Fashion business owner Dumi Mahlangu's hard work and creativity is an inspiration to young entrepreneurs, especially those who may have been affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mahlangu (35) is the owner of one of South Africa’s hottest up-and-coming fashion brands – Chepa Streetwear. In 2017, he made the move from an insurance and investment company to follow his passion for fashion.
After starting the business from scratch, the entrepreneur began selling his clothes on WhatsApp and through word of mouth.
“The transition was hard but very exciting, which has made the journey even more rewarding.”
Thinking of ways to expand his business, Mahlangu got in touch with emerging online retailers and taught himself more about selling products online. Today, his stylish clothes are delivered around the country and also internationally. The business employs 12 permanent staff members.
During the national lockdown, Mahlangu had to stop production for a month but used the opportunity to focus more on the potential of online sales.
“The majority of South Africans still don’t trust buying items online. So we developed videos to teach people how to buy online. We had to prove that it is secure. COVID-19 has so many disadvantages, but it also opened up opportunities to really grow online platforms.”
Typical of the entrepreneur, Mahlangu also looked at how he could develop new products during the pandemic and the result is a line of fashionable face masks.
“South Africans like nice clothes and they like to look good. So apart from wanting the masks, the clients will often also take the matching jacket! This really helped us to stay afloat during these tough times. You need to get creative.”
Top tips for young entrepreneurs
For Youth Month, Mahlangu says that young people who want to be entrepreneurs should not wait for opportunities to fall from the sky.
“A lot of people wait for things to happen or wait for an opportunity to come along. The truth is that this doesn’t happen unless you are very lucky. I encourage you to create something and trust in yourself. When you do that, other people will buy into your vision and trust in it too,” he says.
He adds that you don’t need huge amounts of money to start a business.
“Many people don’t understand the power of bartering. For example, if you are selling vegetables, then find someone with a bakkie. Ask them if they can deliver vegetables to clients, in exchange for your products. This helps you build your client base.”