A group of young budding social entrepreneurs from Makhaza in Khayelitsha, are on a mission to change how township business is perceived and aim to lure potential investors to boost local businesses.
In 2013, 27-year-old Siyabulela Sophi and four friends started the Makhaza Lifestyle business after they discovered that there was a huge gap in the market for their business concept.
They said while the business was started towards the end of 2013, they decided to conduct rigorous research to better understand their market before they could sell their products.
The following year they started selling their products. Mr Sophi, the creative director of Makhaza Lifestyle, said the idea behind their business was to start a company or a brand that would be based in the township and be influential and change the perceptions held about townships.
He said during the research phase, they discovered that 90% of the companies they studied, were profit-driven and had little impact on uplifting township communities.
He said while they naturally wanted to make a profit, their core mission was to develop townships and inspire positive change.
He said in 2013 he graduated at Cape Peninsula University (CPUT) with office management and technology and three years later, he graduated from the University of South Africa (UNISA) business school with an advanced entrepreneurial training certificate. He is currently pursuing a BTech in project management at CPUT.
He said he was grateful to be among young leaders who had been nominated to be part of the Young African Leaders initiative from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016.
“We started the business by selling 20 caps. And now we can sell up to 100 caps a month and more.
“We don’t intend having a store in a mall.
“But we want to open our stores in the townships. We want into inspire change in our communities. We want to grow and tap in our markets.
“We have clients in Zimbabwe, Durban and Joburg and we ship our products there.
“We want to reshape our townships. Our existence should inspire township children,” he said.
Mr Sophi said they launched the MK Originals store at the beginning of this month and were looking forward to open more stores in the near future.
He said they never got funding for their business and opted to create an alternative ways to fund their business by pooling their available financial resources.
Among the challenges facing the young business, he said, were interpersonal clashes and a lack of support from influential people in the community.
These influential people, he said, often thought that when they were asked for their support, that meant they were being asked for money-which was not always the case.
Another challenge, he said, was that suppliers often favoured bigger companies who, perhaps, placed bigger orders and lamented that small business were not given the same attention as big companies were.
He also urged black people to support each other rather than trying to pull each other down.
A highlight, he said, was being involved in a career expo in Khayelitsha.