As the second eldest out of 6 kids and growing up on the Cape Flats suburb of Belhar, my ambition was to study to be a lawyer. My parents were extremely industrious, my father as an upholsterer and motor trimmer and my mom having worked various retail jobs.
Both would also burn the midnight oil at home manufacturing bedding and curtains as a source of additional income. Rain or shine, my siblings and I would then have to be off to the flea market on a Saturday, armed with a loaf of bread and six bananas.
In hindsight, the hustle and bustle of the flea market brought out the entrepreneur in me. Watching my parents struggle to make ends meet inspired me to want a better life for them and myself, I felt it was my obligation and my calling. At age 14, I embarked on my own journey, working a casual job over weekends while my father and the rest of my siblings continued with the flea market. The little I earned from my casual job aided the family from a financial perspective, but I wanted more, I needed more for myself and my family.
I have witnessed the hardship my parents had to endure, fending for 6 children, coupled with bond payments and schooling, the struggle was real. The hard knocks and the lessons from the scuffles for financial freedom served to spur me on, to free myself from the shackles and the burdens of the lack of money at our disposal. My father unfortunately succumbed to the dreaded cancer disease in 2006, never having the opportunity to see me flourish from the lessons of the flea market. Leaving behind in me the entrepreneur I am today. Although my father’s impact on my career was immense my “Iron Lady” mother was my will and driving force when the going got tough. A standard 2 graduate, with an honours degree in the lessons of life, she was my stimulant, my motivator and the driving force behind the success I am able to appreciate and savour today. She too surrendered to cancer. Leaving a gaping hole in my life, as she took a part of me with her. I gained comfort from the fact that I was able to afford her the opportunity to experience, though in small parts, the pleasures of life but she left behind an even bigger part of her in me. She was my inspiration, an inspiration to many.
I therefore dedicate this bio to both my parents – I am a fulfillment of their dreams, the universal dream from underprivileged, to privileged. Privileged to have been raised by parents that had the vision of what I was to become, and the intuition to arm me for the battle. If only they were still alive to see the legacy, they have left behind and what it has led me to achieve. Those were the very real sad realities of days gone by in a seemingly different world. To quote my beloved father, “Life is much like a bicycle, if you don’t pedal, you don’t move”. Today I’m moving.
I started Dressco Corp 13 years ago selling overruns from chain stores, which gave me insight and experience in the greater clothing and textile industry. This led to my first little store in Goodwood, more of a “cost price garment” distribution point where I would cater for working ladies wanting to earn an income or a little bit extra. They were referred to as agents, unwittingly within 2 years I had over 50 agents operating from the Goodwood store. I was then approached by a well-known chain store, requesting me to consider them, to manufacture clothing for me as they not only had overruns in merchandise but additionally had surplus materials and they preferred having cash to material on hand. I blindingly agreed to the partnership. Risk taking is part of my make up and like a rabbit to the hole I agreed. The agent concept ran smoothly for 3 years before some agents started defaulting on payment. This lead to depleted loss of stock and revenue and no reinforcements. I dug the trenches and my survival instincts inspired me to search for additional options.
This visionary process led me to open a first institutional concept store at the University of the Western Cape in 2009. With only 10k in my personal bank account, doing what I know best, in the field of Communications and Marketing, I developed the company business model (Campus Lifestyle™️ concept), which essentially manages institutional brands through retail. During the next couple of years however, the agent concept floundered and I closed shop losing a fortune in profits and stock. Depleted and no substantial capital, I decided to write off the loss to what I refer to as “My Business Degree”. I invested all my energies and resources into building this model, for I believed in it’s potential and success. I believe a business should always maintain it’s growth by staying ahead of the times, things change, people change and the way we do business changes every day.
In between all the mayhem, I was approached by the Paris Hilton brand to become the sole SA supplier of PH handbags and shoes. Forever the optimist, once again I took this risk without hesitation. An uncalculated risk that would redefine my perspective on big opportunities! The company did not have financial security to carry this forward which led me to making a loan to carry this contract. I partnered a big chain store to supply the PH brand to 15 of their stores with a promise that should the brand do well, it will be housed in all stores nationwide, even offering a boutique within the stores. However, the brand didn’t really take off well within the SA market and after 2 years I cancelled the contract with both the supplier and the retailer. Fortunately I insisted that we do a 24 month dry run before committing to a fixed 10-year contract and going against their policy PH agreed to do so.
That was a real blessing and also affirmed my belief in myself as a hard negotiator for a fair deal.
Again I returned my focus on the company’s Campus Lifestyle™️ model and forged ahead. There were a few moments during the first 7 years, that I wanted to throw in the towel – but I persevered. This was a tough lesson to learn and we were close to bankruptcy. Every cloud has a silver lining, and this was also a turning point in my life where I became in touch with the spiritual side after having questioned my purpose in life. I would later learn how to feed my soul with only the good stuff which has become one of my greatest weapons. Second to believing that everything in life is ordained, you will get what is ordained for you, nothing more, nothing less. Hence I tie my camel and leave the rest up to The Almighty.
In 2013 I saw a niche within the sporting fraternity at UWC. Having had a store at UWC (Campus Lifestyle™️ store) already gave me better insight, seeing the challenges UWC sport was facing in acquiring sport apparel for all their sporting codes. More importantly I witnessed the dire needs and challenges of our sport persons at UWC (students) – and so I launched the Fieka™️ sport brand at UWC. It was only when I launched Fieka™️ that I defined my purpose in life which also became Fieka’s payoff line “Aspire to Inspire”, and which was to support and nurture sporting talent within our communities and educational institutions. One often finds that the “big guns” only support sports persons once they have reached that pinnacle of success. Sadly the ones still trying to make it, those who simply cannot afford to abide by some sporting regulations of having the correct attire was left by the way side often not been given the opportunity to participate and reach their true potential.
Fieka™️ is the name of my special needs sister that is developmentally challenged. The brand proudly born from her nickname serves as a constant reminder to the promise I made my mother – that I will forever be her guardian and would love and care for her as only a mother would. She is too adorable, upon meeting new people wearing the brand, she would instantly introduce herself and ask “do you know I’m Fieka, that’s my name”, pointing to the logo.
A few years into the Fieka™️ brand a television journalist doing research for my interview with her came to the conclusion that I was the first SA female to own and operate an entirely homegrown sports brand. However, at the time they could not announce that because their research had to be validated, but they wanted to run the story anyway, which I agreed to. To date Fieka™️ has assisted and sponsored over 100 sports women and men that compete locally, nationally and internationally. We have also partnered with companies, NGO’s and government with sporting events, fundraisers, etc. In 2016 Fieka™️ launched the Schools Cup (also a first for SA) as a platform to grow sporting codes like netball, beach volleyball, archery, chess and many more. But also to once again recognize and develop our sports persons and to give them the necessary tools to be able to compete against the best in their field.
Campus Lifestyle™️ has grown into a multi-faceted organization with over 30 employees. We have now 2 distinctive business units within the broader scope of the business: Campus Lifestyle™️ and Fieka™️ – Campus Lifestyle is our brand management division which includes design, roll-out, manufacturing and retail division at educational institutions with stores at UWC (3 stores), Northlink Colleges and now schools spread across the Western Cape, and growing! Fieka™️ our sports brand is to be found within all our stores. Our mission is to, over the next 3-5 years, launch our business nationally of which the natural progression thereafter is to go international.
My philosophy in life is that when given an opportunity and you have no idea how you going to do it, just say yes, the rest will figure itself out! I don’t focus on what I don’t have – instead I focus on how and what I need to do to make it a reality.