“Abrilliant woman is someone who sees no boundaries to success and is quick to adapt to various situations and roles while being comfortable with her femininity and mindful of others,” said this month’s worldly and talented Ladybrille Woman of the Month Busie Matsiko-Andan.
If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Busie, consider yourself on the verge of enlightenment.
A South African-born, New York City-bred mover and shaker; former banker, co-founder of the online mecca for independent and underground fashion aficionados FashionIndie.com, a sought-after speaker, and major player in philanthropy for Africa – Busie Matsiko-Andan is the embodiment of kinetic progressive energy.
Born to Ugandan father and a South African mother, and having lived in four different countries on two continents (South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, and the United States respectively), Busie is a true world citizen.
Raised by her father, a lawyer, Matsiko-Andan was raised comfortably but understood that her family had privileges not afforded to most.
“I had been fortunate to be brought up in a comfortable environment and been granted many opportunities, and yet I have been exposed to others living in abject poverty. It felt like a tale of two cities. A defining moment was when I was 12 years old and we were robbed at gunpoint in Uganda. My father told the perpetrators to take all the material possession but spare his life for the sake of his children. I also can’t run away from the fact that I’m part South African, so the history of apartheid has also driven me to advocate for equality,” said Busie.
As she grew older she studied at Berkeley College in Manhattan earning an undergraduate degree in Management. While at Berkeley, Busie was an officer of the student government organization on campus, eventually working to strengthen the student body’s relationship with the school’s administration. Already, Busie’s talent for organizing and connecting people began to show itself.
The post-undergraduate plan was to go on to graduate school. Soon after she graduated from Berkeley, the Matsiko family patriarch passed away, which meant that the work ethic he had instilled in his children was to be kicked into high gear.
In life there are situations that test your mettle, that shape the rest of your life – this was Busie’s moment.
“I had planned on doing my grad school but my father, who would have sponsored me, suddenly passed away. I had to become innovative in the hope that I would create a sustainable business which would in turn pay for my graduate studies. This led to the ‘Global Wednesdays’ event which was a world happy hour at chic places in the Meat Packing District in New York City. [Eventually] it led to the formation of Fashion Indie and my numerous entrepreneurial pursuits. I also assumed securities licenses and worked in the finance world,” she expounded.
How did a weekly happy hour event lead to the birth of a world-renowned and revered fashion site?
“Fashion Indie was started by me and Daniel Santiago, whose background was electronic business. He attended one of my events and thought we should throw a fashion show since he was excited by my strong planning ability and my network. I negotiated the venue and the inaugural event took place at a venue in the Meat Packing district. I decided to pay for the incorporation to protect ourselves and decided to continue to focus on the mission of the company which was bringing awareness to independent designers and that kept us growing,” explained the change agent.
All of this was while still working full-time jobs in the finance sector at giants in the field like Smith Barney, Citigroup and Oppenheimer.
Reflecting on the building of the successful venture and balancing another career Matsiko-Andan said:
“I basically had no life! I was the true definition of a workaholic – my guy friends were concerned for my future with regards to meeting a spouse. I was young and felt I had to invest in my future early on. From the growth of Fashion Indie, I [have come to] believe one can build anything as long as you believe in the mission and vision and have the passion. I remember some people telling me that fashion was limiting and I was much bigger than Fashion Indie when we started with the events. Being a big fan of Sir Richard Branson, I believed anything can explode as long as one sees the opportunity for that growth.
I feel that I am reaping the rewards since I am sought after for panels, speeches and consults in various industries. I have been quoted in Business Week for expanding fashion beyond the fashion cities, we had the first ever fashion show on the Brooklyn bridge and have been featured in numerous publications such as WWD, Time Out New York, [as well as on BBC] etc. I was invited to address students at Fashion Institute of Technology as the faculty found it fascinating that my education was not in fashion and yet I was able to have an impact.”
Aside from work-life balance, one of the major challenges at Fashion Indie was the “r-word” – race.
“We were faced with the race challenge but decided to focus on it [instead of ignoring it]…You can deny it but you can use it to bring positivity,” she explained.
Though she is no longer involved in the site’s daily operations Busie is still active.
Being an innovator of African descent at the helm of an entity like a Fashion Indie put Busie in a unique a position. She had demonstrated the ability to galvanize people around a common interest and now the other aspect of her global perspective could come to light – service to Africa.
Concurrent with her work at Fashion Indie, Matsiko-Andan was involved with various charities centered around the plight of African people; among the most notable of these causes was All for Africa.
Interestingly, this work would lead to a new chapter in her professional life.
Busie was instrumental in the planning and execution of the organization’s successful marathon, golf tournament, and “Knock Out Poverty” events which have collectively raised over $1.8 million. She also recruited board members who have become the nucleus of All for Africa’s operations. She also facilitated All for Africa’s hand in the development other charitable organizations like Noella Coursaris’ Georges Malaika Foundation, and FACE Africa.
She has become a coveted consultant in both business and non-profit sectors. She says “I view businesses and organization as art projects which have to be designed immaculately.”
Most recently, Busie was tapped to take the helm of the Global Syndicate, a new non-profit designed to support philanthropy efforts in Haiti as Executive Director of the organization.
Of her new post she said: “I’ll be focused to taking the Global Syndicate to greater heights by increasing the organization’s profile, strengthening its infrastructure and fundraising.”
So far during her three-month tenure she’s sat on a panel at the Newsweek & Womensphere Global Leadership Summit and received a $100,000 pledge from Site Solutions Worldwide dedicated toward providing logistical support for the Global Syndicate.
Additionally, under Matsiko-Andan’s leadership, the organization raised $20,000 to combat the recent Cholera outbreak.
“We responded quickly and were able to raise about $20,000 in a couple of weeks through a marathon by our dear Juny Francois and via online donations with proceeds going to our partner, the Project Medishare.”
The Global Syndicate is on the cusp of kicking off “Haiti Week,” a series of events slated to begin on December 6, 2010.
“All of the proceeds from Haiti Week will go to one of our beneficiaries, Hollywood Unites for Haiti, to help the organization complete building a school for the children of a small town called, Cadet. This will be an opportunity for New York City to once again show our continued support for the challenges currently facing Haiti and more specifically, the children of Cadet.” Busie explained.
A new mother herself, we asked Busie what legacy she wants to leave behind for her daughter – who is sure to be brilliant in her own right if her mother’s story is any indication. She said “I have gotten where I am because of my late father who instilled in me a sense of purpose and discipline. That is the best legacy I can leave my daughter, Sydney.”
Busie plans to stay on at the Global Syndicate for at least a year but she maintains that the sky is the limit.
“I don’t know where I’ll be living in the next couple of years since that is kind of pegged to where my husband will find a job after he completes his surgery fellowship. I’m also developing a business which will not limit me geographically. I have been approached by notable individuals both in the Diaspora and in different parts of Africa to enter business ventures which I’ll be considering as I am a strong believer of re-branding Africa’s image especially through enterprise.”
On the family front God willing, she hopes to give Sydney some younger brothers and sisters.
She seems sure that she’ll “be a busy woman in the next few years attempting to bring positive change and wealth.” If her track record will be the proof, she will be singularly successful in this endeavor like all of her others.
~by Niama Sandy
Photographer: David Beyda
Makeup: Kai Sabree
Hair: Mariam Diallo
Designer: Darryl Jagga
A running feature for 12 years on Ladybrille.com, The ‘Ladybrille Woman of the Month’ celebrates women in business and leadership, who empower themselves and others through their contributions and actions in their local and international communities. In 2014, the feature expanded to include a podcast show. If you would like to nominate a woman to be celebrated, please email [email protected].