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KSA-Based Taffi Aims To Become The MENA's Leading Personalized Styling Services Provider After Raising Over US$2 Million In A Seed Round As an online fashion marketplace that connects brands, customers, and fashion stylists with each other, Taffi also offers expert recommendations from stylists from the comfort of one's own home.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Shahad Geoffrey, founder and CEO, Taffi

For a region that has a fashion industry valued at US$55 billion in 2021, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the MENA is now seeing a rise in demand for personalized styling and shopping services. That's the market Saudi Arabia-based Taffi is catering to with its online fashion marketplace that connects brands, customers, and fashion stylists with each other. And now, having closed a seed funding round of over US$2 million in February this year, Taffi is all set to move closer to its goal of becoming the leading personalized styling provider in the region.

The company's seed round, which was led by Bahrain-based retail and apparel firm Al-Rashed Group (ARG) and Saudi Arabia-based venture capital firm Impact46, also saw the participation of angel investors from WomenSpark, Sultan Al-Hokair, the founder of fashion retail company Eyad Mashaat, as well as Abhishek Sharma and Jamil Ahmad, the founders of apparel manufacturing marketplace Fashinza. "Customers today demand global access and purchase opportunities, but, at the same time, want it deeply personalized," says Shahad Geoffrey, founder and CEO of Taffi. "Our latest infusion of capital will allow us to grow our technology platform, continue nurturing and scaling the MENA region's stylist community, and build on the excellence of our customer experience and continued customer growth."

It was in 2020 that Geoffrey first conceptualized Taffi, inspired by global clothing subscription brands such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club. Later in the same year, the company was officially launched as an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven platform that offers personalized styling for shoppers who seek specific styles, or simply wish to explore their sense of fashion, while also providing the option of receiving expert recommendations from stylists from the comfort of one's own home. "Taffi's web app enables a state-of-the-art digital platform for a three-way marketplace of customers, stylists, and brands," Geoffrey explains.

Notably, Taffi was also a participant of the 2020 cohort of Saudi Arabia-based startup accelerator program TAQADAM, which is located at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and organized in partnership with Saudi British Bank. With TAQADAM's mentorship and experts-led workshops commencing just a few weeks after Taffi's launch, Geoffrey credits the program for having played a key role in fine tuning and finalizing her startup's business model. That process was particularly important with Taffi being launched in the midst of the pandemic, notes the founder. "The COVID-19 crisis forced everyone to go virtual, but as humans, we will always crave human interactions," she adds. "Taffi brings the best of both worlds by bringing stylists and customers together on the same platform."

Source: Taffi

According to Geoffrey, this element of human connection ensures customers have a better purchasing experience than what they'd get from a typical digital fashion marketplace. "Today, e-commerce still has many challenges," she says. "From discovering styles, to finding the right fit for you, or the right fit for a specific event, the current e-commerce experience is still not the shopping experience we know modern technology can deliver. Unlike other e-commerce platforms that are machine-driven and only make generic run-of-the-mill recommendations, Taffi provides truly personalized styles and experiences enabled by people and powered by technology."

Related: UAE-Based Winifred Mills Is Bringing West African-Inspired Fashion That Caters To Diverse Female Shapes

A study by RedSeer shows that with the MENA region's e-commerce spending expected to hit US$6.2 billion in April 2022 (which coincides with the holy month of Ramadan), fashion e-commerce spending is expected to grow by 70%, which will be second only to the amount being spent on grocery e-commerce. Meanwhile, a 2021 survey by Statista had 42% of respondents from the region saying that they prioritized standing out from the crowd through their clothing, especially during Ramadan. Such figures indicate that we are in a region with a population that is obviously fashion conscious, and with personal styling globally transforming into a service that is no longer only for the elite, it paves the way for this space to now be explored by startups like Taffi in the MENA region.

In the first step of Taffi's aforementioned three-way approach, customers can sign up on the platform to receive curated fashion suggestions based on answering quick quizzes or browsing the many ready-made looks on the platform. "For even more intimate styles, Taffi offers one-on-one personalized styling with an expert stylist via chat or video call," adds Geoffrey. "This allows the stylist to really know the customer and build trust before providing the styles. Once the customer confirms the styles and the products, Taffi takes care of the rest of the logistics too- from checkout to delivery, and hassle-free refunds. Taffi's AI-powered platform continues to learn and presents valuable insights to the human stylists, who then curate the most personalized styles for the customers."

Fashion stylists can also sign up on the Taffi platform to instantly start showcasing their expertise. "However, to provide one-on-one styling to customers, they need to go through an approval process," emphasizes Geoffrey. "This process involves a thorough assessment to ensure that Taffi's customers get the highest quality of services." Among the many services stylists get to avail on the platform include access to product inventory, style creation canvases that use "what you see is what you get" software, as well as analytics to keep track of work, earnings, and impressions. There is also the added benefit of constant training and workshops to help enhance their skillsets, and stay up to date with the latest fashion trends.

Here, Geoffrey iterates how Taffi aims to address specific pain points for fashion stylists across the region; a struggle that she herself is all too familiar with. "Having been a professional stylist for many years, I have lived the pain and hassle that goes into the styling process," she says. "There are three critical steps to becoming a successful stylist: making the right style with the right set of products that can delight a customer, getting the styles to potential customers across various platforms, and actually closing the sale. Now, while social media platforms can help you achieve the second point, it is the first and third ones that are the real deal-breakers. That is where Taffi becomes a stylist's best friend."

As for the third entity in this process-the brands themselves- Geoffrey assures a seamless onboarding process for their offerings. "Taffi's pluggable platform can easily consume a given brand's application programming interface (API) to showcase real time inventory to stylists and customers," she says. "It also provides a dashboard for brands to monitor analytics and scalable APIs that can be integrated with brands' own ecommerce systems."

And as for how Taffi itself makes a buck out of these interrelated transactions, Geoffrey explains, "We take sales commissions from the clothing providers through partnerships and affiliations with fashion e-commerce platforms, brands, and retailers. We also charge a styling fee for one-on-one sessions with stylists."

Now, having closed its seed round, Geoffrey is hoping for Taffi's impact to be felt beyond the geographical boundaries it primarily targets. "The global network Taffi is building will enable stylists to recommend products to customers beyond their reach, with the right set of marketing and technology tools, while also giving the local brands and designers access to showcase their products to customers who are looking for native unique shops beyond their geographic location," she says. "With Taffi, the world is no longer a regional marketplace!"

Related: TAQADAM Tales: Saudi Arabia-Based Miqyas Has Its Sights Set On Providing Online Sizing Options For Fashion E-Commerce Retailers

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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