Lulu Mutsikira: My opportunity came from my frustration

As a person who believes in following their dreams, you can only imagine how much it excites and inspires me, when I see someone I know personally, do exactly that. Following her dreams fully and wholeheartedly and succeeding at it!

Lulu Mutsikira, founder of Nama Saya, who can be contacted via email, began her company when she left the corporate life, in pursuit of her passion. Nama Saya is an event styling and interior decor company. The multi-faceted boutique agency specialises in full-service design and planning of interior & event spaces.

When I bumped into Lulu in a car park, as she was leaving a client’s apartment, we had the best catch-up in her car. We discussed the rise of local designs in South Africa, incorporating heritage into everyday living spaces, starting a new business venture and juggling being a family woman and an entrepreneur.

Event styling is not a term I’ve come across before, please tell me a little more about it.

The event styling business was born from frustration at the event industry when I was planning my wedding. I was struggling to find exactly what I wanted in one place, and the cost of sourcing from multiple suppliers just wasn’t worth it.

So, I decided to buy everything for my big day myself with the long term ambition being to then go into a hiring-out style business part time. The styling bug hit hard and I became addicted to making tables beautiful. I no longer wanted to just hire-out, but wanted to be there from beginning to end, to ensure a holistic and connected event was achieved.

While the wedding was a catalyst, I had been saying I will do this kind of thing for years. The interior decor story is a similar one, I have always loved making interior spaces pretty and my first flat was such a project. I was so happy with the final result, and so was everyone else surprisingly, so I knew there was something there. Then right after my wedding, a friend asked me to do her boyfriend’s home, and that he would pay —I did it and loved it and that was that, I was sold.

I can imagine that must have been very exciting, and the start of a new business venture?

A few happy clients later and a course in interior design, it’s the thriving part of Nama Saya. What really cemented Nama Saya as a business idea for me is the realisation that so many people are hungry for someone to take away the stress of “creativity” from them.

While many may view this kind of career path as easy, it certainly isn’t —constantly thinking up fresh ways to reinvent ultimately the same thing, is work and you either have it or you don’t.

What’s encouraging, especially from the interior space, is that people are really starting to recognise that and are willing to pay for the service of having a professional eye reinvent their home.

Nama Saya 4As it is known, “customers are the lifeblood” of any business. Who would you say is your clientele?

Surprisingly I don’t have a specific type of client. I have individuals from all walks of life. The events clientele is mostly couples looking to tie the knot and needing some help with the creative direction of their big day. Most have a colour in mind but not much else, so it’s up to me to put the pieces together.

The home clientele vary from just out of varsity individuals who want to spruce up their spaces, to wealthy business people who are building a home, the spectrum is very wide.

So on top of being your own boss, you’re a wife and a mother, how do you juggle family life and being an entrepreneur?

I don’t! Seriously though, it’s an incredible struggle and it takes a lot of work and understanding from your family.

Luckily my husband is on a similar journey so he understands 150% that right now, I am building and that will take time. The long term ambition is definitely to strike that balance, but right now, I would be lying if I said I have it all figured out. Let me know when you catch wind of the secret.

I’ll be sure to do so. So with various projects and an array of clients, which project has been your most exciting thus far?

You know, every project fills me with excitement, perhaps because I am still growing.

They are a God-send; I treat every single event or home installation with as much excitement as the next. I am currently working on a huge home project that makes me both sick to my stomach with nerves and giggly with excitement!
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With South Africa taking an interest local design, fashion, music, experiences and everything in between, what would you say is trending in terms of design? What local styles, trends and brands, give a space that truly South Africans feel?

Local has always been lekker! It’s about time we caught the train that has long been on the move, there are so many local designers doing amazing things for the industry.

From an interior perspective, it’s not so much a particular brand, but rather the African influence used subtly to make a true statement in the home. I recently did a home installation where the client asked me to use Sesotho blankets as upholstery for her headboard —the result was magnificent and really so reminiscent of true pride in the heritage of our county.

Wow, that sounds really beautiful. People actually wanting to incorporate their heritage into their everyday living spaces – would you say that this is a growing trend?

I am finding out that individuals are starting to really insist on a space in their homes that reflects them from a heritage perspective; it is really very exciting to see.

We are very blessed in SA to have traditional ceremonies as part of our wedding process. What a complete feast for the eyes, from the bridal fashion, to center-pieces to floral selections, you see some amazing local designs come through. The local influence is no longer rudimentary but planners and stylists are really pushing themselves to create amazing things, very refreshing!

Nama Saya 5What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

Nama Saya must start seeing real traction and penetration in the market. The foundation is being laid and we really want to get all the proverbial ducks in a row so that we can really maintain sustainable growth.

There are a million companies doing what we do, the real differentiator is how we go about creating that experience, the back-end is a critical piece to that.

So for me 2016 speaks to foundation and growth!

Lastly, for the woman who is sitting at her desk, being inspired by you to follow in your footsteps and take on entrepreneurship, what advice do you have for her?

Plan! So, so critical! This journey isn’t easy. In fact, from day 1, you will realise there are about five million factors you didn’t take into consideration, and that’s fine. The journey is one of learning, but if you can avoid some start-up pitfalls, definitely do. Other really important aspects are;

  • Your already existing network as a starting point.
  • Your friends are your friends because they are your biggest hype men; let them be your first level sales agents.
  • Networking, your business will not grow if you don’t go out there and tell people it exists. Use social media.
  • Networking events are also critical to get word out for your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your small wins, and even your falls —strategically though! (You don’t want potential clients to know that your wall fell! *laughs*). People love to feel like a part of a journey.

We want to know what amazing things women are doing in your communities. Tell us about them here!


About Kendi Sapepa

Kendibone is a BCom Hons Marketing graduate who resides in Johannesburg, where she is the founder and fabric-sculptor for her clothing brand; Barbara McKenzie. She's a lover of dry-humour and good food, and when she isn't laughing, eating or sewing, she is trying to learn how to whistle.

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