child, I grew up surrounded by dressmakers, fabric makers, both my mom and my grandmother."

Brown first came to Rochester in 2000 to work for Kodak -- that's when she realized she received lots of compliments about her clothes. Her passion for fashion, creativity, and a love of the Ghanaian prints and patterns led her to start MansaWear. She designs unique, limited-edition clothing from fabrics she purchases in Ghana.  

Nita Brown: "So part of it was background and part of it was purely being in Rochester and people like, 'we really love the way you dress'."

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: "Did you ever envision that this is what you'd be doing?"

Nita Brown: "No. Never."

She began by doing trunk shows for friends in 2010 then set up a rack during Fashion Week in 2012. In 2014, she opened her store. 

Brown only carries a small inventory because at MansaWear it's about the experience. Customers select a fabric and one of her exclusive designs -- whether it's a shirt or a skirt, a dress or a jacket.

Brett Davidsen: "So tell me how the business works. I come in as a customer, I'm looking for a shirt or an outfit. How does it work?"

Nita Brown: "So, you come in and you see all these beautiful fabrics. I have about 50 different pieces of these two yards fabric that you can select from. So then I take your measurement, send to Ghana, and in 28 days, the outfit comes back."  

MansaWear partners with a women-owned manufacturing facility in Ghana where they have about 300 employees putting together the custom orders. And those fabrics are hand-selected by Brown from designs created by Ghanaian artists.

"I go to Ghana once a year and once I get there, I go to their retail shop, send some of the fabric I'm interested to my social media fans," Brown explains. "People give me a lot of insider feedback and I spend two-three days just at their warehouse selecting."

She says the inspiration for her designs comes from these prints.

Brown says all 900 of her customers have come from either social media or word of mouth. She's now ready to take the next step and is working on a marketing strategy.

"I'm actually working with U of R and RIT graduate students to do my market research and then I will then hire professionals and do my strategy," she says.

Brown says what won't change is the customer experience.

"Everybody wants to be unique. Everybody wants to experience something. So you cannot go to Ghana, but you can experience the whole entire journey."

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Brett Davidsen

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