Mother, wife and business savvy Siphelele Dlamini is the brainchild behind the popular accessory brand, Ntozinhle Accessorize. The 36-year-old entrepreneur says she has always been business-minded.
“I’ve never worked for anyone, ever. Before Ntozinhle Accesorize I used to own a salon in Chiawelo that used to specialise in dreadlocks,” she says.
After two years in the hair industry, Siphelele, commonly known as ‘Lele, decided it was time to venture into something new. When she closed down her salon, she had no idea what her next step would be.
“I remembered how the customers at my salon used to compliment me on my gorgeous accessories. While trying to figure out what do to, I decided to use profit from the salon to start small and sell some pieces to them,” she says.
Later Dlamini took things a step further and started collaborating with Style Alert, Fabro Sanz and other local brands and did monthly pop-up stores that they still do. From then the business grew immensely and Dlamini decided it was time to branch out on her own. She bought herself a shack, put it in her backyard and started operating from there.
“I realised there was a demand for authentic unique pieces amongst women. I took the opportunity with both hands, named my business Fashion Shack and ran it from my back yard.
After a year, Dlamini built a proper structure.
To reach and engage with her market (mostly black women between the ages of 20 and 40, although the caucasian market is steadily growing), Siphelele uploads images on Instagram. Social media has proven to be an effective marketing tool for her business. She also hosts monthly pop-up stores in different cities in SA.
About 80% of the pieces are locally and hand-made while the remaining 20% are outsourced. She makes a sample of the product and has people who help with the mass production.
“I have a group of ogogo who assist with the Ndebele pieces. There’s also a group of young boys and girls kwaNongoma in Natal who do the beadwork for all the other pieces,” she says. She sources the brightly patterned headscarves from Kenya and Maputo.
Dlamini says what makes her brand stand out from Mai Mai market or accessories in town is the quality, presentation of the products and the workmanship that goes into each statement piece.
“We use high quality beads and we’ve made it a point that our pieces are versatile enough to be incorporated in your everyday outfit rather than a special occasion like a wedding,” she says.
Unlike buying a beaded neckpiece from downtown Jozi, Dlamini’s products are branded and you can return them should you be unhappy with anything.
Over the last two years, the business’s turnover has tripled. Dlamini says the support she has received from her customers has been amazing and she’s grateful for everything.
Highlights of the business include styling Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Taraji P Henson from Empire as well as magazine features.
The biggest challenge Dlamini faces is location because a lot of people are still sceptical about driving to Soweto. Though she does use courier services, she says sometimes it takes a while for customers to get their orders.
“My wish is for the business to expand, I’d love to branch out to Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg,” she says.
Here are some of the lovely garments from Ntozinhle Accessorize: