Meshack Mulaudzi was passionate about offering African children toys that let them know “You are beautiful just as you are” and “It is ok to be you”. So, in 2016 he launched Kaelo Black Beauty, to design, manufacture and distribute African-themed toys.
Since then, they’ve currently supply Toys R Us, have secured supplier contacts with Pick n Pay, Game and Dis-chem and are in talks to supply countless others. Kaelo is already exporting to 10 countries across Africa and 6 countries overseas. They’ve already sold more than 9000 toys since they launched.
Here is Meshack Mulaudzi CEO Of Kaelo’s advice when starting out:
1. What do you wish you had known before you started your business?
“I wish I knew personal savings will run out as fast as it did. I should have taken more credit cards and overdrafts before I left work.”
2. Which areas of the launch would you spend more/less time on?
I would spend more time on sales and distribution, this is the lifeline of the business, without sales you have no cashflow and no business.
I would spend less time on trying to raise funding. It’s very difficult to raise funding in South Africa, most funders are not prepared to take investment risk at early stage of your business. Rather spend the time in generating sales and perfecting distribution.
3.Have you ever needed to pivot the business, and why?
Yes, we have, initially we had planned to distribute the Dolls and Bags directly to the market ourselves. This was at a higher margin, but we quickly realised it was not scalable.
We pivoted the business to supplying retailers, and then they would handle the distribution part of the business.
4. What were your 3 most valuable learnings from the planning and launch phases?
- Plan for the best and prepare for the worse – We had planned to sell our first bunch of stock within two months, it took us 12 months. We were grateful for preparing for the worse.
- Expansion is good, but not when fixed cost is escalating at the same rate. During early days we expanded our pop-up stores very quickly to over 6 malls, fixed cost and stock shrinkage were very high. The fixed costs almost drowned us. Do your best to keep them low.
- Initially we under spent of advertising and this affected our sales growth. We later realised that to grow our customer base we have to reach more people and let them know about our products.
5. What lesson/s have had the greatest impact on your start-up journey?
Understand that not everyone will be as passionate about your business as you. It’s nothing personal, its business. Have a thick skin and a soft heart.
Do not relay too much on expert advice, most advice given is theoretical and things works differently in practice.
Plan less, implement more and faster. That way you will know quickly what works and what doesn’t.
6. How did you determine who your target market was, and how have you reached them?
Initially it was based on observation using data we collected from social media. Incorporating this data to our price point we were sure who our target market was. This remains true to this day.
We’re aggressive on social media advertising given its reach and affordability. To us this is the most cost-effective way to reach our target market.
7. Why is networking and collaboration important?
Two hands are better than one and one hand can’t wash itself. No man is an island.
Through collaboration you can reach greater success together if the two businesses have synergy.
Look out for events, talks and gathering that are within your industry or events where people you looking to partner with will be attending. Get in and make those collaborations happen.
8. What would your best practical advice be to new entrepreneurs?
Don’t get married to your plans, what’s on paper is a thousand times different from how things practically work.
Be flexible to flow with what the market wants and how the market wants it. Set your goals on rock and your plans on sand.