Milton Keynes-born Jessica Asare has launched Britain’s first African-printed swimwear line from her university bedroom.
Jessica, 20, had always been interested in design but found a gap in the swimwear market for traditional prints.
With family roots in Ghana, she lived there for a few years before coming back to the UK to study Computing and Management at Loughborough University.
Jessica said: “I had seen tops and trousers in UK shops with African prints but I had never seen an African print bikini before.
“It was important to me to include the African print because it is something that I identify with and I thought I would create something different that people could appreciate.
“I wanted to use the most traditional and popular Ghanaian print, known as Kente, so that when people see it they immediately know and recognise it.”
Bema Republic launched in January 2017 while Jessica was in her second year at university and was funded through a university scholarship that Jessica was awarded for her top grades in first year.
She said: “When I started doing this, it felt just like an extra-curricular activity, it was quite natural to do it.
“I would tell other students setting up their own business to make sure they plan their days and set targets to not end up wasting time.
“Also, look into university resources because I didn’t know about my university’s enterprise hub until I started my project.”
Support from friends, family and her university have helped her through the process.
She said: ““My friends have been really supportive and help with trying things on to see if it fits.
“Some of them are curvier and I wanted to cater for them by including the XL size,
“Getting opinions from them is really important because sometimes they see things from a different perspective. Some of them are brutally honest!
“My family as well have been supportive. My parents are really proud and shocked - they didn’t expect it from me.”
Jessica hopes to make her way into skincare using traditional Ghanaian products.