When Ziningi Malinga started DecantAir, her motto was to never give up, despite the numerous challenges she faced while getting her business off the ground. She now advises fellow entrepreneurs to remember why they started their businesses and not doubt themselves. Malinga, who is an engineer, established her business after an unpleasant experience at her previous workplace.
“On one occasion I was sick when I was at work, so I had rushed to use the restroom,” she told Vutivi News. “The people in the restroom all ran out because of the bad smell that I left.” Certain that there were many people who have shared a similar experience, Malinga decided to develop a toilet deodoriser. “As a woman, I know how important scents are, so I want those who know how embarrassing leaving an unpleasant scent is, to be assured that they won’t have to go through what I went through,” she said.
Malinga began developing her product in 2018, and through trial and error, she started selling DecantAir products the following year. The dissolvable tablet is dropped into a toilet before using it to mask a smell. Malinga, who is based in Meyerton in Sedibeng, easily admits that when launching her product, she should have had a solid marketing strategy.
“One of the most difficult challenges we faced when starting out was access to markets,” she told Vutivi News. “I started the business initially from my own pocket, and then I received funding from the Technology Innovation Agency. “Because not everyone understands the product, it was difficult getting the product pitch right in order to attract customers. We also attended pop-up markets and exhibitions,” she said.
Malinga described her initial experiences with social media marketing as overwhelming. “When we started out, we had a social media campaign which resulted in us getting a large number of sales,” she said. “We had to pull back from the marketing and sales aspect because the orders were overwhelming and we did not have the capacity to deal with them, and also because my background is largely technical.”
However, giving up is not in her vocabulary and she has learned many lessons. “We are about to embark on a social media campaign and digital marketing is going to be at the core of our marketing campaign,” she said. “I also learned that in business there are always ebbs and flows and remembering why you started the business will help you go through these quiet times when you almost feel like you want to give up.”
In 2020, Malinga was one of the finalists for Pitch SA, which is a competition that involves entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to top industry professionals for R300,000. She was meant to travel to Switzerland to pitch alongside Swiss entrepreneurs, but because of Covid-19, she was unable to attend. “I feel like 2020 was our best year because of the competitions we entered and because of working with high-profile people who helped hone our skills.” Malinga is proud of her achievements and hopes to see her products on store shelves and in hotel rooms soon.