Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: NezWorx
Entrepreneur and clothing designer Siyabulela Sophi recently opened the first store for his brand MK Originals in Makhaza, Khayelitsha. He tells us more about the brand.
How did your business start?
MK Originals started in 2014 after I resigned from full-time employment. I couldn’t find myself in the corporate space and wanted to start my own business. My mother had exposed me to entrepreneurship through selling second-hand clothing in the community, so clothing was the obvious choice.
I decided to focus on streetwear, especially headgear. Caps have become part of our culture – people love them and three out of five people you pass in the CBD will be wearing one.
The MK brand is about giving people a sense of belonging, about young people getting up and doing it themselves. We’re celebrating creativity and the positive side of our societies. When people talk about Khayelitsha, most of the time they focus on the negative aspects. We want people to recognise the positive things that originate from our dusty streets and the positive side of street culture.
We’ve grown from selling about 20 caps a month in 2014, to 100 caps a month to people in Joburg, Cape Town, Durban, the Eastern Cape, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and even a few German clients. We also have limited-edition gear such as T-shirts, jackets, crewnecks, happy socks, golf dresses, shorts and more.
Why did you choose this area to set up shop?
Makhaza doesn’t contribute much to Khayelitsha’s gross domestic product, so investors are not so keen on investing in this side of Khayelitsha. Living here, we saw a huge need to play a part in the development of this society. Having a clothing boutique in the heart of Makhaza not only invites people over but also exposes our community to other investors. As our business grows, we will be able to open doors for other creatives.
How did you find your premises?
I utilised space in my parents’ home to open the shop.
Why are the premises ideally suited to your business?
There’s no better place to find street culture than a “kasi” like Makhaza. If we want to positively impact social issues like corruption, crime and service delivery, we have to be directly where they happen.
Who are your neighbours?
Supportive residents who appreciate the presence of the shop. They see my business as an inspiration to their children.
What are the rental prices like in this area?
You can rent space for about R2,500 to R5,000. I reached a R0.00 rent agreement with my parents, which allows the business time to grow.
How many people visit your business each day?
About 50 to 80 people come through daily to check out our gear, and lots more passing foot traffic.
Do you have any expansion plans?
We have a strategic growth plan to move into Joburg, Durban and other provinces, with shops in the communities, creating employment for young people. We seek to bring quality wear closer to people so they don’t have to travel to busy malls.
Do you operate online as well?
We use social media for marketing and to drive sales. Our presence on social media is how we tapped into other provinces. We’ll launch our online store soon.
What’s your most popular item?
Our MK caps and MK jackets.
For more information on MK Originals, phone 061 807 6619 or visit their Facebook page.