by Brigette Mashile, founder of Roka Roko
If you are on earth you have either heard or said the words ‘Why don’t you?’ to someone. If you are a first generation business owner in your family, you hear these words from everyone. Humans are kind, first. We are keen to help. Sometimes even when we are not asked. I cannot begin to tell you how many times people have asked the question “Why don’t you?” to me, believing that whatever they are saying is most definitely the answer to my challenges. Some even have contacts for me to action this idea they have come up with. It’s highly appreciated but most times not what we need. Sometimes we just need to vent - about our businesses!
Also, it’s someone who really has front page information about your industry attempting to tell you about your industry. Yes, others can see what we cannot see and people generally have great connections we weren’t aware of; but listen to the problem first. We need to help each other fix what is wrong, not what we think is wrong. Throwing ideas out there that aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand is absolutely frustrating to the person asking for your help.
Here is my top 3 list of ‘why don’t you?’ commonly asked questions.
Why don’t you… OPEN A SHOP?
LOL times a million! I laugh inwardly every time I hear this question. It fascinates me. It tells me that the person who is suggesting it is has limited knowledge about retail and custom-made. Yes, we can open a shop. But do we want to? Is that the direction we want to go in? Or is it the right time? Opening a store is a whole other animal on its own. The process and operations of a shop is so much more than ‘just open a shop’; beyond that, strategizing on what to put in the store in that location is another dinosaur; and finally simply managing it! I know most people think this will solve a lot of fashion designers’ problems or cash flow, but in some cases it can actually kill our businesses, if not us!
My answer is always I don’t want to run a shop; but instead to make the clothes that go into it. There’s a long line of functions in fashion; God made me the manufacturer and I would like to remain so. There are people who are absolutely amazing at selling what I can make, and I need them to play their part in the chain. Imagine if the seller tried to make clothes! Possible, but not as magnificent as their selling skills. We need to all know our part on earth and do them well.
Why don’t you… DO CORPORATE WEAR?
No. Admittedly, this could be a definite cash flow solver. Having a standing contract with a specific corporate company and knowing that amount of money is definitely coming could be a relief. But, did you know there are people whose businesses are mainly this and they do it well? These people are mostly more organized than me, more in line, more willing to stay in line and not be bored by making the same dress done the same 1000 times. Their strength lies in that. And mine lies it creating a new project each time. I could do corporate wear; every fashion designer could do it; but we will not do it as well as the custom items we create for our customers. I have a friend who produces doctor’s scrubs ONLY in her business. It is a big business and she is doing well. Me, no thank you. I have spoken to her and my business poses no attraction for her either LOL!
Why don’t you… GET FUNDING FROM XXX?
Like where? How? People speak of funding in this country like it’s as easy as walking into a doctor’s room and walking out with a prescription. It really isn’t. For those of us who have received funding, well done, and I am sure the story behind is pretty interesting.
Every single funding corporation has rules and limitations to protect their money. Fairly so! These are the typical questions we are asked by them?
We only fund from a million and above. This eliminates all small new businesses.
We need audited financials. Do I need to elaborate? How much is an accountant? Auditor?
We need a thorough business plan. To a person who has never written one before; and English is second language!
We need financial forecasts. Well, okay!
Tax clearance, BEE certificate…your degree….etc
Most of us have many of these, but there is always one that gets us! You know which one is yours. It is really just a very long list of things to gather. I have done this process once before and came out with a list of ‘rejections with reasons’ from most of them. Applying for funding is like doing your Masters degree, and I haven’t done my masters yet! It’s emotional, it’s personal, but business is demanding and absolutely a game of waiting for the master to award or reject.
So no, we cannot GET FUNDING now because we are still recovering from the last time we tried.
I am sure you have your list of ‘why don’t you’s; and you hear them regularly. Share them with us so we can understand your industry a bit more. Educate us; tell us about the intricate parts of what you do so we can understand next time you need to vent. I also need to cut down on my suggestions to a minimum for all my lawyer business friends and chefs and event planners, etc. I honestly have no clue what they go through. So maybe I should just pray for them rather.
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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