I first came across Lesedi Mashale, owner of Moriri by Lesedi, on Instagram and I must say, I was totally enamoured: Not only has she managed to successfully establish and set apart her premium virgin human hair brand in a market that is surging in popularity, but she has totally revolutionised the industry – emphatically focusing on customer care, marketing via social media and delivering her products in sleek, outstanding packaging. Quite simply, Lesedi is in her own league! Read below as Lesedi details how she founded her business, the obstacles she faces as an entrepreneur in South Africa and how you may attain success in your own start-up…
Full Name: Lesedi Grace Mashale
Current Title/Position: Marketing Campaign Manager & Owner of Moriri By Lesedi
- Management Advancement Program – 2014 (Wits Business School)
- Honours in Marketing Management – 2012 (UNISA)
- Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing & Advanced Management – 2010 (Wits University)
Current City: Johannesburg, South Africa
Lesedi, you founded Moriri by Lesedi, a business focused on providing women with premium Virgin Human Hair extensions. Without a doubt, the hair industry is booming more than ever and you have managed to make a remarkable success of it, having your products adorn well-known South African faces and supply many high-end Johannesburg salons. Take us through the journey of how you started Moriri by Lesedi, what motivated you to undertake this business?
The idea came about from an aspect I felt, as a consumer at the time, was largely overlooked by the virgin human hair industry in South Africa. The market is quite informal and it can be tricky to hold suppliers accountable. In addition, I felt there was a lack of focus on the consumer before, during and after a purchase. You could easily make a purchase of R7000 and sometimes you wouldn’t have a clear understanding of what you bought, whether it was what you asked for and the products often came in clear or black packets. At Moriri By Lesedi we are aware that there is a clear gap in the industry, one which we are working on – and we hope to make the experience for consumers a more pleasurable and sincere one. We are open about our sourcing, clients have a direct line to us through various platforms and we pride ourselves with service excellence and product delivery
For quite some time, the business of providing premium virgin hair has been rather informal, with many women obtaining their hair via word of mouth and communicating with their suppliers via text. You have revolutionised this by setting up a formal business website equipped with e-store facility, having social media pages to facilitate orders and setting up an office! How difficult was it to infiltrate the market formally and how did you go about establishing your brand as a full-blown business?
Exceptionally difficult would be an understatement, but it also created great opportunity with the gaps we identified! While it was difficult to credibly get into the market we believe that by being true to what the brand stands for we built credibility as well as defined our place in the market – which was largely unclaimed by any one supplier. Establishing a business should be a process of consistent growth and checking your business model against the market and that’s what we did. We believe we needed to understand the industry well before we got into it, understand how it functions, what makes businesses profitable and how we would operate it upon entering it. After we worked on that, it was about understanding what we stand for and what we want the customer experience to be as well as defining our values. Once that was in place it became a process of tracking the business performance against those KPI’s.
You also ensure that all deliveries are packaged in beautiful, sleek packing as can be seen in your branded hair bundle tubes and branded wig bags with a nifty hanger feature! How important do your think presentation, packaging and branding is to a business? Did you see exponential growth when you introduced the branded packaging?
As a brand we believe in the holistic customer experience – in some instances customers engage with your packaging before they experience the product and you cannot afford to lose them at that point, you need to convert! We also believe our packaging has also assisted in setting us apart in the market, assisted with our growth and makes our customers feel appreciated. I think it’s difficult to separate the packaging as being the lead catalyst for our growth as the business model was also going through changes at the time and it all worked in harmony to optimise profit!
When considering that Virgin hair has to be imported, the website you created, as well as the packaging for the bundles and wigs, it’s clear your business required extensive capital to establish – how did you go about funding the business and what funding options would you suggest for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say extensive capital is a stretch and in order to make something look and feel as beautiful as the product its carrying you need to put in the work. Finishes are what makes a product expensive and its value perception. To that point, because the start-up capital that we had was my personal savings it meant being savvy and strict with financial decisions. It is really wonderful that there are so many avenues for entrepreneurs to acquire funding such as the DTI, NYDA, NEF etc and they should definitely take advantage of them and see the process through as difficult as it may be. Google is also an entrepreneur’s friend; there are more and more organisations looking to support entrepreneurs and they also struggle to reach then.
What would you say has been the contributing factor towards Moriri by Lesedi’s success?
Moriri By Lesedi is a distributor of premium virgin human hair extensions. We pride ourselves with a holistic offering that focuses on key consumer needs which we felt were somewhat lacking in the industry; engagement through a simple and focused marketing strategy, loyalty through a product offering that delivers on its promise and consumer love which focused on first marketing the packaging, after purchase interaction and maintenance support. We as
business owners no longer operate in an environment where consumers don’t have choice or are making grudge purchases. Consumers need to be looked after (before, during and after their purchase) and that is our focus as a business.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, what have been your biggest obstacles and how have you overcome them?
- Getting financing: as much as it pains me to say getting funding for the business wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I had to use my savings to launch the company and even now we are still waiting for feedback from other sources. Luckily we created a model where we can be sustainable even though it is slowing down the growth targets we could be hitting now.
- Gaining credibility: Consumers can be sceptical and are allowed to be with new brands which was a problem we faced. Having a model where we encourage consumers to send us product pictures/ rate us made people more comfortable with the brand and what we stand for.
- Scaling: it is exceptionally difficult to get a new brand out there and even harder getting it noticed. As a business owner it made more sense to me for the brand to be targeted so we can start pulling out in one region and building on that.
- Consistency: when starting up something from the ground its always important when faced with decisions to remind yourself and revisit what the brand is about. It will also assist with making you more readily noticeable to consumers and to start leaving a legacy.
- Not taking things personally: at some stage you need to think beyond yourself and let go of the brand you are building in order to let it grow. If anything customer feedback is a constant way to seek improvement.
Take us through what a typical work day looks like?
- 4am wake up on weekends
- Wake up at 5/6 am and prep orders for delivery
- 7 am prep the driver for deliveries
- 8am to 4pm work
- 4pm to 5pm gym hopefully
- 6pm to 11pm respond to emails, process orders etc/ record blog content (weekends)
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners?
Don’t be afraid to start, that’s usually the hardest step. Push yourself and feed your drive daily for success. Also make sure you understand the industry you are going into and how it works.
Morning or night? Night, I seem to work better then
I wish I knew how to… stop procrastinating!! Things would happen faster
African women are… strong and relentless to the core. Born to be leaders and providers.
Africa needs… More courageous entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to show the world that we are capable, even better if they are women.
Worst money mistake… A credit card in my first year of working with excessive credit!!! When you are still figuring out your financial personality, it’s probably best to stay away from it and learn how to optimise what you have.
Best investment… is myself. People forget to put in the time to make sure they are ok as well
Motivation in 3 words… Life is short
Connect With Lesedi and purchase Premium Virgin Human Hair from Moriri by Lesedi:
Whatsapp: 071 148 6266