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Accesstar: Gavin Rajah

Top SA fashion designer believes in the power of the brand

Monique Verduyn

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Gavin Rajah of Accesstar

Fashion guru Gavin Rajah, best known for his flair for colour and a preference for garments cut “on the bias”, became the first local fashion designer to make it onto the catwalks of Paris where he has just completed his third season. Rajah started his career in clothing while studying law at the University of Cape Town. “I needed to make extra cash so I started selling clothes to the guys in res. This was my first foray into the world of clothing design and manufacture.” The word got out and soon he received requests for evening wear. “By the time I finished my degree, I realised I was not going to have much fun as a lawyer. It was also going to be difficult to do my articles and not earn a salary so I decided to create my own fashion label.”

He launched Gavin Rajah in 2000 with a loan from his parents. His first expense was on a range to show to potential buyers and boutiques. “I started off small, working from home and outsourcing to seamstresses who would make up the designs,” he recalls. Rajah says he had no big breaks along the way, noting that the growth of his label and his brand has been a natural progression preceded by a tough learning curve. Where others had gone to fashion school, Rajah knew nothing about the basics of design. “My peers had the advantage of having already cut their teeth at technikons. Through trial and error I taught myself what I needed to know and surrounded myself with talented and experienced seamstresses.” Today, while he believes he has not yet saturated the local market, he has entrenched his brand, a feat he says results from a fine balance between creativity, marketing and business savvy. “People in the industry laugh when they hear me talk about budgets, projections and forecasts, but the business is a success because I started out thinking big. We put all the systems and processes in place from the beginning, including a sophisticated software programme that enables us to work on detailed costings. This is essential if you want to create a viable commercial product in an industry where costs are high. They don’t teach you that at fashion school. They also don’t teach you how vital it is to build a brand.”

Rajah’s local success – he has dressed celebrities like Nelson Mandela, Basetsana Khumalo, Lebo Mathosa, and Michelle McLean – was followed by international recognition. Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise are among his fans. “It’s great to be successful and profitable at home, but to really make it in the fashion world I had to look beyond our borders. Showing your work to a global audience is a very different experience.” Looking to the future, Rajah has opened his first ready-to-wear store in Cape Town and another in Johannesburg is on the cards. “It’s taken a while, but I want my retail stores to have the same feel as my studio. I also wanted to ensure the garments would be affordable for local buyers and that there would always be sufficient stock. It takes time to get these things right.” Customers will soon be able to buy Rajah’s designs online, another area on which he has been spending a lot of time to ensure that garments are made to world class standards. In addition, he has designed an accessory collection, Accesstar, which is doing well locally and overseas.“Expanding into Europe was almost like starting a new business. You have to learn the way foreigners do things. It took us five years to get it right. We now have a showroom and an agent in Paris, as well as a PR person who represents us in Europe and ensures that the brand is visible. It’s been a long process, but everyone knows who we are today.”

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+.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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