Alissa AliassimeAda-Swings with purpose e

Favorite quote: “No matter how dark the night, the sun will always rise”

What is your story (tell us about yourself)?

I grew up relocating a lot because my parents worked for NGOs. As a teenager, it was the only carrier I saw or considered. Then came my gap year, Uni and internships- and all the politics and red tape within Ngo’s was so disheartening and filled me with anger. This is not to say that Huge NGO’s out there don’t help individuals but the amount of money that could have been used in a manner to establish sustainability rather than fuel a circle of dependency was something I was unable to overlook.

So I decided that I still want to help, but my way- on a small scale but targeting organizations where I would also be able to see how each penny was used.

When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?

As a child I would make jewelry, wait till my parents had dinner parties and then make all of them buy pieces that most probably landed in the bin soon after.
unlike most people who one would refer to as an entrepreneur, i’m not a risk taker- at all. I started working small jobs at 16 and always did things on the side – my inspirations have always come from interests, wants, or needs and that’s how Ada came to be.

What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
The objective for Ada, did change over time.

I was looking for a fabric swing for my daughter but couldn’t really find anything that I liked. Therefore I started designing Fabrics based of things my daughter observed and likes, for example bees, butterflies and fruit. It was important to me, that my fabrics were fun for children, where they could build stories and ask lots of questions.

I was supporting different NOG’s privately at that point and then decided to combine the swings with a social impact. Now its not just Swings anymore, we have a few exciting new things coming out and I’m just enjoying the process of it all.

What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
Myself. I am a very scheduled person- I don’t miss deadlines and I always give 100%- It was and still is very hard for me to accept that this isn’t everyone else’s work ethic. Learning not to project my expectations onto everyone – is something I’m still trying to learn.

Along the way there were many setbacks- people not showing up, freestyling seamstresses and launching stress, but looking back I expected obstacles so any frustrated as I was, I was not too surprised. However, something that did catch me by surprise was the slow start once we launched – and accepting that sometimes business is slow, or completely quite was a hard pill to swallow. However, I also think that everything in life is a lesson learnt, so even if one venture is not successful, you learn, and move on- no time is wasted doing something you are passionate about.

How did you manage to navigate your company through this period of the Covid-19 pandemic? (What business strategies/operational adjustments have you made over this period and how has it impacted your business model?)

Covid gave me the time to be more creative and looking at the direction the country was going into was a great motivator to get others more involved. SA has an unemployment youth rate of nearly 60%. Its insane how many young people are falling through the cracks and deeper into poverty, and once in the cycle its not as easy to get out even if you do find employment in a country who’s economy just took a hard blow.
As Ada didn’t exist before Covid I can’t tell you what would be different.

How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?

Social Media is amazing. However I also love a face to face approach, speaking to women that run antenatal classes and other small businesses that sell a variety of children’s toys.

Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?

I know a few people who run their own businesses and I have gained a lot of support from them – I don’t think I would have come this far without them. Sometimes you need people to ask you questions you don’t want to hear – that helped me in many different ways.

What is your perspective on the South African entrepreneurial landscape before and after Covid-19 pandemic? (Would you say the “new normal” context drives more or less opportunities for entrepreneurs?) How can entrepreneurial policy development aid in expanding opportunities in this new context?

One thing Covid has done is push entrepreneurs to go for it- In my opinion the new normal does drive more opportunities for entrepreneurs because some many things we accepted as the norm changed so drastically. Mobile services increased dramatically due to being confined to some extent, so everyone who was able to find or see a need , was able to fulfil that demand.

In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
Listen to your customers and always keep learning.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

Trust yourself and your gut. Its never ending hard work- with days where you just want to close all the doors- but sometimes the sweetest berry just needs the longest time to ripen.