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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Kitting Out SA’s Trendiest Tots

An exciting modern African aesthetic is emerging from young South African fashion designers, one of whom is taking the lucrative kids fashion market by storm.

Juliet Pitman

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Banini — the brainchild of Beverley Field — has moms cooing over its blend of African shweshwe fabric and cotton prints, kitting out their trendsetting tots in its signature reversible wrap dress.

“I wanted to bring something to the market that had Eurocentric styling mixed with Afrocentric colours and fabrics. We started with bed linen for kids but it was when we launched the clothing range that things really took off,” says Field.

Field is a branding expert by trade and knew nothing about clothing manufacturing when she started Banini. Today most rooms in her home have been given over to the creation of her kids fashion range.

“It was a steep learning curve. I’ve had to learn everything about clothing manufacture, and find skilled people who are as focused on quality as I am,” she says.

Banini targets upper-end consumers through niche fairs and markets, and in the past six months has seen a dramatic rise in the number of online enquiries.

“All of a sudden people are aware of the brand and this has driven a significant increase in demand. Fortunately, up until now we’ve grown organically and the business is now in a position to manage this level of growth,” says Field, who has benefited from the input of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship since the beginning of 2013.

Although it’s more expensive to manufacture in South Africa, Field is firm about Banini being a South African product. “The decline of the local textile industry and the flood of cheap Chinese imports made me sad. South Africa has beautiful and unique textile designs, and I believe that needs to be harnessed and celebrated,” she says.

Success lesson:

Capture a lucrative and growing kids fashion market with a unique range that blends Afrocentric fabric and colour with Eurocentric styling.

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The Beauty in Hard Work. We Chat to Jenna Clifford

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Uzenzele Holdings Co-founders Nadia And Zahra Rawjee’s Top Advice On Building A Service-based Business

Nadia and Zahra Rawjee of Uzenzele Holdings know what businesses need, and they understand the struggles that founders go through, which is why the pair often understand their clients’ needs before the first meeting has even taken place.

Nadine Todd

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Vital stats

  • Players: Nadia Rawjee and Zahra Rawjee
  • Company: Uzenzele Holdings
  • Est: 2012
  • Visit: www.uzenzele.com
  • About: Uzenzele Holdings is a consultancy that focuses on business development and accessing governmental funding for business expansion projects. The company uses its expertise to help clients navigate the complex process of applying for government and developmental funding, helping to unlock funds and opportunities that many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of.

Sisters Nadia and Zahra Rawjee grew up in a family business, so they understand the challenges that the average SME faces. They also realise that the average entrepreneur is unaware of the opportunities available to him or her when it comes to government and developmental funding.

“We realised what an impact government and developmental funding could have had on the family business, but like so many SMEs, it never accessed the funds available,” says Zahra Rawjee.

The fact of the matter is, many business owners are unaware of the funds that are available through government. Others, meanwhile, do not think that they would qualify, or they think that delving into this ocean of bureaucracy would simply not be worth the effort. This is a mistake. It can absolutely be worth the effort.

“Companies looking to grow can access millions through government,” says Nadia Rawjee. “We’ve seen clients receiving tens of millions in funding.”

That said, there is some truth in the view that accessing these funds is sometimes difficult. The application process can be complex, and the process as a whole can be a long one. However, if you know what you’re doing, you can get funded.

Related: Uzenzele Holdings Unpacks The How And Where Of Business Funding

Because the Rawjees understood the challenges that businesses faced, and they possessed the arcane (and often shifting) information needed to access these funds, they decided to launch a consultancy that would assist clients in the process. Uzenzele Holdings has now been around for more than five years and has helped many clients secure funding. As you might expect, theirs is a business driven by relationships. Here’s their advice for building a successful service-driven operation.

1. Know thy customer

As mentioned, Nadia and Zahra understand the wants and needs of their clients, even when the clients themselves don’t. “We find that many clients underestimate the amount of capital they’ll need to make their growth and expansion plans a reality. They go into the process looking to raise less money than they’ll actually need, which can result in disastrous cash flow problems down the line. Because we know this, we can advise them accordingly. If you  don’t understand your clients’ businesses, it’s tough to give them the right advice.

KEY LESSON: True success comes from becoming a trusted advisor to your clients. This can only happen if you have real empathy for your clients, and if you understand their businesses intimately. Without these two characteristics, any relationship will be purely transactional.

2. Follow the market

uzenzele-holdingsFollowing your passion is admirable, but it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the realities of the market in the process. To their credit, Nadia and Zahra initially wanted to focus on small/micro businesses because they believed that this was the area where they could make the biggest impact. However, they quickly learnt that these businesses were so cash strapped and focused on survival, that they weren’t looking at growth, and they didn’t have the money needed to invest in advisory services.

As consultants themselves, they decided to invest in advisors who could help them reposition the company. “We brought in marketers who helped us reposition Uzenzele Holdings and make it visible to the companies who were actually looking for our services.”

KEY LESSON: Don’t make any assumptions about the market. Your target audience might not be where you think it is. In fact, your ideal audience might be very different from the one you have in your head. It’s worth spending time and money to find out exactly who your ideal audience is, and where they can be reached.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

3. Educate your audience

Because so many of Uzenzele Holdings’ clients are unaware of the funding options available, knowledge transfer is an important activity for the consultancy. “You have to be willing to give out information freely,” says Zahra. “For this reason, we have a blog on our website, we do talks at conferences, and we contribute to business publications.”

“At the moment, for example, we are focusing on the Black Industrialist Programme through the DTI, and funding available for agro processing. There are great opportunities open to those looking for funding, but people don’t know about it,” says Nadia.

KEY LESSON: Signing clients is nearly impossible when they don’t understand what you’re offering. For this reason, you need to see education as part of the selling process. The payoff might only come way down the line, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the process.

4. Network

Speaking at conferences and writing articles for publications not only educates potential clients, it also builds the Uzenzele Holdings brand and ups the profile of the Rawjee sisters. “Networking is important,” says Nadia. “You have to be out there — you need to get to know people, and they need to get to know you. It takes time and work, but you have to do it. Networking is important in any business.”

“You shouldn’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn when it comes to networking. It’s a great place to connect, and post content. When it comes to the B2B space, LinkedIn is definitely one of the best platforms,” says Zahra.

KEY LESSON: You have to build your brand and get to know people. Most young companies land their first clients because of connections and referrals. To succeed, you have to establish yourself as a presence in your industry. You can do this by joining organisations, attending conferences and going out of your way to connect with others.


Your funding checklist

Understand what you need. There’s a basic checklist to follow:

  • Do you need money for working or operating expenditure vs capital investment?
  • How much do you require?
  • How long do you need the money for?
  • What is the cost of capital you can afford to repay?

Armed with this knowledge, you can start finding the right fund or finance vehicle for your needs.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Funders have different criteria:

  • Turnover: mainly grants
  • Profitability: loans/grants
  • Balance sheet: loans/grants
  • Ability to scale: venture capital

Funders tend to have between two and 26 different funds, each with their own mandate, eligibility criteria, funding type (loan or grant), costing, things they will and won’t fund and other specifics. Read the mandates to find your fit.

Call and speak to the funders and be fund specific. Speak to a consultant at the fund to clarify your eligibility before starting the application process.

Ask questions around:

  • Their timelines
  • When the credit committees or panels sit for adjudication
  • What is considered for your application to get adjudicated.

Arming yourself with this knowledge will exponentially increase your chances of being considered for funding. Many applications do not reach the adjudication phase because the business doesn’t match the fund or the application is incorrectly filled in.

You cannot receive funding if your application is not even considered. The correct content and format is vital.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Pet Wellness Worx Found Business Success In Rehabilitating Pets

Lorren Barham, the founder of Pet Wellness Worx, spoke to Entrepreneur about the challenges of launching a business in a relatively unknown industry.

Nadine Todd

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Vital stats

  • Player: Lorren Barham
  • Company: Pet Wellness Worx
  • Est: 2014
  • About: Lorren Barham is the owner and operator of the hydro underwater treadmill and therapist-in-the-pool facility of Pet Wellness Worx. The business specialises in the health, wellbeing and rehabilitative care of pets.
  • Visit: petwellnessworx.co.za

Certain business ideas are obvious, others aren’t. In a world where many founders are looking to create ‘the Uber of this’ or ‘the Uber of that’, a company that offers rehabilitative care for pets might seem like a niche lifestyle business.

But Lorren Barham’s Pet Wellness Worx has seen fantastic growth over the last three years precisely because it is so niche. Lorren identified a relatively unexploited niche and owned it.

In the modern business world where all the obvious opportunities have already been jumped at, success lies in finding that small but promising industry that is ripe for growth. Not that launching a start-up in this sort of space is easy, mind you. Chances are, you’ll need to educate consumers and grow your company slowly, but if you get the basics right, you can establish a sustainable operation with excellent long-term prospects.

1. How did you identify this unique business opportunity?

I did not have a background in the field, but I’ve always had an intense passion for animals, and because of my own pets, I knew about auto immune disorders like degenerative myelopathy, neurological spinal prolapse and hip dysplasia.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

Over the years, some of my own animals had to deal with these issues, so I understood that there was a need for a facility that could assist with rehabilitation. So, going into the industry wasn’t a purely tactical business decision — I had a real passion for the work. I think that’s important. You can’t pursue a business idea simply because you think there’s an opportunity in it. You need to be passionate about it. When times are tough, it’s your passion that’ll keep you going.

2. What is your background?

Pet Wellness Worx

I have a corporate background. I started out as a personal assistant, and over the years, I furthered my education, completing courses in fields like bookkeeping and business administration. When I opened my own business, I found that the knowledge and experience I gained in the corporate environment was immensely useful. Procuring expensive equipment, for instance, was less intimidating because I knew how to deal with suppliers and negotiate a fair deal.

You don’t need an MBA, necessarily, but you need some basic business knowledge. You could be a great specialist in your specific field, but running your own business is something very different. As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats, and you have to manage every aspect of the company — you have to manage employees, balance the books and do the marketing — so you need to educate yourself on the basics of running a business.

3. How did you prepare for the launch of the business?

I did a lot of research. I spent months figuring out exactly what sort of services I should provide, and how I should structure the business. Importantly, I had a goal and a mission. It helps to know what your ultimate goal is. Figure out what you want to achieve, and then do plenty of research. Take your time. Solid research will prevent you from making mistakes that can be costly down the line.

Related: Women Leaders In Business: 5 Lessons Learnt

4. How did you market the business in the early days?

We focused on qualified veterinarians. Not only could they refer clients to the business, but it was also clear that in order for the company to succeed, buy-in from them was necessary. So, I spent a lot of time at veterinarians’ offices. I had to show them that I was running a legitimate business that could do real good.

Whenever you operate in a niche area, you need to realise that some education will be necessary. You need to explain the value that you bring to potential customers, and to other important decision-makers in the field.

As the company built a solid track record, and I could show vets the improvement brought on by our rehab work, we started getting more and more clients. I truly ascribe a lot of our recent success to the fact that the vets embraced us.

5. What other marketing strategies have worked for you?

It’s very important to know exactly who you’re targeting. We’re very targeted in our approach. We go to animal shows and events, and we run adds on websites like showdogs.co.za, since these are places that we know we’ll find our target audience. Facebook is another great place to showcase the work that we do. Another strategy that has worked for me has been to write articles for publication.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to educate potential customers, and a great way to do this is through editorial. I’ve written articles for magazines and websites, and media companies have generally been willing to run them. If you write an informative article that’s suitable for publication, you can get your name out in that way.

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Daniella Shapiro Of Oolala Collection Club’s Smart Strategies For Marketing Your Online Business

Entrepreneur, speaker and marketing expert Daniella Shapiro recently launched a proudly South African skincare, beauty and lifestyle eCommerce platform called the Oolala Collection Club. Here’s her advice for successfully marketing your start-up.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital stats

  • Player: Daniella Shapiro
  • Company: Oolala Collection Club
  • Founded: 2016
  • Visit: www.oolalacollection.com
  • About: The Oolala Collection Club ships proudly South African high-quality skincare, beauty products and essential lifestyle brands direct to your doorstep.

The digital space offers a lot of opportunities when it comes to starting a business, but making your start-up stand out isn’t easy. There is a lot of competition and a lot of noise online, so success requires smart and very strategic marketing. Here’s advice from entrepreneur and marketing expert Daniella Shapiro on marketing your business effectively. Daniella’s advice is gleaned from creating her online beauty and lifestyle start-up, the Oolala Collection Club.

Authenticity is everything. Hyper-connected, information-savvy and socially-conscious consumers are extremely cautious and apprehensive of being sold to. Times have changed. Perfection and image are no longer everything. Now the term ‘image’ has a big question mark: Photo-shopped and filtered. Brand messages are carefully constructed, and consumers aren’t sold. They are seeking. Millennials are ruthless and obsessive in their pursuit for authenticity. They do not want to feel ‘manipulated’.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Brands need to get real. Transparency 3.0 is about making almost all touch points of the purchase and experience transparent: Pricing, reviews, popularity, and even personal relevance. In short, consumers want the real story. Smart brands are giving it to them.

Mistakes are inevitable, but the important thing is how you deal with them

Being human means making mistakes. If you do mess up or end up with a social media crisis, the first step you should take is to own it. Admit to faults and take immediate action to resolve the situation. This transparency lets your fans and customers know what happened and what you’re doing to fix it.

As a result, customers’ trust in your company should remain intact. You work so hard to acquire this trust, so you need to do whatever you can to keep it.  Companies should view mistakes as powerful opportunities to increase advocacy.

Ask yourself: What does my brand stand for?

Consumers appreciate brands that stand for more than the bottom line. A great way to build your brand is to make it stand for something by creating a social story that links to a meaningful social cause on a personal level. For example, The Oolala Collection Club is all about affordable luxury and cruelty-free beauty. These causes help position the brand strategically by communicating a clear message that the consumer can resonate with. This will automatically encourage and drives positive change.

Craft a compelling user experience for eCommerce

oolala-collection-club

eCommerce in South Africa is growing in leaps and bounds. South Africans are spending more time online searching for more affordable prices and seeking product recommendations on social media.

Convenience and shopping from the comfort of your own home has become more important as our lives become busier.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Subscription services allow the customer to do as little as possible, saving time and money, especially with companies offering same day or next day shipping. The whole eCommerce user experience must be seamless, simple and as efficient as possible, from the moment you log on to the site to the moment you check out.

Chatbots and real-time messaging are one of the most interactive ways your audience can learn about products, giving immediate answers to consumers. A Chatbot should be able to provide a personalised shopping experience. It can help users search for the appropriate product, provide comparisons and hand-hold a user through their buyer journey as well as offer sales support. Shopping cart abandonment is also reduced by answering questions immediately.

Know your audience

Considering the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is crucial.  No one can afford to target everyone. A small business can effectively compete with a large one by targeting a niche market. This allows you to focus your marketing budget and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to purchase from you and resonate with your brand message and products. Building your brand and social media following takes time and needs to grow organically.  Engagement is key. Build your followers by having a unique voice and consistent brand message that is interactive, relatable and focused.

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