So as you all know I love to support local and started a segment where we could share, learn and inspire! It is so important to support local and share your findings with others.
During lock down, we are going to do a whole lot of these to highlight these businesses – many of which are taking HUGE strain during this time – and shed some awareness and love to all.
Today’s feature is a very special one that makes my heart skip a beat. I have never seen such gorgeous dolls, they make me want to be a child again! The love and attention that goes into each and every doll made by Nondumiso Gogela, the Founder of Imibongo kaMakhulu is clear to see! These dolls are just beautiful and come in a range of skin tones and hairstyles and clothing. And they sell the loveliest bunnies too!
Are you ready to buy? Yes please! Here is their online shop.
We asked Nondumiso to tell us a little bit about her business and where the name comes from!
The name Imibongo kaMakhulu means Granny’s Thankfulness/ Praises in IsiXhosa. It is a name given to my daughter by her paternal grandmother, as gratitude for her growing family after her own struggle to conceive before being blessed with twins, one of whom is Imi’s dad, my husband.
My daughter is now two and has been the source of both my courage and inspiration because of just how much I want to teach her about the world, beginning with loving herself. One of the ways I could do this was to show her an example of living a life I love and pursuing my wildest dreams. I’ve seen this life many many times in my mind but never had the courage to even begin to pursue it, until now.
Having been an art scholar and then a fashion student myself, I’ve always been an observer, loved detail and tried to recreate from that love. Making and doing with my hands came naturally, hand made kids goods was a choice very close to my heart, thanks to motherhood. The love of fashion means the range will always be growing, with something new and exciting, all inspired by a playful, thoughtful little girl.
We make soft handmade dolls for gentle play, black dolls that baby’s like my own can identify with, because representation while celebrating each others differences is so important. Our dolls are entirely handmade, making them each unique, their clothing and accessories all individually made with love and care by one mama. Mama to Imibongo, my rainbow, my muse.
You opened your own business – How does it feel to be a successful business owner that inspires others and loves what they do?
It honestly doesn’t feel real, especially when I hear things like you inspire others 🙂 .
What are the top 3 learnings you have had to find out the hard way since starting your own business?
A lesson I’m still learning is knowing when to ask for help, especially when in business alone you tend to think you’re supposed to just thumbsuck and figure things out on your own but it doesn’t have to be that way in every situation. Resources exist for entrepreneurs, people will give you time and advice if you come to them with something concrete and clear, if you don’t ask you will never receive.
I’ve learnt to take a break when I need one, everything needs balance and hustle culture can be damaging and misleading – I’m no good to anybody if I’m burnt out.
I’ve also learnt not to compromise on my vision out of desperation for approval or a quick buck but to hold fast to my values, those who respect the craft, the business woman and believe in the message will come eventually.
Where do you see your business in 5 years? Once we have gotten over the effects of the lock down.
I’d like to have a great team to join me on this journey, expansion is a key goal of ours so that means not only seeing our dolls in more stores but also opening one of our own stores, possibly expanding the range of product for children.
What is your advice to individuals out there wanting to start their own businesses but are too scared?
You will never know what you’re capable until you give yourself a chance and just start. You can fine tune the details as you go so don’t waste years trying to have the perfect start. Only in starting can you have something to learn the lessons you need to best even Your best.
Tell us 2 things that are the BEST part about owning your own business and make it all worth while?
I definitely work the same long hours if not more than I did at my old job but when it’s for yourself it feels like time better spent, I can work around my life, sometimes with my daughter next to me, fascinated and happy instead of my life trying to fit in around my job. It’s empowering.
The joy and sense of purpose I feel when a parent shares a moment with one of our dolls and their adorable little owners – I’d like to think there’s a special message that each doll shares with them and that they take it with them as they grow. That they are kind, smart and a thousand times more than enough because someone cared enough to count them in.
How has lock down affected you and your team?
Well I’m currently a team of one and my expenses are quite minimal being that I work from home.
I was also fortunate to work with retail partners who were understanding from the beginning despite facing the same uncertainties themselves.
The business was definitely hit as hard as everyone else from 3 months of zero sales especially after going into the lockdown thinking I’m going to make so much magic and be super productive. All that stopped when the first month passed and in short let’s say I forgot my bank pin 3 weeks in…
I had to slow down and find other ways to talk to my audience since I was no longer selling product, I had to keep talking even when I doubted anybody was listening – I also had to remember the power of community and I started paying attention to what people needed and adapt the business accordingly for survival.