African Pride co-founder Sisekelo Luna believes that his business is proof of the government’s willingness to develop SMMEs. He says that through persistent perseverance, he was able to open government doors, despite the many struggles the business has endured.
Luna told Vutivi News that African Pride started in 2014 after his sister and co-founder, Phumla Nxumalo, attended a jazz festival in the Eastern Cape with her husband. “There was an old lady who was in her 80s, who was making vintage leather briefcases. My sister came back with the thought that we should manufacture these vintage bags,” he said. “We then sent one of our cousins and a neighbour (both of whom are currently employed by the company) to the Eastern Cape to learn the trade from the old lady herself.
“We then invested the money we had into the business, bought our first machine and materials and started making other bags like handbags and laptops.” Today the company makes vintage briefcases, laptop bags, traveling and leisure bags, and corporate gifts. Luna said that aside from the Covid-19 outbreak, the business has faced numerous hurdles. “Things did not go well for us when we opened because, at that time, I had just gotten a job and wasn’t hands-on with the business,” he explained.
“We stopped operating for six months, and when we started operating again afterward, we ploughed money into the business in order to revive it. “Covid-19 also knocked us, but we were still able to survive and emerge from it with a business still operating,” Luna said that one of the key lessons he learned was not to be afraid to ask for assistance, especially from the government.
“There are so many government departments that are willing to assist the growth of entrepreneurs, and all one has to do is knock on doors, be persistent and make follow-ups, otherwise they will not think that you are serious,” he told Vutivi News. “One can get help from departments like the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and from the National Youth Development Agency. They help with access to markets and they are always willing to help.”
Luna is certain that his brand has potential for growth, and envisions the company opening a store in KwaZulu-Natal soon. “What made us continue with the business when the odds were against us was the fact that at the back of our minds we knew how unique and profitable our brand is, and that it has the potential to produce a factory that can employ over 20 people,” he also said.