Years in existence: 7 years
Position: Fashion designer
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
Born and bred in Eastern Cape. I received my primary education in Umtata, went to a high school in Grahamstown and tertiary education in Port Elizabeth. I studied fashion at Port Elizabeth Technikon, now NMMU. My first job was at Vukani Range Creations where I was designing Madiba shirts for politicians and members of parliament. I worked at Sun Goddess as head designer for two-and-a-half years creating African couture. In 2007 I started my own fashion design company, working form home with one seamstress.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
I design and manufacture bespoke ladies wear for special occasions and wedding gowns. I cater for individual clients and customise garments according to the clients specific needs; from creating a wedding gown that fulfills the bride’s fantasy to creating performance outfits that are beautiful and functional for artists to wear on stage.
How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?
I studied fashion and gained work experience. I resigned when I thought I could no longer learn more on the job. I’m successful because I studied fashion and love fashion.
Basically I believe in my technical abilities and I know my strengths. I also work hard to meet deadlines and create beautiful garments that exceed clients’ expectations. I do not believe the client is always right, but I believe in client satisfaction which leads to numerous referrals. Essentially my business has grown mainly due to return clients and referrals.
“I am a designer before an entrepreneur, so I more fixated on implementing and experimenting with my creative ideas, if they make money it’s a bonus”
What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?
Lack of finance. I use cash. I negotiate with suppliers to pay in installments – three months interest free. I juggle to make ends meet, slow my roll (chill expansion plans until my bank balance allows me to expand).
I also face challenges with dealing with human beings. Clients and employees can be unpredictable and demanding. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Talking helps to manage expectations.
How many people does your company employ?10 people: three tailors, two seamstresses, two beaders, a production manager, designer and a design assistant.
What is your overall vision for your business?
Create and retail world class African fashion that is relevant, trendy, good quality.
“It helps if you know what you doing”
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
I truly don’t know. I think my business survives because I am talented and respect my clients and I professional. I’m pedantic about the product I produce, and always deliver on time. But I’m pretty hopeless in other spheres. So I would have to go with tenacity: hard work and a never die attitude, and it helps if you know what you doing.
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
I started with personal savings of R40 000 that I used to buy equipment. The business did not break even for the first five years so I did not pay myself a salary. I juggled in summer. I made enough money to pay rent and employees. In winter I struggled. I do not think I’m organised enough to approach investors yet.
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
Hard work, innovation, technical ability, experimenting and passion
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
I didn’t. I was more interested in working for myself than creating employment in the beginning. Maybe when I broke even and started earning a salary.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Part laissez faire – we are all adults, each person must play their part, do their job and meet the targets set. When they have challenges they let me know.
What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?
I do not really read motivational books on any subject. I’m inspired by iconic designers, Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect who designed the first window pane and also designed houses and furniture. Christian Doir who made modern women’s’ clothing works of art. I am a designer before an entrepreneur so I more fixated on implementing and experimenting with my creative ideas, if they make money it’s a bonus.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. Love what you do and believe in it, passion, self belief and hope will sustain you.
2. Don’t be afraid of hard work.
3. Plan, plan plan, write down your plans, goals and dreams.
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
Best – Plan to succeed otherwise plan to fail. I don’t fully utilise this as I’m more of a dreamer than a planner but it motivates me because I think I will be far more successful once I plan properly.
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
Mainly hard work with a little luck.