Memme Ramaila says it was through nurturing the connections she made that she got an opportunity to have her products sold in The Box Shop in Johannesburg.
Her products was later showcased in Atlanta in the United States of America. Her products, which are showcased at The Box Shop, fall into three categories: homeware, high-street fashion and corporate gifts. Homeware, for example, includes table linen, lamps and scatter cushions. She says her products promote African cultural heritage.
Ramaila, who is from a farming community, Mamogas-Kraal in the North-West, is the owner of the business Blissfully Yours Artisanry. She shared her entrepreneurial journey with guests at the launch of The Box Shop in Midrand on Friday 14 September 2018.
The original Box Shop launched in Vilakazi Street in Soweto launched in April 2016, after receiving startup funding from the Citigroup Foundation.
According to a press release, an inventory management system and online shop were developed. “Over the last two years, The Box Shop has helped 92 emerging black businesses design, manufacture and supply a wide range of high quality lifestyle goods, like fashion, food and furniture, to the people who come to Vilakazi Street to see where history happened. Sales to the value of R3-million have been recorded,” reads the press release.
Now, the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund is partnering with US-based non-profit TechnoServe, which has been involved from the very beginning, to scale-up the initiative over the next four years. Every rand received from the Jobs Fund needs to be matched by at least a rand and, in the case of The Box Shop in Midrand, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has come on board. Moving forward, a chain of 10 Box Shops, based on a franchise model, are being planned countrywide.
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Ramaila got the opportunity to sell her products at The Box Shop in Soweto after a friend who was working for TechnoServe at the time, advised Ramaila to contact the company. Shortly after her products were showcased in The Box Shop in Soweto, she heard her products will be showcased in Atlanta in the United States at a South African Lifestyle Hub. This was done in collaboration with the department of trade and industry.
Ramaila’s products were sold in Atlanta during July 2017. She remembers her son saying to her: “Mommy, your name is crossing borders!”
Ramaila shared with SME South Africa lessons she’s learned as an entrepreneur:
“Entrepreneurship is all about hustling. It’s about having a savvy of identifying opportunities.”
“You must establish the key players of your environment,” she advised. “Build networks from your environment.” She said this means that you must make effort to connect with stakeholders (within your industry). She says you can start by getting to know other SME owners within your environment. “Connection drives us forward. Establish relationships and have a connection.”
“You need to have social skills (as an entrepreneur),” she said. “Through that (your socialising) you will establish who’s who in the zoo.”