Favorite quote: “The universe will meet you at your point of intention.”
What is your story (tell us about yourself)?
My name is Karabo and I am the creator of MAPULA Swim which is a brand that sells swimwear online and this is swimwear that is designed and made in South Africa. I am a village girl and I am rooting for everyone who is black.
When did you start your first business and what inspired you to start?
I started my first business in 2019. It was a lingerie brand because at the time, South Africa did not have SA made lingerie brands. If there were, they were always expensive and don’t cater to curvier women so I decided to start one but I had no idea how exhausting it was going to be, being black in Cape Town and trying to start a business that is largely white.
Then I started a swimwear brand a year after. It has been okay for the most part.
What is the Key Objective(s) and Vision of your business? (Has it changed overtime or is has it always been this?)
I just want to create swimwear that I can be proudly wear. It is about continuing to find ways to create the perfect swimwear because honestly that will never exist because bodies are not the same. That is my vision.
What challenges did you face in your journey? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome (are still overcoming)?
The biggest obstacle has been finances. Everyone in this space will tell you the same answer probably.
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?)
I did not navigate through it, I just held on honestly. The problem was not the pandemic even though there were factors that made it difficult to run the business. South Africans find anything and everything expensive so add that to the mix and you find the entire process to be too much. At the moment there have not been adjustments. This is a small brand that is not even a year old so not much can be adjusted.
How do you approach networking and building partnerships in your industry?
I believe working with other businesses in the same industry helps because you might have probably experienced the same problems and found solutions that can help the next person starting a business.
One thing I have learned though through this entire process is that people will not help you because they have gone through issues in their business and would rather have you go through the business and overcome it yourself. It is selfish but what can we do.
Do you have (or ever had) a mentor in your journey, and do you believe it helped (if yes, in what way)?
I have never had one. I am impatient and I don’t know how to depend on people especially knowing that they won’t understand my frustrations. I think it’s better to have a psychologist to deal with the anxiety of making decisions instead of someone who might know what you are going through but not really. But then again, I have never had a mentor so I don’t know how all these things work.
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?
I am not well informed in policies because honestly being in South Africa and starting a business is suicide especially if you are black and trying to find a bit of funding. The structures in place to “help” business owners are not effective.
In your opinion, what are the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur?
I don’t know. I am still trying to figure it out because I am not successful. As mentioned, my business is just 8 months old.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Don’t start a business unless you come from a point of privilege (those who understand will get this).