FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BOLD
Serial entrepreneur Fortunate Nkateko Khoza has interests in fashion, beauty, property and transportation
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.
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.”
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
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