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Gano Melitauri is a marketer by profession with 14 years’ experience working in various companies. Innovative sewing factory “Kombinizona” is her dream come true, having entered the Georgian market 1.5 years ago and seeing its founder recovering all expenses in just one month. We met Gano Melitauri and her husband Kakha Gagnidze to fi nd out more about Kombinzona and their long-term goals.


„The brand ‘Kombinizona’ was highly appreciated upon its entry into the Georgian market. It was able to get to the break-even point in just one month,” Gano tells us. It all started with Gano making a childhood dream a reality in adulthood with the support of her husband, Kakha, who was working with a friend on a new hotel brand when Gano walked into his life to interview for a job as a marketer. “Gano was to do market research and take the position of Head of Public Relations for the company. She was so interesting that I started to see life anew,” Kakha recalls. Gano has been creating sketches since childhood. Everything started with shoe models and later switched to clothing. Four years ago, while working on a master’s degree at Warsaw University of Management, she chose the topic “Color Acceptance in Georgia,” studying color matching and its therapeutic effects. Gano’s goal was to use her work as she pursued her dream – to open an innovative sewing factory which would produce clothing and accessories based on color philosophy. “I interviewed 1800 people for my survey,” she says. “I also worked with focus groups, learning how consumers perceive colors, how to plan color matching correctly, and its effects on mood and health. That’s when the outlines of the innovative sewing factory came to me. However, doing this job would have been completely unthinkable without Kakha,” Gano tells us. Gano’s study of color matching will soon be published as a scientifi c work. And Gano is already using the knowledge and results gained during her sketching process. “I created a dictionary that explains each color. For example, gray is a neutral color that translates to comfort.” One day, Gano showed her sketches to Kakha. They talked about the color philosophy and decided that the creation of a factory should not be postponed any longer.


While selecting the factory, buying textiles and turning Gano’s sketches into reality, the duo began to develop their concept. They studied the market and found that none of the Georgian brands was producing the adapted clothing that they had in mind. The couple’s goal is not simply to create a boutique or a “Gano Melitauri” line and bring it to fashion weeks. Their target audience is diverse, ranging from children 0 to 18 months, to pregnant women and people with disabilities. This is where Kombinzona innovates, giving it the opportunity to “swim in the blue ocean.” Blue Ocean is a marketing strategy that aims to differentiate existing market players and gain signifi cant competitive advantage with a completely different brand positioning. “In every company I ever worked in, I Kombinzona, Lobbying Innovation & Happy Lifestyles started by focusing on social responsibility right away. I wanted Kombinzona to be a powerful message carrier, taking great responsibility and changing many things for the better – people’s lives, moods and health,” says Gano. Kombinzona became the fi rst Georgian brand to launch a series of pregnancy outerwear. In addition, they created lines for people with disabilities and school children. “We started manufacturing adapted clothing fi rst. Very few understand the concept of adapted clothing. It is not a luxury but in many cases a necessity. People with disabilities, for example, should not have trouble changing their clothes. My goal is that within 2-3 years, every person with disabilities in Georgia will have at least one Kombinzona work.”


As soon as it came to market, Kombinzona had a lot of fans. Orders increased by the day – both retail and corporate. It was a stressful time for the husband-wife team. “At the time, we had nothing but ideas, concepts and sketches,” Kakha recalls. The company had already won two tenders and had orders from Georgian designers fl owing in, and the duo also had plans to travel to the Wolves Summit, where Kombinzona was on the list of innovative startups. It was then that the heads of production hid a road-block and were unable to go to the Summit. “We had decided to take full responsibility for the development of Kombinzona, but then another great responsibility came along with the birth of Rene-Lazare,” Gano says with a smile. Funding was needed to get Kombinzona its own factory, equip it and hire staff. They applied to the Bank of Georgia Foundation ‘Tree of Life’ grant competition. They won, and were able to purchase a space, equipment and assemble a team. “I was convinced that the Georgian fashion sphere needed such projects. We needed to bring the concept of adapted clothing, unique color innovations, a Georgian maternity brand and to take real social responsibility,” says Gano.


Gano quit her high-paying job and decided to invest all her energy, time and knowledge into Kombinzona. The innovative clothing factory is working in several directions at this stage. First of all, of course, any product, be it an item of clothing or an accessory, is created based on Gano’s research on colors. Another important direction aside from maternity and disability wear is women’s rights. Gano expressed a kind of protest against widespread abortion by printing #გოგოსდედა (Mummy’s Girl) on her outfi ts. “We received very good feedback. However, this is not the last activity we tried to support women in. We’ve set up a Kombinzona Mothers’ / Women’s Club that will try to help pregnant women and future mothers stay physically active, spend nine months of pregnancy calmly, healthily and productively. We will have meetings, outings, competitions and various activities. In addition, we are going to create a kids club. Together with AlterSchool, based at Alterbridge International Training and Management University, we are planning to organize Kombinzona Art Factory children’s programs, the attendees of which will share alternative, fun and combined forms and will discover Georgian and world history, art, fi lm, fi lm history, fi lmmaking, photography and editing. We are eager to give children a hands-on experience,” Gano says. Along with Alterbridge, many other social projects are planned. Gano and Kakha always discuss the work of Kombinzona in a global context. The brand does not just manufacture clothing: it is a lobbyist for innovation and happy lifestyles with strong social responsibility and design decisions.


“We are creating an international school for people who want to combine theoretical and practical knowledge with studying fashion marketing and management,” Gano says. “Each student will be able to work in our factory. A vocational school will also be opened shortly afterwards, with students studying high-level manufacturing. Nowadays, there is a serious problem of education in cutting and sewing. We will also teach our students the basics of management so that they can continue their business independently, or at least work in an existing enterprise.” The plans of the Kombinzona brand are long-term. There will be exhibitions in Paris and Milan in the near future. From September, the innovative sewing factory is presenting its work in European showrooms. One of the main concerns of Gano and Kakha is choosing the right team. “My strength is developing and executing the brand concept, while Kakha is strong in terms of management.” The couple aims to create comfortable working conditions for their employees. The most important requirements for employees is that they have their own vision, the ability to make decisions independently and a love of the job. Kombinizona is currently manufacturing a line of school and semi-sports bags in addition to clothing. In the near future, a relatively luxurious designer line of clothing called “My Grandma,” ethnocultural and 20th century elegant FrancoGeorgian clothes inspired by Georgian history, will enter the market “because love and a vision of fashion came from your grandmother.” Another sub-brand, “Alicap,” is also waiting to see daylight in a selection of adapted accessories. “For example, a beautiful head kerchief for those who suffer from Sinusitis so that they are protected and still look good.”


Another Kombinzona initiative is innovative not only for the Georgian market but for the whole world. The idea came Gano after watching her own children. “My children have never loved getting dressed or undressed,” she says. “Then I thought about it and realized that adults tend to buy the kind of clothes they like. So, I came up with the idea to make this process fun and interactive. Kids deserve to wear the clothes they want.” The purpose of Gano’s interactive clothing line is to help children learn and develop; to learn the color gamma or calculations, for example. Each model will be integrated with a different type of game, and the basics of color therapy will be used throughout the production process. “We put on comics and popular characters for children to collect. We will arrange competitions and even create a similar line for adults. With the help of clothing, they will be able to cope with stress, wake up in time … However, individual investment will not be enough for this project and we will need investor support,” says Gano. The factory is working well, orders are on the up and the innovative ideas are fl owing. The couple’s 10-year business development plan is well on its way to success. Kombinizona is continuing to seek an international brand name and aiming to sell the brand’s franchise in various mega cities. Gano and Kakha are neither afraid of obstacles nor are they going to give up.


Bank of Georgia, within the frames of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has been funding a grant competition since 2016 to address social issues, promote employment for people with disabilities and promote social entrepreneurship. The grant competition aims to address social issues in Georgia through the establishment of successful social enterprises and the development of social entrepreneurship. Bank of Georgia is one of the fi rst companies to fi nance social enterprises. So far, a total of 10 social enterprises have been set up and the bank has granted GEL 400,000. The creation of each enterprise is funded with GEL 50,000. Social enterprises have been created throughout Georgia. A bank-funded social enterprise was created and people with disabilities were employed in Lagodekhi, Nukriani, Tsnori, Kaspi, Batumi, Tbilisi and Zestafoni. Those social enterprise projects serve a dual economic and social purpose. The economic goal must be a prerequisite for achieving the second, more important goal – social welfare. By the end of 2019, fi ve new social enterprises will have been created and the bank will allocate an additional GEL 250,000. The sixth grant competition will be announced in autumn 2019, where any NGO or initiative group interested in social issues will be able to submit a social enterprise project to receive up to GEL 50,000 in funding to build a social mission-oriented social enterprise. Detailed information on the competition will be posted on the following website: www.tree.ge Originally printed in Entrepreneur Georgia magazine.