This interview with Thula Sindi is part of a podcast series called Face to Face with Success created by Nikiwe Bikitsha and Charlotte Kilbane. Visit the original podcast and the full series here.
Highlights from the Interview
Thula Sindi started out studying Fine Art in Klerksdorp. From an early age he knew that art was what he wanted to do, so he decided to continue his art education through the National School of the Arts.
He chose fashion because he found that fashion combined colour and proportion and allowed him to operate in a dynamic industry. For Sindi, fashion is dynamic, it’s part of society and it’s immediate. After graduating from high school he went to Fashion School and walked away with a degree in Fashion.
Sindi’s first job hired him straight out of college and he helped his employer to make a successful fashion line. He thought to himself: “If I can make a success for them, I can do it for myself.” He decided to start a business for himself and he hasn’t looked back since.
Building a Concept
Sindi wanted to create contemporary clothing that travel well, were modern, sophisticated and timeless. He grew tired of seeing people throw out or stop wearing their clothing, in a way the clothing become disposable and not long lasting.
Sindi says: “In the last ten years people are buying stuff and throwing it away, or it vanishes, or falls apart. I wanted to create quality and value.”
His fashion has appeared on runways in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as London, Paris and Luanda. Thula’s business has grown from a one-man show to 14 staff members.
Sindi’s flagship store opened in Rosebank and has plans to expand across the continent. He wants his stores to spread across Africa first, because he says he is an African and he wants his fashion to stay in Africa.
Thula Sindi shared some advice for young entrepreneurs:
1 “Identify where you’re needed. Most of us have this dream but if it’s not what society needs you’ll need to tweak it for the market,” explains Sindi
2 Be persistent and gain knowledge about your industry of interest. People are into this idea of a mentor. I always say to people all the answers you need are in a book somewhere. Read up on your passion and find the answers to your questions, instead of getting spoon feed, urges Sindi: “There are far too few successful people and those who are have very limited time. But, the library is always there, the internet is always there for that purpose.”
3 Keep focused. Sindi explains: “Find a way to channel all your energies into your business all the time. Even your leisure time needs to feed back into your actual job. It needs to feed back into your passion. Focus all your energy and resources into your passion.”
The Meaning of Success for Sindi
Sindi found his meaning of success through hard work and experience working in his field. He got to know himself and learnt what he values above all else:
- The ability to control your own time, control your destiny.
- The work you put in, are the results that you see. Working harder helps you see better results.
- Conduct yourself with integrity with both your team and your clients.
- Entrepreneur needs support. Your initial investors are there to support your dream not for the money.
- Upskill your team so they are able to go into business for themselves if your business closes.
Thula says that previously clothing makers would teach their seamstress how to make one part of a garment. So, when the company went bust all the seamstress could do was make a sleeve, not sow, just make a sleeve. By upskilling your team you can be more reliant on them. Then should your business go in another direction you’ve educated them and given them a skill they can make a living off of.