There is more to Push Ismokol Clothing than just selling clothes. The co-founders behind the South African-based company, Nkululeko “Bibi” Maseko and Karidas Tshintsholo, have many more goals for their venture than being a successful clothing company.
The pair wants to create “African solutions to African problems.” The strive to encourage consumers to buy African-made fabric over Chinese textiles. They also want to create jobs and inspire youth in the townships. After all, Tshintsholo, 20, grew up in an underprivileged township east of Pretoria with a single mother.
Needless to say early life was a struggle. But through perseverance he landed a Allan Gray Fellowship for Southern Africa’s promising students. It gained him access to the University of Cape Town where he studied actuarial science.
When he teamed up Maseko, Push Ismokol was born as an informal business and in 2011 it was officially registered as a full-fledged business. It is a textile company that makes and sells T-shirts, caps, trousers, and sweaters under its own brand. Push Ismokol means to “Push the hustle.”
Today, the company has a small factory in their community with seven full-time employees, consisting of women and youths.
Karidas Tshintsholo talked to AFKInsider.com about the future plans for Push Ismokol and more.
AFKInsider: Why did you and Nkululeko “Bibi” Maseko decide to launch Push Ismokol?
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Karidas Tshintsholo: Because of a high unemployment rate among youth in townships, and the lack of quality locally designed clothing. Also the pursuit of finding “African solutions for African problems.”
AFKInsider: How did you fund the start-up?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Up to this point, we have funded the company through revenue from sales. We are currently searching for an investor to help match the company’s production scale with the current demand.
AFKInsider: What have been some business challenges?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Our main problem has been the lack of financial support, we need substantial capital to beef up our production capacity. This is still a challenge but we are engaging several investors.
AFKInsider: Is South Africa helpful to small business?
Karidas Tshintsholo: There is room for a lot of improvement. Within the private sector, established companies are generally not willing to work with startup companies until they have established themselves. This makes it difficult because you can’t really prove yourself if you are not given the opportunity. And within the public sector, there is a lot of red tape and regulation, which often cripples small businesses especially with regards to timely payment
AFKInsider: What is the business environment like in South Africa right now?
Karidas Tshintsholo: There is a lot of opportunity in various sectors but the environment is often not conducive for startup entrepreneurs. Basically, starting a business in South Africa is a big risk.
AFKInsider: What would you like to see improved about the process of doing business in South Africa?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Within the private sector, I’d like to see giving small business an opportunity to prove themselves. Within the public sector, it would be good to see a reduction of red tape and paying timely (cash flow is a major problem for startups).
AFKInsider: How do you compete with cheap Chinese textile in Africa?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Our main value proposition is quality (which China’s textiles lack). Innovation: We are currently working on a technological solution that identifies cheap imports from China. Impact: By purchasing our products, you are helping develop the local economy, as we employ and produce locally.
AFKInsider: What are some goals for 2016?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Increasing our production capacity; marketing nationally; establishing a loyal, local customer base.
AFKInsider: What are some long-term goals?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Expanding across Africa, and to the rest of the world; becoming a multinational trusted textiles corporation.
AFKInsider: What has been your biggest business lesson?
Karidas Tshintsholo: Perseverance and consistent hard work. These two have built many great empires.
AFKInsider: What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
Karidas Tshintsholo: To put it plainly, poverty is how I came into entrepreneurship. I realized that my mother could only provide food and shelter for us (and even that was a stretch), so if I wanted anything above that I had to work for it. But now I have reached a point where I am conscious of the various problems that face our beautiful continent, and entrepreneurship is my way of helping address those challenges.