The Box Shop is a lifestyle retail outlet on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, launched in April by Technoserve and Citi to provide entrepreneurs with an outlet for their brands and creations. Mohau Mailula, a senior business advisor at Technoserve, chatted to us about getting it off the ground.
How did your business start?
Technoserve were partners with the Citi Foundation on the AWESAM programme, which gives business support to entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth. We realised that one of the common challenges for all our entrepreneurs was accessing a market that was outside of their spheres of influence. So we proposed The Box Shop to provide marketing opportunities for small enterprises within the centre.
Why did you choose this area to set up shop?
We needed an area that was already a crowd-puller and had the right feet going through it, as well as access for local communities. Vilakazi Street already pulls the right crowds, and being there supported the government’s mandate to revitalise township economies.
How did you find your premises?
We found our site by speaking to people in the area, locating the owner of the two stands – which were being used as parking for the restaurants opposite – and started work to build our structure and parking area.
Why are the premises ideally suited to your business?
Vilakazi Street, with its historical significance – having Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s houses – is the right area for our market, with international and local tourists and a local customer base as well, and the stands we occupy are among restaurants, so they are in a naturally busy area of the street.
Who are your neighbours?
The Wine Bar next-door, Restaurant Vilakazi over the road, and Nambitha restaurant on our left. We also have The Barber shop next-door.
What are the shop rental/sales prices like in this area?
We built the development with the support of our partners.
How many people go through your store each day?
We’ve only been open for about three weeks, but we have about 20 visitors to the store’s coffee shop every morning, and another spike of after-work traffic. Over the weekend we get up to 200 people a day.
Do you have any expansion plans?
The Vilakazi Street Box Shop is the pilot project, and we’re hoping to learn from it and then launch one in all the metros where the AWESAM programme operates.
Do you operate online as well?
Our website is currently just an e-brochure. We’re working at setting up an online shop.
What’s your most popular item?
Weli M’s shirt dresses sell really well, and the beaded necklaces from Lashongwe are so popular we’ve had to reorder three times in the three weeks since we’ve been open.
081 861 6510
Words: Georgina Guedes | Images: Supplied