How Fashion Start-Up ToVch Built A Brand Presence With Only A Little...

How Fashion Start-Up ToVch Built A Brand Presence With Only A Little Budget


Vital Stats

  • Company: ToVch
  • Started in: 2010
  • Player: Thabo Khumalo
  • Contact: +27(0)73 135 3022,
  • Email:
  • Visit:
    Twitter: @tovch_
    Instagram: tovch_
    Facebook: ToVch

Top Tips

  • A great way to get your name out there without having to spend any money is by publishing great content on a regular basis. Remember to keep it industry specific.
  • Find out where customers and influencers are showing off your products, and make sure you are actively using these platforms and networks.
  • Look at what your customers, followers and industry peers are doing on each platform and tailor your messaging accordingly.
  • When fans and followers make contact with you, or post about your product, always take the time to answer, retweet or share, or thank them publicly.

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When you don’t have much more than sweat equity to invest, start-up marketing can be a huge challenge, particularly when you are in a cutthroat industry like local fashion. What do you do when you’re competing against trendy overseas brands and cheap Chinese imports, and you don’t have the budget for a big, exciting marketing campaign?

Building on his natural enthusiasm for social media, Thabo Khumalo has built a strong online network as the foundation of a marketing strategy for his fashion brand ToVch, which he describes as a gender-fluid, valiant approach to wearable day-to-day items, as well as more exclusive red carpet, couture, evening and cocktail dresses. He launched ToVch in 2010, having taught himself cutting and sewing skills from the age of eight, while helping his seamstress mother with her business.

“On social media, people share your brand with others simply because they want to,” says Khumalo. “It’s a powerful platform, and it does not cost anything.”

Building Your Network

An online social network requires followers and constant engagement. Khumalo was able to grow his network thanks to his participation in a number of high-profile fashion shows, including South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week, and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.

“For entrepreneurs, exhibitions and trade shows offer excellent opportunities to network and build a following on social media,” says Khumalo. “It pays to get out there and start being active with influential people.”

Following people in your industry sector, commenting on their posts, sharing their content and engaging meaningfully with them is a great way for start-ups to build momentum, create a community and get people to take notice, and it requires nothing but time.

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Keeping It Small But Influential

ToVch does not have masses of followers; instead, Khumalo has smaller audiences, and he communicates through targeted messaging with niche communities that make up the fashion industry — from fellow designers to customers and industry commentators.

“The brand has a dedicated audience, and the social media presence also allows me to continuously scan the fashion environment to keep up with external forces such as new technology, and political, legal, economic and social changes,” he adds.

Choosing the Right Platforms

Being active on social media does not mean being everywhere all the time. “For a fashion brand, Instagram is extremely valuable because it’s visual,” says Khumalo.

For start-ups that market and sell highly visual products with strong design elements, like fashion, furniture and décor, images are everything. Social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Vine — all highly visual — can be extremely valuable. That’s where a picture really is worth a thousand words. They are also among the most powerful mediums, because the conversations that take place are driven by people, not brands.

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Do This

Create communities and drive conversation that will build brand awareness by utilising social media platforms.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.