The business of beauty

The business of beauty

MASERU – IN the midst of pain, Mpho Phakoana found a business niche.
The 28-year-old lost some of her closest relatives to cancer and a heart attack.
The developments left her scarred. But they also awakened the idea of forming what could become one of the country’s most promising health businesses.
“The idea came about for two reasons – after I lost both my grandparents to cancer and my older sister to a sudden heart failure in the space of three years and experienced sudden weight gain,” Phakoana says.

In 2017, she made the decision to take her health and weight more seriously and that marked the birth of Blends Food.
Through Blends Food, Phakoana hopes to help change the lifestyles of locals by hooking them to healthier and better eating choices.
Blends Food is into prepared meals and juices made from vegetable and fruits.
Although Phakoana understands that some health issues cannot be avoided or solved with food alone, she believes that “one should at least try to minimise the risk by watching what one eats with or without these illnesses”.

Entrepreneurship runs in her veins.
In 2016 she opened Lykagift Beauty and Wellness. The company, based at Thetsane Office park, was officially opened at Maseru Mall in 2016 offering make-up, pedicures and manicures.
Growing up close to her grandfather, Phakoana saw how he was a dedicated businessman and she fell in love with the craft.
“I will always remember how he taught me that starting a business is the biggest success one can ever have and I should never view letting go or leaving a failing business discourage me,” she says.
Following the advice of her grandfather, Phakoana headed to South Africa after doing her Form E to pursue a BA in Business Administration at the Regenesys Business School.
The studies did not stop her desire to enter into business.

“I have always loved business. I started a long time ago. I would always sell something,” says Phakoana.
She used to braid hair, do nails, sell clothes and bottled preserved chilli paste.
“My love for cooking pushed me towards this project. I used to sell during market days, flea markets and to individuals,” says the vivacious businesswoman.
The business was doing so well that she decided to open a similar business in Lesotho. It flopped.
“Apart from the fact that we do not have a lot of flea markets and restaurants or even appreciation for pastes, I decided to let go of the business. It was after I received a big order but that person did not pay,” says the tenacious young businesswoman.

She knew during her school days that her vocation was in business, but she had not settled on a particular model.
After a lot of introspection, she settled on the beauty industry.
“I have always loved looking beautiful, making other women look neat and beautiful hence the birth of Lykagift,” she tells thepost at her offices in Maseru.

Having made the decision to get into the beauty industry, she had to acquaint herself with the demands of the sector so she enrolled for short courses in beauty and wellness.
“I was also lucky to meet a lady who had been doing nails for over 10 years so her expertise came in handy,” she says.
Although capital was not a critical challenge, she faced her own share of hurdles.
Business did not go as she hoped.

“Clients were not coming as promised. The general public was not receiving us well,” she says.
Phakoana did not have much experience so she had to teach herself how best to run a professional business.
“At times it was very frustrating. I would not even know if I was making bad decisions. Basically I was running a business, learning on the job and making lots of mistakes,” she says.
She says there were times when she considered quitting but she soldiered on.

“We should have closed shop a long time ago, but my grandfather’s words kept me going. I also view challenges as an opportunity for growth.”
She says another challenge was that her financial discipline was slipping away.
“I used to be very financially disciplined when I was doing my small businesses but now managing finances was a struggle.”

Employing three full time staff at Lykagift, Phakoana seems to have turned the corner.
For her, quality customer care comes first.
“The atmosphere we have created and the type of services we offer have really set us apart from others. I know it is a cliché but you can never go wrong with good customer service,” she says.
As a result, she has built a loyal client base.

“There are those who have been really patient with us. They have seen us grow through our mistakes and we will forever be grateful to them,” says the fitness buff, adding she is planning to open a wellness and fitness centre.

“It’s funny because I thought I would open a big spa but my passion is greater for fitness and wellness hence I enjoy spending two to three hours of my time in the gym.”
She says that although many individuals seem to be interested in health “the focus tends to be on shedding some weight and not adopting a healthy lifestyle”.

“Food plays a huge role in getting one into shape,” says Phakoana, who loves spending time with youths when not running her business and is a member of Global Shapers Community, a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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