Over the next five years, millions of businesses around the world owned and run by women will expand by at least six employees, predicts the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Already, an estimated 48 million female entrepreneurs and 64 million female business owners employ one or more people in their businesses.
In KwaMakhutha Township, South Africa, fashion designer Nandipha Gaelesiwe is creating urban, casual clothing for men. Gaelesiwe, who was chosen to be part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative program this summer, owns LEGION Fashions, a clothing brand based in Durban, South Africa.
Responding to demands for functional and fashionable clothing, the designer has found her niche in the local hip-hop scene. In the midst of starting her company and graduating from the Durban University of Technology, Gaelesiwe spoke about being an entrepreneur.
Describe your business.
LEGION produces men’s garments with a military-influenced look, but with a design and fit that set them apart. My motto is “Camouflage is not only for combat.” I want to produce designs that show the versatility of camouflage prints from traditional to modern. I also want a brand influenced by my own experience and by the urban hip-hop lifestyle.
What is distinctive about LEGION?
The South African fashion market has few locally produced and developed urban brands catering towards the hip-hop community. This is a growing sector in South Africa’s entertainment industry, but most artists are wearing international brands. LEGION aims to promote a South African brand in the hip-hop community.
What obstacles have you faced in your startup, and how have you overcome them?
The biggest issue is finding capital to finance the business. I’m looking at different avenues of finance that might be available through government assistance and programs for up-and-coming designers.
Also, marketing the business as a startup is challenging. But I’m trying to be proactive, targeting local hip-hop artists to wear my clothing so that it can become more recognized.
What advice do you offer others wanting to start a business?
Love what you do. Having a passion for the business can go a long way when overcoming obstacles. Believe in yourself and be open to learn something new.
Thinking of starting your own business? Find out more ways to design products and raise funds.