For almost a decade Kgomo’s first stock of ‘brown dolls’, as she affectionately calls them, sat stored in her garage.
With no real marketing strategy beyond word of mouth, door-to-door sales and resounding buy-in reluctance from major retailers who felt there wasn’t a demand for them, Kgomo was averaging between 10 and 15 sales a month.
She couldn’t have predicted that a call from Mpumi Motsabi three weeks ago would lead to Ntomben’tle Dolls being the name on everyone’s lips.
Inspired by a desire to counteract the skewed perceptions African children – including her two daughters – feel about themselves and their features, Motsabi approached Kgomo with a proposition.
She asked Kgomo to let her handle the operational and sales components of the business so that Kgomo could focus on the creative side of the business.
The first thing Motsabi did was establish a digital footprint for the business through social media networks like Facebook, a platform through which they could better engage with potential customers.
Establishing an online presence, says tech expert and World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck is critically important and potentially the difference between success and failure.
“Those with a website are also more likely to be users of Internet and related technology tools which, when used appropriately, can deliver substantial efficiency benefits,” he said.
Ntomb’entle is a case study that proves how fast ‘digital word-of-mouth’ can spread on social media, particularly when you’re offering a product that is in high demand or something a mass group of people can identify with.
In just three months, sales have more than doubled and Kgomo is now “worried” that she won’t have enough stock to meet demand over the next two to three months – the amount of time it takes to manufacture and ship the dolls to South Africa.
While the dolls are produced abroad, Kgomo is the creative director behind the doll’s design, its curvaceous shape, short hair and big brown eyes and sourcing the local fabrics used to make the traditional outfits the dolls are donned in. She has also enlisted the services of local women to produce the intricate beadwork detail and accessories found on the Ndebele and Zulu dolls.
Kgomo is currently working on a doll for boys and an Indian doll following a swarm of requests for them.
Her long-term plans are to extend the range of dolls and ultimately establish international distribution channels.
Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Kgomo said she wouldn’t necessarily do anything differently if given the chance to do it all over again.
“Maybe the timing wasn’t right then, but I feel like now is my time. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt as an entrepreneur is to be patient. You’ve got to know what it is you want, you’ve got to have perseverance and faith to carry on no matter how slow it is,” she said.
*The dolls retail for R220 and can be purchased through the Ntomb’entle Dolls Facebook page, or email email@example.com.