Name of company: Legaci Laundry and Dry Cleaners Services
Years in existence: Since 2008
Position: Founder, CEO and joint owner with husband, Leema Mofokeng (pictured together)
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I am an economist by training, I have a Bcom degree. After qualifying I worked for Transnet. When I resigned to start my business I was working at the DTI in international trade. It was one of the best jobs, and I got to travel a lot, but I left because I just felt that, that environment was not utilising my full potential. I was frustrated, getting sick because I felt like I had this void inside me.
When I resigned I didn’t know what to do. Here I was, a high-profile black woman sitting at home. I went to volunteer at an AIDS orphanage to help. The idea for my business came when my husband went to a show and brought a brochure on laundry service opportunities.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
We are a laundry and dry cleaning company, but we are not doing it the usual way. Our biggest business is cleaning wedding gowns. We are the only South African company qualified to clean wedding gowns. I am trained and accredited by the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists which is based in America. It was when I went to school overseas that I saw opportunities in niche markets, and when I came back I decided to focus on the wedding gown market. We clean and preserve wedding gowns. We use the same techniques used by museums worldwide. We also restore fabrics.
Our second focus is doing laundry for hotels. Not the big ones but boutique hotels which host weddings. We want to be able to offer our clients a complete service.
“No one will give you money without the possibility that you will pay them back”
What were some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
All the obstacles I faced were within myself. When I went into business, I thought I am black and a woman, and that I will have all the contracts. But the reality is not so. This was a fallacy on my side. After hearing a lot of nos’ I asked one company why they were not giving me work. They said I did not have the capacity and equipment to complete the job. And they were right. How do you trust someone who had been in business less than a year? I had to build up my profile so I could be a force to be reckoned with.
How many people does your company employ?
We employ 27 permanent staff, mostly women.
What is your overall vision for your business?
In terms of revenue, it must be a R100 million business. I don’t see why not. But I also want to have a presence. Our mission statement says we want our company to change the landscape of the industry. We want to be thought leaders and to become a household name. Other companies should recommend us as the cleaner of choice. I also want us to make use of technology and innovation to bring efficiency to the company.
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
There are challenges but to be fair, there is a lot that government is doing to encourage people to get into business. I think the problem is with us. We have people from outside coming here and say: “You don’t know how lucky your are”.
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
I used my pension money and I ploughed all the profits back into the business. Only recently did I have to apply for additional funding from a bank when I needed an extra delivery van. No one will give you money without the possibility that you will pay them back. Seda is also helping me get accredited with ISO (International Organization for Standardisation).
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
Believing in myself and having no fear, gratitude for the people who have helped me along the way, and working hard.
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
When one of my ventures failed and I kept on. When everyone is asking you why you don’t go back to work and you say: “no way”.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am open and engaging. I tell people that leadership is for everyone, my position is up for grabs. I am a pusher. I push them to become their best self.
What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?
I admire Herman Mashaba, Warren Buffet and Richard Branson. I’m currently reading Napolean Hill, Think and Grow Rich. I read a lot, but I don’t follow anyone in particular.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
– Don’t look for the government to help you. As an entrepreneur you need to be independent.
– Believe in your business plan, make it happen.
– Be your business’ brand ambassador. Brand yourself, get a uniform or t-shirts, don’t go to networking sessions wearing Gucci, wear your brand.
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
The worst was from a good friend who is a well-established businessman. When I told him I wanted to build a plant, he told me it would be too tough, to rather be a sub-contractor in the laundry services. But I wanted to own my business, not be a middleman.
The best advice was from the friend’s father. He told me that in business, you shouldn’t fear your competition, that they are as good and as bad as you are.
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
I believe in hard work. Hard work attracts good luck.