She Leads Africa

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If you’re part of the SLA community, it’s likely that you have big dreams just like Zeze. Enormous dreams. Huge ones. The “I want to be Africa’s answer to L’Oreal” kinda dreams. That was Zeze’s dream for her healthy luxury fragrance and body care brand Malée, and over the last few years she has taken major steps to pursue that vision. Go girl.

But how do you get to that point?

How do you give yourself the right tips and stretch yourself?

We know, it sounds quite overwhelming right? That’s why Zeze came to #SheHiveLondon to break to down for us, and lucky for you —we’ve got some of the best snippets from her talk.

(By the way, nothing beats hearing all the gist for yourself in person —so try and make it to a #SheHive event near you, we’re in Lagos this October, so don’t dull yourself and get your ticket now).

First of all, Zeze wouldn’t take no for an answer

Even when pros like her college marketing professor told her that there was no real opportunity for a brand like Malée, it didn’t stop her. She was relentless from day 1, travelling across South Africa to find hotels that she could partner with to stock her brand, and giving them products on consignment.

Zeze took a step of faith and learned the ropes as she went along, looking for every opportunity to get her high-end, value for money product into the hands of her customers. She also went to major trade shows in the beauty and fragrance industry, such as Top Drawer in order to meet potential retailers who could stock Malée in their stores.

Looking back, Zeze knows that no experience goes to waste

From working in the stockroom of Faith Shoes, she learned the ropes of retail and running the store. She reminded us to “count everything you know today as something that will prepare you for tomorrow”.

We create luck by working hard, and within a few years her hard work began to pay off. Malée was featured on CNN in 2011, giving it some major exposure. But that was just the beginning.

By 2011 Malée had won two awards, and by 2012 it was featured in one of the world-leading trend forecasting websites Trend Bible, confirming that Malée would be the next big thing.

Malee online laboratory

But building a successful business doesn’t come without its challenges

In the same year, Zeze launched Malée’s first physical store and manufacturing facility to help other small businesses create new products. Shortly afterwards, she had to rethink her business model, and make some major changes.

That included closing the retail store and manufacturing facility, which was difficult, but it was the right thing to do for Malée. It be like that sometimes; things change. Accepting that you don’t know it all is part of being a successful business woman, and it keeps you humble.

Shortly afterwards, Zeze invited four of the smartest people she knew to South Africa to give her what felt like her own personal Business School crash course. Ladies, this point is key —build on your strengths but also make sure you’ve filled major skills gaps, there’s nothing wrong with needing a bit of help.

A true mogul never stays down for long

After two years of hustling hard to bring Malée into the UK, it will now be stocked at some of the largest, most influential retailers: Harvey Nichols and Fenwick.

A good hustle isn’t enough to get your products in stores though, you also need a unique product, and for Malée, their high-quality, healthy, authentic African-inspired range is what made all the difference.

Get to know desperation

Sounds crazy right? Get to know desperation, so that you can ignore it. Too many times we let desperation drive us to making the wrong choices.

Being able to tell when desperation is driving you instead of passion and common sense will save you time, money, and maybe some tears too.

Stay inspired and completely focused on your goal: that is what will sustain you when things get really tough.

We couldn’t leave this post without talking about the CA$H

Capital is one of the major things on any entrepreneur’s mind, after all there’s a lot we can do with money. We all dream of getting that magical cheque that will sort everything out, but Zeze suggests it’s best to start with what you have now.

Save all that you can, be smart with your money and even if you can only make one product, one is enough to sell and test whether people actually want to buy your stuff.

One sale might just lead to someone pre-ordering a large quantity, but you never know unless you try. It’s called bootstrapping my friend, and most times, having limited resources actually helps us to make better choices.


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