Startup snapshot: Online fashion store Doeks & Prints focuses on African designs

Pempho Kafoteka

Doeks & Prints is an online fashion store, based in South Africa. Founder Pempho Kafoteka (34) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Doeks & Prints is an African fashion brand and online store that focuses on bold and colourful African print head wraps, clothes and fashion accessories for the modern woman in South Africa. We want to celebrate African women’s fashion in a stand-out way that ties modernism with tradition, while still remaining original, authentic and creative in our field.

2. How did you finance your startup?

Mostly from personal savings, family contributions and intellectual capital. I took a skill that I already had to build the platform and then added the products that I wanted to sell. There are always those unforeseen costs when starting a business; there’s always more to it than you can foresee and as such I kept on financing it out of pocket until it was running.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

We would extend the line to include other items I think we are missing. Then possibly a semi-permanent structure like a pop-up shop so that we can do more on-the-ground selling at events and festivals like your Sunday markets. I think there’s a little bit of magic when it comes to selling in person, where people get to see and experience what your product is about.

4. What risks does your business face?

It’s a very competitive field because the barriers to entry are very low. So that’s number one. But secondly, because of the rising trend in African fashion, and how all eyes are on Africa right now, we have also seen the big retail shops moving into the arena to offer similar type of products. And obviously they have the bigger foot traffic and bigger marketing spends and as such, we, the smaller businesses have to be more creative and innovative with the products.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Social media marketing. Fashion is very visual and this allows us to showcase our catalogue easily. The targeting on social media allows us to streamline our marketing towards our intended audience. It also gives us great insight into who our customers are and what type of products they like.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

When the store went live. There is nothing like knowing that your idea has finally come to fruition and you have materialised your thoughts into existence. It’s creation at its basics. But then of course that is quickly diminished by the anxious feeling of when will the first order come in. Why am I seeing likes on the page and ads but no orders? Then the first order comes in, then you are like, ‘It’s working!’

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake.

My biggest business mistake, not particularly to do with Doeks & Prints, was to seek out funding too early in the business journey because I thought an injection of money would improve business. Boy was I wrong! I was stuck with products that were slow-moving and repayments that still had to be made. The lesson: Don’t go looking for credit too early until your business finds its footing. In its infancy, your business needs to be highly adaptable and debt is not something that you want on your back while you find your way.