What little girl doesn’t love a doll? And what could better than having a doll that looks like you.
That was the goal of Soweto-born entrepreneur Maite Makgoba when she created the African doll brand, Momppy Mpoppy. There were already black dolls on the market, but Makgoba says her toy creation isn’t just a black doll — it’s a doll with South African style. Makgoba got the idea when she was looking for a unique gift for her 3-year-old niece. She wanted a doll the child could really relate to.
African dolls are a hot commodity right now. The Queens of Africa doll line is outselling Barbie in Nigeria, according to a report in Elle.
Now Momppy Mpoppy may be the big toy story in South Africa. Makgoba told AFKInsider she is going beyond just offering a doll. She wants to create a lifestyle brand complete with a clothesline, complimentary toys and a cartoon.
The doll is the first product from Makgoba’s fledgling company, Childish Trading and Manufacturing. She describes the company as “South African kiddies lifestyle and entertainment company” that she launched in 2013.
If you are wondering about the name Momppy Mpoppy, every doll, no matter the brand, in South Africa is called mpopi, according to Makgoba. So she decided to play off this familiar name.
AFKInsider: Why did you create Momppy Mpoppy?
Maite Makgoba: Momppy Mpoppy was created through a big dream and a business risk. We wanted to bridge the lack of diversity found in the kiddies lifestyle and entertainment industry, we wanted to introduce another toy, brand and character that will represent the black child in Africa and its diaspora.
AFKInsider: What has the response been to the doll?
Maite Makgoba: We are not complaining. When it comes to being shown love, the dolls fly off the shelves and being a new product we weren’t estimating this much love.
AFKInsider: How are you marketing and promoting the doll?
Maite Makgoba: Social media and media in general have been a great source of marketing the dolls. The physical and online stores that stock us also play a large role in this regard.
AFKInsider: How is the atmosphere in South Africa for black women in business?
Maite Makgoba: South African black women have an entrepreneurship spirit generally. Most of us were raised by mothers who were selling one thing or the other. It’s also very lovely to see our government backing these businesses and encouraging the formalization of such businesses. It’s just a matter of the information (about the businesses) reaching the people. Also, younger black women are adopting this entrepreneurial spirit.
However, accessing funds is harder since we are probably the first generation to initiate formal businesses, and we don’t have wealthy parents, relatives, or contacts from whom we can access capital. Approaching private funders as a young black woman makes it even more difficult, but we thank our mothers for the strength we possess because giving up isn’t an option for us.
AKFInsider: How did you raise money to start your business?
Maite Makgoba: I utilized personal savings with my fiancée, which wasn’t much but it got us going.
AFKInsider: Is South Africa supportive of new small businesses?
Maite Makgoba: The initiatives from government are in place; it’s just the processes involved that make it very tedious. Most small and medium enterprises don’t even know of such support structures. More could be done in terms of spreading information and quickening up the process to access funds and support.
AFKInsider: What are your goals for 2016?
Maite Makgoba: We aim at accessing shelves of larger retailers, growing our branded merchandise, and launching the Momppy Mpoppy story books and hopefully cartoon characters.
AFKInsider: What advice would you give other businesswomen in South Africa?
Maite Makgoba: They should formalize their businesses from get-go and target every possible funder. You have nothing to lose; rejection is part of the game, take advice that aims at building you, do not give up and be ready put some sweat in it.
AFKInsider: What has been the most important business lesson you have learned?
Maite Makgoba: A good team is everything. Get passionate people behind you because you cannot run it by yourself.
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