Article provided by PayFast
South Africa has come a long way as a nation since our first demotic election in 1994. However, the country is still struggling with a high unemployment rate, which is significantly noticeable amongst our women and our youth. While it’s easy to become despondent from listening to the news of how our country and the world at large are struggling through the current economic crisis, it’s important to appreciate and celebrate the wins, such as the stories of young South Africans who have developed impressive business ideas and launched successful side hustles to generate an income, especially through a tool that is readily and easily accessible through a smartphone and internet connection: ecommerce.
As part of PayFast’s 15th birthday celebrations, we ran a competition on our TikTok and Instagram pages to award a lucky entrepreneur that uses PayFast to receive payments on their online store with R15,000 to grow their business. While there were several notable submissions of entrepreneurs telling us about their business and how they would use the cash prize, our selected winner was Luthando Majija, the founder of Solace, an online store that sells handmade soy candles.
At only 23, Luthando has already done what many of us have only dreamed of doing; she has thought of a winning business idea and has successfully launched her own online store to sell her products.
Making the most of lockdown by entering ecommerce
When the COVID-19 lockdown began in 2020, Luthando was lucky in that she had just completed her undergraduate studies and had decided to take a gap year. The uncertainty of the pandemic and being forced to stay home and shop online spurred her to act and launch a business of her own.
“2020 was an incredibly challenging year for a lot of people, including myself. I needed a creative outlet to take my mind off what was happening and to stay motivated and inspired, which is how I came up with Solace. Solace means “comfort or consolation in a time of distress and sadness,” and that is what I wanted to create with my brand. Products that give people healing in whatever time of distress that they may be going through,” said Luthando.
“Growing up my mom would give my siblings and I lavender-scented drops anytime we were overwhelmed and anxious with upcoming exams. The lavender scents are proven to help with managing stress, catching much needed sleep and it simply smells good. This is where my love for scents stems from,” continued Luthando.
Luthando prides herself on heading a brand that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also affordable and sustainable.
“We are a 100% black female-owned small business that specialises in 100% soy wax candles that are biodegradable and eco-friendly. The packaging we use for our candles are glass jars that can be reused and repurposed for many different things. Every scent has been carefully chosen and named for a specific experience that we want to create for our consumers. We know that a beautiful fragrance can uplift a mood, so we really work hard at creating scents that are distinct but not overpowering,” said Luthando.
Getting Solace off the ground
It can be tricky for anyone to get their business off the ground, especially if you lack self-confidence and experience. During the early days, with zero experience as an entrepreneur, Luthando admits that she was plagued with self-doubt and constantly questioned whether her business idea was good enough, and if people would understand her vision or even like her products.
“I overcame this obstacle by reminding myself of the reason I wanted to start the business in the first place. It was my way of expressing myself and it gave me joy. I also had a lot of support from my family and friends,” said Luthando.
As most entrepreneurs can relate to when starting out, another obstacle for Luthando was a lack of capital. “Starting your own business requires a lot of trial and error to experiment with your product offering and ensure that it tells your story. That can be very costly. Without sufficient capital, I was unable to purchase stock in large volumes, which meant that I had to pause my sales. I also battled to find reliable suppliers that could supply me with quality wax, scents and jars at reasonable prices,” said Luthando.
Growing Solace with the right support
Despite a few hurdles, with determination and support from her friends and family Luthando was able to grow Solace into the brand she envisioned. She introduced three new scents into her range, opened an online store using Shopify and PayFast as her payment gateway to make the shopping experience easier for her customers, and grew her social media presence by creating engaging content on her Instagram account.
“I started using PayFast when I was ready for my business to grow and attract more customers. Having a website that people can buy from meant that I was not only limited to customers on social media, but it also allowed me to reach a wider audience,” said Luthando.
“Partnering with PayFast also greatly improved my customers’ shopping experience because they can make online payments quickly and easily. PayFast also makes transactions more efficient because it allows us to receive payments from a variety of payment methods, including Instant EFT and Mobicred,” continued Luthando.
Growing an online business
For other young budding entrepreneurs looking to start their own online business venture, Luthando encourages them to identify what they are passionate about and use that to make an impact. “I started Solace to earn an extra income, but it was also a way for me to share what I had learned about how to use scented candles to manage stress and anxiety,” said Luthando.
“From my experience, it’s also important to identify a gap in the market for your audience and to have a good idea of who your customer is. It’s important to know what you are doing and who you are doing it for. Lastly, do a lot of research constantly to help you excel at running your business and don’t be afraid to ask other online entrepreneurs for help when you need it. Having expert knowledge about your service offering will give you a competitive edge. This is what helped me to commit to my vision for the business,” concluded Luthando.