FOR­TUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD

Se­rial en­tre­pre­neur For­tu­nate Nkateko Khoza has in­ter­ests in fash­ion, beauty, prop­erty and trans­porta­tion

CityPress - - Front Page - PALESA DLAMINI palesa.dlamini@city­press.co.za

It’s been a long and wind­ing road for For­tu­nate Nkateko Khoza – from study­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy (IT) and tele­phon­i­cally sell­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles to su­per­mar­kets, to work­ing as an or­ders clerk and a mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant – but she never imag­ined her­self own­ing a cloth­ing line.

Af­fec­tion­ately known as Lufi, Khoza was born in Acorn­hoek, a town in the Bush­buck­ridge Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mpumalanga.

Speak­ing to City Press at her re­cently opened Lufi Bou­tique Sa­lon and Day Spa in Rose­bank, Jo­han­nes­burg, Khoza tells City Press that she came to the city as a 17-year-old in 2002.

“And, 18 years later, I am still here, build­ing busi­nesses in the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD and in Rose­bank.”

Now 35 years old, Khoza says that, while her cloth­ing brand – Lufi D – was es­tab­lished in 2014, the real birth of her now in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised brand was in 2016.

“Be­tween 2014 and 2016, we were barely scrap­ing by. We made no money,” she re­calls.

In 2016, she de­cided to vig­or­ously market her brand through mul­ti­ple me­dia chan­nels.

“I be­gan mar­ket­ing the brand, rein­vent­ing it and giv­ing it a new look.

“To this day, when­ever I am ques­tioned about the brand and when it came to be, I al­ways say it all started in 2016 be­cause that, for me, was the be­gin­ning of it all.”

The un­usual name of the cloth­ing line stems from Lu­fi­tu­aeb De­signs. Lu­fi­tu­aeb is ‘beau­ti­ful’ spelt back­wards.

“It was long and a lot of peo­ple did not recog­nise the brand as South African be­cause of the name. We short­ened it to Lufi.”

Khoza opened Lufi Bou­tique Sa­lon and Day Spa ear­lier this year.

It is a one-stop shop that caters for “all women’s needs”, with ser­vices in­clud­ing “man­i­cures, pedi­cures, mas­sages and the pro­fes­sional ap­pli­ca­tion of make-up – to name but a few”.

“Ev­ery woman wants con­ve­nience,” she quips.

STAND­ING OUT

With the sa­lon and day spa in Rose­bank, two bou­tique stores – one in the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD and another in Mabo­neng in down­town Jo­han­nes­burg – as well as trad­ing in The Space shops na­tion­wide, Khoza says the sim­ple idea of hav­ing a head­wrap with ev­ery Lufi D out­fit is what made her brand stand out from the rest.

“Peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ated that. I also think the style of African print, which many peo­ple did not ap­pre­ci­ate ini­tially, is some­thing we have made stylish.”

Hav­ing never had a vested in­ter­est in fash­ion be­fore ven­tur­ing into the busi­ness, Khoza says she is “just an en­tre­pre­neur”.

“I have never re­ally been into fash­ion and even now, years later, I be­lieve that I am not into fash­ion.”

She did not get a for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in fash­ion de­sign, but took it on her­self to hire in­di­vid­u­als who stud­ied fash­ion de­sign and sub­se­quently learnt the skill from them and, in turn, “I would like to be­lieve that they have learnt a lot from me”.

“I had a laun­dry and dry clean­ing ser­vice at some point. I grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment where hav­ing a busi­ness was some­thing that was en­cour­aged in my fam­ily, as both my par­ents are busi­ness own­ers even though they are em­ployed else­where at the same time. I come from a fam­ily that is into busi­ness, and I was hun­gry to get into that as well.”

Although Lufi D de­signs fea­ture African prints and al­ways em­brace African­ism, Khoza says she is not de­fined by the tra­di­tional route of busi­ness.

“What I do is not tra­di­tional be­cause it ac­com­mo­dates all Africans and we also have West­ern­ised de­signs.”

She points to the chic, strappy, red leather Lufi D dress she has on.

“Is this tra­di­tional? No!” she laughs.

“We also have in­ter­na­tional brands that buy our cloth­ing to re­sell in their re­spec­tive coun­tries. So I do not say our brand is tra­di­tional, be­cause which tra­di­tion do we clas­sify it un­der when we cater to a di­verse mul­ti­cul­tural client base?”

The Lufi um­brella in­cludes a num­ber of other busi­ness ven­tures, in­clud­ing prop­erty and trans­porta­tion.

“I cur­rently buy and rent out prop­erty, in­clud­ing town­houses, and we have ve­hi­cles that we use for a shut­tle ser­vice.

“I al­ways wanted to in­vest in prop­erty, but that is nei­ther an easy nor cheap ven­ture to get into. Through my cloth­ing brand as well as my day spa and sa­lon, I have been able to get into the prop­erty space,” Khoza says.

While her fo­cus could “shift to prop­erty or con­struc­tion”, Khoza ex­cit­edly says she is most pas­sion­ate about mar­ket­ing, a pas­sion she says saw her grow both fi­nan­cially and in busi­ness faster than she had imag­ined.

“I am a mar­ket­ing per­son and be­fore I started my first busi­ness, the laun­dry ser­vice, I used to work as a mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant for Mo­torite [from 2009 to 2015] sell­ing main­te­nance plans, and I used to earn a ba­sic salary as well as com­mis­sion.”

She adds that, through­out her years at the com­pany, she was able to save and was later able to delve into her first busi­ness ven­ture, “which I started in 2012 and had to shut down in 2014”.

“I stud­ied IT to please my par­ents and af­ter my stud­ies, that was the last I saw of IT,” she says of her ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

“Although my par­ents are proud of me now, I will never for­get how dis­ap­pointed and an­gry my fa­ther was when, af­ter my stud­ies, I got a job at The Fruitspot as an or­ders clerk ... But I was good at what I did,” she says proudly.

Her three younger sib­lings work with her and they have a work­ing re­la­tion­ship that has, sur­pris­ingly, been smooth sail­ing.

“My sib­lings work with me in all my busi­nesses. So every­body al­ready knows what their role is in the busi­ness should I de­cide that I am in­vest­ing my time and at­ten­tion in the prop­erty market,” she says.

Of the elu­sive har­mony she has man­aged to cap­ture in work­ing with her fam­ily, Khoza says: “We are close. For in­stance, my lit­tle sis­ter takes care of the sa­lon side of the busi­ness and my two broth­ers are fully ded­i­cated to the man­u­fac­tur­ing of the Lufi D cloth­ing line.”

OVER­COM­ING HUR­DLES

Although the busi­ness is suc­cess­ful now, Khoza has had to en­dure and over­come “a few hur­dles along the way”.

“Un­til Au­gust last year, I had not earned a salary from Lufi D for more than three years. I have never re­ceived any kind of grant or fund­ing towards my busi­ness. Ev­ery­thing that was used to start up the busi­ness came from my own pocket. I had to use my prov­i­dent fund money from my pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ment to start the busi­ness. And that is what busi­ness is about – sac­ri­fice,” she says ve­he­mently.

In Septem­ber last year, her shop in Mabo­neng was dam­aged by loot­ers dur­ing a vi­o­lent protest against for­eign na­tion­als, and was be­yond re­pair.

How­ever, Khoza says that, while she was dis­heart­ened at the time, she has, through the sup­port of her clients and staff, man­aged to bounce back “stronger and more de­ter­mined”.

“When the shop in Mabo­neng was hit, it had in it our ex­clu­sive range of de­signs re­tail­ing for any­thing be­tween R2 000 and R10 000.

“I re­mem­ber ar­riv­ing at the lo­ca­tion to find the shop com­pletely empty and dam­aged. We had just opened the pre­vi­ous year,” she re­calls.

Her busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to Khoza, suf­fered a loss of more than R300 000.

“Through the over­whelm­ing sup­port we re­ceived, not just here at home but world­wide, we were able to re­build and start again.

“Two months af­ter the in­ci­dent, we were up and run­ning again. It was a learn­ing curve and, to this day, the shop is still stand­ing. In­stead of the neg­a­tive, we de­cided to look at the pos­i­tive, which was the sup­port we got.”

I come from a fam­ily that is into busi­ness, and I was hun­gry to get into that as well

Fash­ion de­signer For­tu­nate Nkateko Khoza speaks to City Press about stay­ing rel­e­vant in the com­pet­i­tive and ever-chang­ing fash­ion and beauty in­dus­try. Scan the QR code to lis­ten to the pod­cast

PHOTO: ROSETTA MSIMANGO

GO-GET­TER Busi­nessper­son Florence Nkateko Khoza is proud of her achieve­ments so far, and has plans to ven­ture deeper into the busi­ness world

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