When Lesego Malatsi started making clothes, he didn’t think beyond being able to support himself. Today, the once unemployed fashion school graduate has a thriving business, a shop in Soweto’s Maponya Mall and a growing market in the UK. He’s also a Richard Branson School of Entrepreneurship graduate and the only South African designer to have showcased his work in the 2011 London Fashion Week’s ‘Fashion’s Finest Renaissance’ event, an experience he describes as “the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.”
Getting off the ground
It’s a story, like so many others, with humble beginnings and starts with a sewing project in the streets of Soweto. “My mother invested my deceased father’s pension payout in my fashion school
education and I was the first person in my family to study beyond school. So when I graduated and couldn’t find a job, I knew I’d exhausted the family’s income and would have to make a plan,” says Malatsi.
With nothing other than ideas for beautiful garments, Malatsi approached a group of women in a Soweto sewing project. “I realised I’d have to use what I had, which was my training and my ideas. They had equipment that I needed so I proposed a barter deal with them. They would let me use their equipment and in return I’d give them professional clothing patterns,” he explains. This still left the problem of purchasing fabric, but Malatsi managed to convince his first client to pay a deposit to cover these costs.
That deposit was Malatsi’s first and only start-up capital. “Once that first garment was made I made a small profit and, as word spread in the community orders slowly started to trickle in, and I could use the money I made to buy more fabric and make more garments,” he explains.
It’s business in its simplest but possibly most elegant form: make a small profit off an initial sale, plough it back into the business and use it to increase production and make more profit.
Defining a unique style
Over time, Malatsi became known in his neighbourhood as the go-to-guy for African fashion for formal occasions. From initially making only bespoke garments, he slowly developed commercial ranges based on his more successful items.
He’s worked hard at developing his own African-inspired style. “I deliberately didn’t reference European fashion magazines. I wanted to create an Afro-centric look that appeals to any race or colour, but that still has an international flavour,” he explains. Initially he was known for his ‘traditional clothing’ but that has evolved and a unique style has emerged over time into ethnic-inspired and finally the Afro-centric style he has today.
Standing out – and serendipity
This signature style is undoubtedly one of his key success factors and it’s what made a particular tourist from Cambridge notice his garments in the window of his Maponya Mall shop in Soweto, in late 2010. What followed was a remarkable series of fortunate events.
“She was an archeology student and when she got back to Cambridge she found she needed to send the garment back for alterations and we got corresponding. She saw snippets of one of my shows on the Internet and wanted to start a business to import my clothes to the UK. She asked if I’d be willing to make a trip there to showcase some garments,” says Malatsi.
It just so happened that at that time the Branson Centre had been helping him raise funds to attend a show in Los Angeles for which Malatsi had developed a range. “That trip got cancelled so here I was with the money, the range and an invitation to travel overseas,” he continues. He showcased the line at the first ever Black Ethnic Minority Week in the UK. Slowly, orders started coming in.
The Cambridge archeology student wrote her thesis on African apparel, using Malatsi’s work as an example of how it had been modernised. “She asked me to showcase my clothes at her thesis presentation before a panel of judges and we won a prize of £1 000,” Malatsi relates. Some philanthropists, who just happened to be in the audience, added a £6 000 donation to the prize money and Malatsi secured retail space, setting up shop in Cambridge’s high street.
Malatsi has big plans for expansion in South Africa and for the development of an exciting accessories line. “People keep asking me things like ‘What socks do I wear with this outfit?’ or ‘Don’t you have something my child can wear?’ and I realised there was a real market for bags, shoes and jewellery – even children’s wear and homewear. I’ll be pushing this hard in the year ahead,” he concludes.
Making the most of opportunities
There can be little doubt that luck played an important role in Malatsi’s story but so too has his ability to take opportunities and make the most of them. From his association with the Branson Centre to the interest shown by a single UK customer in selling his clothes overseas, he’s also managed to establish relationships that have opened doors to new opportunities.
10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets
The future of entrepreneurship has never looked so bright…these young entrepreneurs share their wisdom around building a successful business.
Natural Talent Can Become Your Success
Thabo Khumalo – ToVch
“I learnt to design and sew while assisting my mother who was a seamstress, and that is when I realised that I had a talent to create,” Thabo Khumalo explains. “But I never knew I was an entrepreneur.” Thabo Khumalo started his company ToVch in 2010 and has since appeared in South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.
Khumalo has a small but engaged audience, who he communicates directly with. “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.”
One of the most challenging aspects of launching his businesses was marketing the brand with limited funds. He used social media and word-of-mouth to market. “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.” Khumalo built up his company using support from a strong online network, which became his marketing strategy.
For Founder Of National Tekkie Tax Day Having A Higher (Business) Purpose Keeps Her Driving Forward
The NGO space isn’t easy. It’s a constant uphill battle to connect scarce resources with the vulnerable. Annelise de Jager has persevered in this space because she’s tapped into her personal purpose and values.
- Player: Annelise de Jager
- Initiative: National Tekkie Tax Day
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.tekkietax.co.za
Use your purpose to drive you forward
Connect your purpose with what you do, and you’ll find untapped reserves of perseverance and the discipline needed to achieve your goals.
Purpose before profit is not a new concept in business. In fact, it underlines the motivations behind some of the most successful entrepreneurs. It’s also not reserved for social enterprises alone.
However, it is in the social entrepreneurship and charitable spaces that living one’s purpose first found a foothold, mostly because without a strong purpose, the work would just be too hard, and many would give up.
Annelise de Jager, founder of National Tekkie Tax Day, unpacks how she’s used living her purpose to drive her forward, even when she’s faced almost insurmountable challenges and disappointments.
Make ‘living a life that matters’ intrinsic to everything you do.
“I was lucky in that I didn’t ever need to sit down and say, ‘I want my life to matter, so I need to do x, y, z’,” says Annelise. “It was intrinsic for me. However, in the past five years I’ve become acutely aware of it, and I’ve seen how important the ability to look beyond oneself is when you’re facing disappointment and challenges.
“It helps you look beyond the now, find a solution and keep pushing on, because there is a bigger goal at stake. The biggest revelation for me has been that anyone can figure this out and use it as a tool to achieve their dreams and purpose — you just need to trigger your intrinsic motivators.
“Figure out what’s really important to you, and then align this with what you’re doing, in both your business and personal journeys. Robin Bank’s Mind Power and Shaping your Destiny courses are a great place to start.”
Don’t be afraid to ask what’s next
Critical to Annelise’s journey has been the realisation that when goals are met, we need to ask ourselves: What’s next? “Too many people achieve their goals and then feel adrift. You should meet your goals. Your ultimate vision should change. That’s growth, and it’s critical if you want to keep moving forward.
“Our experiences inform our knowledge base and world views, and so as you live and run your business, that view should be changing, bringing with it new challenges and perceptions. Don’t be scared of it; embrace it.”
Annelise went to Potchefstroom University to study social work where she joined the university’s musical revue group, the Alabama Student Company. “Alabama was given the opportunity to tour Taiwan, but I was about to graduate. Travel is high on my personal values list, so I started a second degree in communications to stay in university — and — in Alabama.”
New experiences can be the source of great ideas and strength
Studying communications opened Annelise to a new discipline that she loved. “Marketing and communications are so filled with energy — an energy social work didn’t possess. I loved both, and I wanted to find a way to meld them together. This would ultimately shape my business, The Marketing Team, after I’d been a social worker for a few years. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans based on new experiences; they can be the source of our greatest ideas and strengths.”
No experience is ever wasted
“We spend too much time trying to plan exactly what we should be doing, where and when, instead of following our hearts and instincts,” says Annelise. “No experience is ever wasted. Once I discovered my love for communications, I questioned whether I’d wasted four years studying social work. I hadn’t.
“Both disciplines became the bedrock of how I would assist the charitable space in South Africa. Experiences open our eyes, our hearts, and our understanding. They give us empathy and patience. They allow us to view things from other perspectives. If you want to really make a difference in other peoples’ lives, these traits are invaluable.”
Be open to finding answers in unexpected places
“By 2004 I felt rudderless,” says Annelise. “I’d been running my own business, handling communications and marketing for NGOs, developing campaigns and even assisting NGOs to run more as businesses than under-funded organisations, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
“Part of the problem was that you can only give people the tools to work with, you can’t make them use them. Another problem was under-funding. Corporates spend billions each year on CSI projects but they don’t like to fund salaries and basic operational expenses.
“It’s frustrating because volunteers can’t do what needs to be done — most households need two breadwinners, which limits the availability of volunteers to assist.
“I was looking for a way to add more value. Should I start my own NGO? Where could I make the biggest impact? I’d been offered an excellent coaching position, which would allow me to walk away from the problems this sector deals with daily. It was tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
“At that time I attended the Global Day of Prayer in Argentina on behalf of a client. It was at that conference that I had an almost supernatural experience. I left knowing exactly what my purpose was.
“How these realisations come to you is less important than the fact that you’re open to them. Deep down I knew what I wanted and needed — I just needed the courage and fortitude to follow my path. My experience in Argentina gave that to me because I allowed it to.”
Always find the strength to persevere.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In the NGO space, this is particularly true. “I developed the idea for National Tekkie Tax Day because NGOs constantly asked me to help them develop funding campaigns. I developed this fundraising model when I launched Casual Day and ran the project successfully for 18 years.
“But I also believe the NGO space can benefit from a more unified mindset to overcome donor confusion and fatigue. This is my new focus, but it’s difficult to get organisations to shift their mindsets. National Tekkie Tax Day is a step in this direction.
“It encompasses 12 national NGOs and 1 000 regional organisations across five categories — but there’s one product and one national marketing drive. Donors can choose a category to support.
“I’ve needed to persevere to help NGOs see the benefits in working collaboratively, and corporates to see the benefits of supporting the operational costs of NGOs.
“I don’t have a high profile job at a top company. People don’t call you back in my world. And yet you need to keep pushing forward against incredible headwinds.
“I wake up each morning and repeat the mantra that my success helps everybody; my failure helps nobody. There won’t always be easy wins, but with the right purpose you can persevere. You can make a difference.”
Support National Tekkie Tax Day on 26 May 2017
12 national charities | 1 000 local charities | 5 sectors to support
Animals, Bring Hope, Children, Disability, Education
Available at Toys R Us, Clicks and Babies R Us or online at www.tekkietax.co.za
Meet The Man Behind The Brand: Patrick O’Shea Of Hi Honey Infusions
Patrick O’Shea Of Hi Honey Infusions on what put the bee in his bonnet.
- Website: www.hihoneyinfusions.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Click here
- Orders: +27 23 614 2801
When Patrick O’Shea first started the Hi Honey range of honey infusion products from his Montagu home kitchen in 2015, nothing could have prepared him for the success that would follow.
Now just over a year later, Hi Honey Infusions has become a thriving, well-loved brand in the homes of many South Africans on their quest to live a healthy lifestyle.
We recently chatted to him about Hi Honey’s humble beginnings and his vision for the future.
It all started with a love affair with honey…
Patrick has loved honey since he could remember and his earliest memory was of the little light blue honey containers called Champagne Honey.
“My dad was a musician/entertainer on the Holiday Inn circuit during the mid-70’s in South Africa and we used to stay in the hotels he played at. I couldn’t wait for breakfast time so I could claim a few of them,” reminisces Patrick.
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The concept of combining honey and organics was still relatively new around the time Patrick began experimenting with it: “In early 2015 I read an article about the amazing health benefits of combining honey with cinnamon. Besides sounding delicious it also piqued my interest and I began researching the availability here in South Africa for such a product. I didn’t find any flavoured honey products and so began to create a range of honey infusions in my kitchen at home.”
After developing the recipes and manufacturing process, Patrick approached local Montagu business, Roscherr’s/Church Street. Managing Director Kallie Fourie and Production Head Martin Roscherr saw the brand potential and agreed to make the range.
The rest is history.
“They have been absolutely amazing since the first batch of Hi Honey Infusions were made last year,” says Patrick. “In June last year I was only supplying a few shops in the Montagu area. By November the range became available in Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts stores nationwide through Roscherr’s/Church Street.”
Honey and a healthy lifestyle
Only honey produced by South African bee keepers is used, primarily from the Western Cape area, to manufacture Hi Honey products. The honey is infused with certified organics which are sourced from around the world, except the Rooibos and soon to be released Baobab honey, which come from South Africa.
Since ancient times, the health benefits of honey haves been recognised and celebrated:
“Honey has so many amazing properties and health benefits. It is a really good, healthy food choice and pure honey is known to help build your immunity against sickness,” Patrick explains. “Honey contains simple sugars, which are not the same as white sugar or artificial sweeteners. Its exact combination of fructose and glucose actually helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. Some honeys have a low hypoglycaemic index, so they don’t jolt your blood sugar.”
Natural, raw honey combined with the health benefits of organics like cinnamon, Rooibos, ginger and others offer people the best of both. “It also makes the honey experience more interesting and yummy!” says Patrick.
Hi Honey and Montagu: A proud partnership
Patrick says that the Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts brand has been so supportive of this locally produced product from the start.
“Montagu CEO Hannes Jansen, Sales Director De Wet van Rooyen and Marketing Manager Liesl Carstens have and continue to give valuable advice and recommendations. Without their interest in the Hi Honey brand and products, I don’t think the business would be where it is today in such a short space of time,” explains Patrick.
“A small business that has great support from a big company forms the makings of something really special.”
New products and plans for the future
The Montagu franchise company recently turned five years old and Patrick was honoured to have been asked to launch the new alcohol- and preservative-free Hi 5 energy booster honey sachets to all the franchisees at the celebratory event in August 2016.
Patrick is constantly thinking of potential new combinations for the brand: “I think Hi Honey Infusions are a fresh new way to enjoy honey and I like the way they taste and look. The new addition to the range is Baobab and I think people are really going to enjoy the creamy fruity flavour,” he says.
Hi Honey can be enjoyed over oats, on toast or a pancake, or in these other useful ways:
- A teaspoon of Hi Honey chocolate, cinnamon or cayenne in coffee
- Hi Honey Rooibos or ginger in tea
- Hi Honey chocolate with almond milk for a lactose-free hot chocolate
- Hi Honey cayenne or turmeric in a curry
When he’s not running a thriving business, Patrick enjoys writing music and performing, reading, travel, making aromatherapy products, spending time with his two children and family and, when time allows (of which there is so little these days), playing golf.
Hi Honey Infusions is a preferred supplier to Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts stores nationwide.
Want to know more? Watch this video below:
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