It is no secret that small businesses, including those in the textile sector, struggle to access the market. But Khaya Tshabalala saw this as an opportunity to use his sales and marketing skills and create a market for African designers to thrive through his platform, Local Roots Africa. Local Roots Africa is an online retail platform for clothing, footwear, cosmetics, hair care and accessories like laptop bags, belts and wallets.
Tshabalala started his company in 2021 after he lost his job in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. He had worked as a business development consultant and used that knowledge to set up his platform. “The truth of the matter is that there is too much red tape when it comes to local brands having access to big retailers and placing their products on their shelves,” the Johannesburg resident told Vutivi News.
“I did my research and realised that there are so many locally-owned and produced products that needed a market of their own.” Tshabalala also set up the platform because he wanted to debunk the misconception that products made in Africa were of inferior quality. “When I look to list a product, I perform quality assurance checks and when I am happy with the product, I then proceed to list it,” he said.
“When I started the business, I was an unknown person in the sector and as a result, I had to do a lot of convincing. However, today Local Roots Africa works with over 40 brands, and we’ve come to the point where brands are approaching us to put their products on our platforms.” Tshabalala said that when he started out, he needed to focus on finances, building brand loyalty, marketing, and setting up the platform. “When I started the business, I had to loan money. It was also difficult to get brands to work with my platform, and it was difficult to market my platform,” he said.
“Right now, we are overcoming many of our challenges, and we have even reached a point where we have one customer buying from five different brands,” Tshabalala said while his platform was growing, he was still dealing with people’s attitudes toward online shopping. “People are still skeptical about online shopping and sometimes prefer to shop through our WhatsApp channel, but it is something we are looking to change going forward,” he said.
Tshabalala told Vutivi News that he saw the platform expanding to include other local products. “One of my biggest dreams is to be able to establish a physical warehouse in the next five years where we can house all other types of products like locally-produced beverages including others,” he said. “The aim is to have a physical point of sale where customers can have access to as many locally-produced brands as possible.”