Carving a niche in fashion industry

Carving a niche in fashion industry

MASERU-FOR many entrepreneurial upstarts, the first piece of advice is never to get into business relationships with family because the result is often blood on the floor.
But four siblings from the Selialia family chose to ignore this advice and bundled together to start a business that they hope will keep them away from the odious search for employment that many youngsters go through.

The result: so far so good.
The siblings are taking Lesotho’s fashion industry by storm and their retail outfit is fast becoming the go-to place for the latest trends in clothing.
For years, Motšeoa Selialia and her three siblings have been glued together in a family business through its ups and downs.

The joint effort by the close-knit siblings gave birth to Ross Lesotho Boutique, a ‘Can’t Get clothes’ which is rapidly becoming sought after by Maseru’s A-listers.
Before opening their boutique, the siblings used to frequent the busy streets of Johannesburg looking for the latest fashion to bring their local customers.
It was a journey fraught with challenges.

“People would take clothes and take months to pay. As a result we could not even enjoy the little profits that came out of the business,” Motšeoa says.
“By the time they paid there were too many things we needed to take care of. We even took funds from our pockets,” she said.

A deep passion for stylish clothes kept them going and, although the prospect of owning a boutique seemed far-fetched at some point, they soldiered on.
“We used to approach individuals and saloons to showcase our items. We were not familiar with social media marketing,” she says.

Reflecting on these struggles, the siblings thought of starting their own outfit.
“Starting a boutique looked like a better way out. In this setting, clients would be forced to pay cash or pay within the limited time of lay-bye,” says Motšeoa.

In 2017, the Selialia siblings took a leap of faith and used their little savings to start what is now known as Ross Lesotho Boutique.
It was no stroll in the park though.

“In a week only a few people walked in and these were mainly the people who knew us,” says Motšeoa, attributing the early lack of customers to the shop’s location.
“We were upstairs and obviously people would only come across us by chance,” she says, adding that they had to keep forking money out of their pockets to keep the business running.

“For months the business was not self-sufficient. It was like a baby and it had to be taken care of without bringing enough,” she says.
The siblings were forced back to the drawing board for strategies that could keep Ross’s doors open.
Social media came in handy, says Motšeoa. “We opened a Facebook page and through it a few people started coming.”

“Last year we opened an Instagram page to diversify access channels and appealed to another audience that we might not have initially attracted with our Facebook page,” says Motšeoa.
They also changed location and moved to the ground floor for customers to easily locate the shop.
“We also brought in a bit of branding and had a banner and now we also brand our clothes.”

Ross’s quality, style and glamorous pictures brought the highly necessary clients for the sustainability of the business.
The boutique is mostly associated with class, style and exclusivity. Increasingly, the siblings have gained the trust of clients.

“They see that we bring unique stylish clothes of top quality at affordable prices,” says Motšeoa, adding that they no longer restrict themselves to Johannesburg as a source market for their stock.
“We now bring our clients clothes from across the world to their doorsteps and they know that when they wear it… not everyone will have it,” she says.

However, that does not mean challenges are a thing of the past, as the business has to contend with getting some customers to pay on time.
“It is no longer difficult like in the beginning but people still fail to pay off their lay-byes. The only thing helping us is that in this setting when you don’t pay, the item becomes available to another client without having to chase after the initial buyer.”

Although the journey ahead is still long, the siblings are confident they are carving a niche of their own in Lesotho’s fashion industry and they plan to stick together.
“This is what has carried us through,” says Motšeoa, with an air of confidence. “We know and understand each other. There were times when one of us could have left but none of us did.”

Motšeoa says their blood ties take a back seat when it comes to business, but acknowledged that their relation is a solid basis of their partnership.
“We do not let anyone get away with anything wrong. We all take our tasks seriously.”
It is usually said an apple does not fall far from the tree and this is true of the Selialia siblings, who grew up under the care of their entrepreneurial mother.

“She was rearing pigs, dairy cattle and selling milk. We all helped out with feeding the animals but I never saw myself as an entrepreneur,” says Motšeoa, a holder of a diploma in Business Management who is also pursuing a degree in Arts in Business Entrepreneurship.
“I knew I would be involved in business but as an employee not an entrepreneur,” she says.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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