Humanity is responsible for countless remarkable inventions that have progressed our development substantially. Obvious examples include the wheel, penicillin, the internet and even prescription eyeglasses that can magically help near and far-sighted individuals see the world with crystal-clear clarity.
Due to the vast amount of people across the world who have weak eyesight, prescription eyewear has become half necessity, half fashion statement associated with sophistication. Yet despite this, many young people feel self-conscious about having to wear a pair of spectacles due to the ridicule they may receive from their classmates. Leandra B Manjate, Founder of the chic eyewear online store Mafastela, was only six years old when she was prescribed her first pair of glasses, so she knows first-hand what it’s like wearing frames she didn’t like.
“Like many children in rural areas, I didn’t have access to eye care growing up. When I was in the first grade my parents took me to the capital to visit my family and see an optometrist who prescribed me my first pair of prescription glasses,” said Leandra.
“By the time I was 16 years old, I really hated wearing glasses. Although I could hardly see without them, I only felt comfortable wearing them at home. The reason I disliked wearing them so much was that my lenses were thick and it was near to impossible to find glasses that were affordable and beautiful, or appealing to teenager me,” continued Leandra.
Starting a business with a clear vision
What’s become a common theme in many an online store’s origin story, Leandra’s idea for her business developed under the harsh restrictions brought on by COVID-19 lockdown. Soon after the pandemic took hold in early 2020, Leandra broke her glasses and was quoted R5,000 for a new pair that she didn’t even like.
“I chose not to buy those glasses and on my way home thought ‘What if I created my own brand of glasses that were affordable, beautiful and appealing enough to make people excited to wear glasses?’ So that very night I started doing my research. I found manufacturers and spent most of my time during level 5 lockdown researching and self-learning how to design websites and other skills required to run an online store,” said Leandra.
Leandra chose to name her new business Mafastela, a derivative of the Changana and Zulu word which means “glasses” and “window”. The word holds special meaning to Leandra as it’s an ode to her experience with eyewear as a child.
“When I went back to school wearing my new glasses, all the children were pointing at me and screaming AMAFASTELA, which means glasses in Changana. I remember crying because I thought they were making fun of me. But as I grew up, I realised they were actually excited to see someone with prescription glasses, because clear vision is a privilege that’s denied to so many. When I decided to create my own eyewear brand, I called it Mafastela, a name that honours my trajectory and the children in my village,” said Leandra.
Launching an online business
Armed with extensive research and preparation, when Leandra launched her online store, it was destined for success. She had a good marketing strategy to attract customers to her ecommerce store that was equipped to offer her customers an efficient and secure checkout experience.
“I launched Mafastela during COVID and since our sales channels were, and still are, mainly online, I chose PayFast because I wanted a payment getaway that was well established, reliable and trustworthy so our clients would feel confident making purchases online,” said Leandra.
“PayFast offers various payment methods, like Credit Card, Instant EFT and SnapScan, and their team is excellent at mitigating the risk of fraudulent purchases. My experience has been great with them as they offer an amazing product and excellent service, and the system just works,” continued Leandra.
Growing with Easy Advance business funding
Leandra was fortunate that as soon as her business launched, she was able to attract loyal customers. This enabled her business to grow steadily with the expansion of her product range to include prescription glasses, anti-blue light glasses, sunglasses and glasses accessories. However, despite her consistent revenue, she wished to do more for her business, specifically improve the product photos on her website and the packaging of her product.
“When I started Mafastela in 2020 we had beautiful packaging, but it wasn’t strong enough; the fragile glasses used to get damaged while in transit for delivery and even during normal usage, which was a cause of inconvenience and frustration for our clients and for my business,” said Leandra.
To solve this, in 2021 Leandra and her team decided to search for packing manufacturers and ended up finding one that could produce exactly what they required – beautiful and durable packaging. But unfortunately, they would only take big orders which was not ideal because Leandra simply didn’t have the funds. So, when she was notified that her business was pre-approved for Easy Advance funding through her PayFast account, she didn’t hesitate to take it up.
Because Mafastela met the Easy Advance requirements of having been with PayFast for longer than three months and had a monthly turnover of more than R5,000, she saw a notification when she signed into her PayFast account displaying the real-time amount she pre-qualified for. All she had to do to accept the funding was confirm her details and the money was in her bank account within 24 hours.
“I decided to use my Easy Advance funding to purchase the packaging from the manufacturer, and today we have reliable packaging that allows us to deliver our fragile products across the globe safely. Packaging that’s beautifully crafted and which our clients have a great time unpacking,” said Leandra.
“I think it’s great that PayFast offers funding, as funding is generally one of the stumbling blocks when starting a business. It’s not enough to have a great vision, it’s imperative to have the resources to execute your vision. Easy Advance funding literally took our brand to the next level; we’ve created an optimal experience for our customers, a great quality product coupled with a luxurious unpacking experience. Since the new packaging we’ve yet to have one return as a result of it being damaged in transit,” continued Leandra.
Reaching new business heights
In just a few years Leandra has managed to launch and grow her business into a sought-after eyewear brand that has caught the attention of shoppers across the country and the world. With the added financial boost available to her as a business that uses PayFast, there’s no limit to what her online store can accomplish.
“It’s always been my dream to supply optometrists because I want people to be able to find our beautiful frames everywhere. We currently stock four optometrists, and I’m hoping that big franchise optometrists will soon see the value in stocking local and affordable African glasses brands. But I’m very pleased that we have a global reach with clients in other African countries, Europe and North America,” concluded Leandra.