| Tokelo Motsepe
A. I came here [to Cape Town] to study over 10 years ago, which is where Alice and I met. She came to visit me back in Kenya one school holiday and we were visiting Lamu [small town in northern Kenya] and came across some beautiful kanga's, which inspired the idea of making skirts from the beautiful kanga's, initially for ourselves; but when we saw how people took notice of them when we wore them, we thought to just make and sell them. We found a Tanzanian tailor in Observatory, who understood the kanga's and helped us make hundreds of these skirts, which we sold and were kind of winging it throughout our studies.
As we wrapped our studies we grappled the decision of having to find a job or pursue this new venture, and a pivotal encounter with the Ethical Fashion Council from the UK in one of my last few lectures and after their talk on what ethical & sustainable fashion was and the shift from cheap Chinese imports to more conscious & sustainable production, which really shaped my outlook on a lot from then. I went on to move back home [to Kenya] after school and there were always these two ladies that worked in sewing across from my parents home back then and I asked if they would like to come and work for me and they were happy to. In about two or three years we went from a team of two to seventeen, all working out of my parents garage.
At that point I had moved over to London to market the brand there. In the first year that I'd moved there, I'd completely missed the buying season by 6months and was so oblivious to it cause I had no idea what a buying season was, but somehow through perseverance we managed to get a concession stand in Topshop in Oxford Circus in the flagship store for like 3 years.
Those early years were very different who we are now, it's been an evolutionary journey.
A. When I moved back to Kenya from London, I really felt I was spread too thinly between managing the production of the brand, as well as handling the marketing; so I looked at outsourcing the production, but the team I had built up had become quite skilled and I didn't want to just abandon them. I had gotten quite involved with the Ethical Fashion scene in London and pioneering that and was aware of the demand for ethical manufacturers; through that I was able to facilitate my team being apart of the foundation of what is today known as Soko Kenya and they do so much more now, producing hundreds of jobs and upskilling communities and it feels awesome to have been able to be apart of that; it makes it all that much more meaningful.
And we stock a really big department store called Holt Renfrew (a high-end department store in Canada) and are required to package our products in plastic bags as a wholesaler and I managed to find biodegradable plastic bags for us to use [wanting to minimise out impact on the environment]. I sent our samples over to Holt Renfrew when we were doing our marketing and they inquired about the biodegradable bags we used and went on to implement it across all their suppliers, that all products be packaged in this biodegradable bags from then onwards. I was overwhelmed when they let us know, to think this little brand from South Africa is influencing their packaging solutions.
A. I just moved onto this office space about a week ago and before that I was working from home and that was a lot more challenging, cause 5 'o clock coming means nothing and now at 5pm I wrap up and head home and turn off. With that said, feel my work shouldn't be something I resent or feel like it's a chore, I really love it. I walk my dog every morning on the mountain and use that time to open my mind up, think of new ideas and be creative.
There does seem to be a bit of a blurred line between the two, but I don't really mind that. I love my job enough to let it infiltrate my personal life.
Have a plan. Know who your customer is, that can keep your from straying and getting distracted and end up barking up the wrong tree; make sure you understand your market. And plans can change, you don't have to stick to It, but it does offer a good framework for what you want to achieve.