Starting a business can be a challenging and exciting venture because one is entering uncharted territory. The reality is having a business is to start one and not just dream about it. After starting it you then have to discover ways of maintaining it. One of the ways was an innovation that Sindi Khumalo discovered in running her business.
Khumalo is a fashion stylist and the founder and owner of RetrollectSA which is a sustainable fashion brand aimed at sourcing vintage and second-hand garments that get refurbished and resold.
Speaking to Africa Daily Post the fashion stylist, from Middelburg in Mpumalanga, says that she has always had a love of old-school fashion which lead to her starting her company. Khumalo says moving to Johannesburg from Mpumalanga in 2013 to attend university opened her eyes to see how wide the vintage fashion industry was in the City of Gold which was an inspiration for her to start selling her garments back in her hometown.
“I have always had a love for fashion and particularly old school fashion. I would always collect old clothes from my aunts and grandmother and put them together in my one-man fashion show in front of the mirror.
When I moved to Johannesburg in 2013 from a small town called Middelburg in Mpumalanga for varsity, I was amazed at how wide the vintage fashion industry was here and seeing more people pursue careers in the creative space, particularly fashion, inspired me to source and start selling vintage garments in my home town in 2015 as I saw a gap in that market. “
The brand was initially aimed at providing garments only in her hometown during the December school holidays as a way to keep busy and then continued full time when she moved back home in 2018 for a year of unemployment.
She says she then expanded to cater to the nationwide market when she moved back to Johannesburg in 2019.
Talking about the name of the brand Khumalo says, “The name combines the words ‘Retro’and ‘Recollect’ depicting the re-sourcing of retro fashion, as the brand is inspired mostly by the 90s retro fashion.”
Starting any business without any experience offers a long road of learning opportunities. One of the opportunities was for Khumalo to teach herself business and entrepreneurial skills. It is also an opportunity for one to step out of their comfort zones. Khumalo reflects on starting the business.
“It has been a major learning curve as I started the brand initially to particularly teach myself business and entrepreneurial skills and to also earn a bit of income during my varsity years while pursuing my passion. Starting a fashion business with no prior fashion school experience, mentoring or any startup capital was a great but exciting challenge as I saw an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and grow, not just in business but mentally as a person as well.”
Mental and creative blocks have challenged Khumalo and this has brought about longs breaks however the fast pace of the people in Joburg, who are always hustling, inspired her to try over and over again.
“Living with chronic anxiety has made for challenges where I’ve had periods of hiatuses caused by mental and creative blocks, but being in a city where I am surrounded by people who keep pushing and creating a success out of the fashion business always inspires me to dust myself off and try over and over again.”
Any entrepreneur encounters a number of challenges such as capital, financial education and also losing a partner if you started the business with someone. And these challenges are what Khumalo faced.
“One of the major challenges was having to start the business with no adequate initial capital and proper financial education was keeping track of my financial and admin aspects of the business were challenging, especially when my co-founder resigned in 2018. Having to be strictly independent was challenging at first as I had to start doing everything myself,” says the entrepreneur.
“Another challenge was discovering that I had not done enough market research as it turned out my home town was not as keen on vintage fashion as I had anticipated, hence why I decided to expand the company to the nationwide market, which was also challenging as there were already so many other fashion reseller businesses that became a competition. This challenged me to think outside of the box and start working with fashion designers to do what we upcycling on garments, which involves the altering and re-designing of our sourced garments to ‘modernize’ and refurbish them to make them more appealing to a wider audience. This strategy was well on its way to improving the brand until covid-19 hit in 2020 and the business had to take hiatus for a year. We are working on making a comeback with more intention and improvements now as I had sought after veterans in the game and seeking more advice and tools on running the brand successfully again,” adds Khumalo.
Despite the challenges, Khumalo has also had great experiences that marked her personal and business journey.
“Stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown was one of the best experiences with the brand as it took me a while to break my own boundaries and go for it.
Working with Vuyisa Madikiza, a designer that I would watch on a fashion tv show as a young girl in a small and had looked up to, was a great experience that opened my eyes to so many opportunities that exist in this city.
The brand also became a stepping stone to me beginning my styling career with no prior experience or knowledge, being called to style on some sets was a great milestone.”
Words of encouragement
The entrepreneur stresses that one should be themselves in order to reach their full potential and the power of investing in yourself.
“Be yourself in everything you do. That is how you reach your full potential and that energy does not go unnoticed. The greatest ideas come when you believe in yourself and are vulnerable to your creative energy. Lastly and most importantly, invest in yourself. It’s the little habits that you do every day that lead to your success or lack thereof. Success begins in the mind, it begins with you. Nourish your mental garden and watch everything you desire manifest physically.”
Khumalo concludes with a five-point message of encouragement for any other entrepreneurs that may feel starting out of may feel stuck. She says they should have a growth mindset and keep learning:
- The business climate is always changing and only the adaptable survive so it is important to have a roadmap and think on your toes when detours happen, because they will.
- Financial education is also very important. I made the mistake of not keeping proper financial records in my business and ended up just ‘winging it’ which became detrimental because I didn’t keep track of the profits and spending, I made, and had to tap into my own personal pockets to keep the business afloat.
- Be Patient. Be very patient. Especially if you’re starting a business in the creative realm where everything is driven social media. Things take time to pick up. But if you stay consistent and patient and invest time learning, improving and doing everyday, the work won’t go unnoticed and the profits will come.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help from people who are in the industry you aspire to get into. No man is an island. Seek advise and mentorship, it’ll take you a long way.
- And most importantly, START. Start with what you have, start where you are. There will never be a better time to start than right now.