Known locally for his unique sense of style, over-the-top wedding dresses, colourful bags and scarves, Michael Tlou is a true epitome of creativity. He is a self-made man.
Michael was raised in a single-parent household where, as a young boy, he was fascinated by bold colourful clothes that made a statement. He had a short-lived career as a security guard before opening his business in 2015. “I knew I loved clothes and I wanted to do more than just wear them. I didn’t know anything about using a sewing machine, but I was determined to learn. I got a job as a security guard so I can pay for fashion design short courses,” he says.
“Around my community here in Boitekong, (North West Province) people know me for performing miracles with the sewing machine. Anything you can imagine, you name it, I can make it for you. I can turn a simple material into a beautiful piece of clothing.”
His company, Khumo Khumo, caters for a wide market, from individuals who want to stand out from the crowd in one-of-a-kind designs to outrageous demands from bridezillas who want to look their best on their wedding day. The demand is always there! “I’m starting to expand now. I’m introducing shoes to my list of items I’m manufacturing. I am going to design and make my collection of shoes that will speak to my target market.”
A family that sews together, stays together
At the moment, Michael does not have full-time employees assisting him with daily operations, but he is training some of his family members who share his passion for fashion to one day be involved in the business with the hopes of turning it in into a profitable family business. “My teenage niece has an eye for fashion and she has shown interest in my work, so I have taken her under my wing to teach her how to use a sewing machine, how to match colours and pay attention to details,” explains Michael.
Lessons to success
“I’m learning that everything takes time, one should learn to be patient and never limit themselves. And I also learned early on the art of saving and being financially knowledgeable, especially when it comes to my business finances. I wanted to do the right things from the beginning, starting with registering my business, opening a business bank account, creating a logo, and figuring out everything relating to branding. There is a lot that goes into starting a business that people often overlook. When they envision their business, they are thinking the result, but more often than not, they fail to pay attention to the finer details. Taking care of your business admin can seem like a tedious task, but it’s very important, especially when you want to track the progress your business is making,” says Michael.
Small businesses are diamonds in the rough
From fashion and photography to catering, Michael believes there is potential in every kind of business in South Africa, because these are driven by passionate, goal-driven young people who are eager to succeed. He says young people are innovative with great business concepts, but do not receive enough support. “I wish the government would zoom in more into small communities and invest resources that would assist small emerging businesses through information hubs, continuous workshops, and mentoring. Please help us create profitable businesses so we can contribute to the growth of our local economy,” he adds.
Michael describes the Nedbank-funded Ranyaka Building Business programme as a step in the right direction which he hopes will attract other organisations to follow suite. “Ranyaka came into our community during a time when most of us as young entrepreneurs had lost hope and others had closed down their businesses due to the national lockdown.”
“The programme not only assisted us with a stipend that I used to open a Nedbank business account and purchase some equipment for my business, but it also provided us with mentoring. Mentoring became a big part of keeping us motivated. We were taught about building our brand through marketing and creating systems that will help us run our businesses more efficiently,” says Michael.
Looking to the future
Michael is currently working from home and his goal is to build a structure where he can operate his boutique. “I want to create a small, but classy boutique in my township that sells quality, but affordable items. And my long-term goal is to one day own a manufacturing industrial space where I can hire seamstresses and I can be able to make anything under my brand.”
To fellow entrepreneurs, Michael’s words of advice: “Focus and be passionate about what you are doing, you will go far!”
You can contact Michael on 073 659 8743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.