by Brigette Mashile, founder of Roka Roko
There are many things I do that seem selfish to many people; probably because they look like that; and also because behind them, these things are mine only. I have learned all these things are essential for me to stay alive, sane and motivated to complete all the great dreams our clients have. Running a custom-made business is seriously a mind boggler. You have over 300 clients; and have to remember each and every name; each design; each finish; each personality; each account, etc. It can drive you insane, especially at peak business time.
I recall a time in December 2014, the first time my mother sees me on my first entrepreneur journey. I was tired - emotionally and physically. I was experiencing client brutality and the effects of sitting in a chair for 4 hours at once….back pain, eyes sore, feet throbbing. I parked in my parents’ yard, got out of the car, and my mother screamed, ‘you look terrible’. She went on to say my face was darker than my entire body, that it was a sure sign of stress and fatigue; and asked me. “why don’t you just quit?” The stubbornness in me said, “because I love it!” In reply, she said, “I don’t like this.” So I sat down and decided I needed to find sustainable ways of running this business. This is what I came up with:
1. I have a business phone
Because imagine if my business and personal life was on one phone. The thought of the mess that would ensue is giving me hot flushes already. A business in 2018 has its own identity, bank account, facebook page, twitter page, Instagram account, email address, etc. This separation is one of the best things I have done to keep myself sane.
2. I have time slots
I don’t answer the business phone after 7pm or on Sundays. Crazy right? Especially in a fashion business - definitely! But it works for me. It is not about doing what is expected of me; its about knowing how my body works, and doing what works for it. I need those breaks; that space to do other things. To remind myself that as passionate as I am about my business, I do have friends, family, a home, dogs, music, art, road trips, and most importantly sleep. Through this habit, I have learned that anything that comes within these hours is normally an emergency that comes to cause more stress than bliss. If someone is calling me at night, it’s a dress needed for 2 days later…
3. I do appointments
I am one person. Only I can only look at one client at a time. And I beg clients to please stay within their designated appointment slots. Arriving early or late is doing no one a favour. What we do needs ourselves to be calm, relaxed and in good spirits. You will never get the best of your creative side working under the pressure of time. If you are pressed for time, you will simply accept what is available at that moment. This goes for emergency orders as well.
4. I am direct
Beyonce once said on the video ‘I say’ on Instagram, something along the lines of ‘politeness doesn’t run a business’. NO, she is not saying we must be unkind. But many have said they find my ‘frankness’ so lethal. Some get 100% offended and don’t return, others give us another chance. I have to be very honest in this business. Me pretending that something a client wants will work for them is unfair. I have to say it in a kosher way, that I don’t suggest such for them. Instead of wrecking my brain trying to achieve non-achievable things; and then messing it up anyway. Being honest from the get-go allows us to work on what is possible and perfect that.
5. I don’t take phone calls
Especially in peak time. This one grates on people so much. And a lot of business people will tell me that I am missing out on so many opportunities. Yes, you are right. But again, it works in this business. On the busiest of days, I simply don’t have the capacity to answer a phone call. A phone call requires me to stop any physical anything and listen. Mostly I am standing with scissors in my hands cutting expensive fabric. Any distractions, I cut wrong. I speak from experience. A phone call requires that I recall important details said in the conversation…. I will not remember a thing. I speak from experience. Email is great, but I can only check emails once a day…at night. SMS is on…but Whatsapp is faster. Whatsapp allows me to see your message instantly, pictures instantly, voice notes, and I can refer back to our conversation later.
All of these are ways that can change once we have a highly efficient PA…someone we will have to pay handsomely. I look forward to that day. For now, this will have to work. While we are young, learning and creating the most sustainable business model ever.
It is so important to remember that if you don’t take great care of yourself, you are putting the business at risk. Following other people’s rules and processes is only good if it works for you. If it doesn’t, sit and create ways that allow you to deliver the best of you in that business.
Brigette Mashile is the founder and creative force behind Roka Roko, a custom fashion design business based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company passionately delivers quality tailored and trendy fashion to make their customers happy, and specializes in styling women by creating unusual combinations with fabric, culture and style. Brigette has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Witwatersrand and a Fashion Diploma from Studio5 School of Fashion. She’s a former fashion buyer for a major retailer in South Africa, and an international direct selling company. She’s been passionate about fashion since the age of 10 and gained invaluable experience in the fashion world running informal fashion creation businesses until the day her own Roka Roko brand was born. Find out more by visiting the Roka Roko website www.rokaroko.co.za
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