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Interview With Silulo Ulutho Founder and CEO, Luvuyo Rani

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Luvuyo Rani is the Founder and CEO at Silulo Ulutho Technologies. A visionary and an award winning entrepreneur born in Queenstown but resides in Western cape, South Africa. He is a graduate of B. Tech from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. For his extraordinary work providing access to technology, Luvuyo was named on the 2014 JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (JCI TOYP) recipients in the category of business, economic, and entrepreneurial accomplishment. Also, he was 2016 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur. In this interview, he speaks with Alaba Ayinuola about his brand, Silulo Ulutho and how he feels as an African entrepreneur. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Tell us about Silulo Ulutho Technologies and the role you play?

LuvuyoI am a founder and CEO of Silulo. The company was founded in 2004; we started by selling refurbished computers from the boot of a car. We offer Business Services, Mobile Repair Services, B2B Services and Computer Training. We currently have 42 branches in 3 South African provinces (Western Cape, Eastern Cape & KZN). Our vision is to bridge the digital divide between rural areas, township and the urban areas. 

I am responsible for the strategy, PR and stakeholder engagement.


Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

LuvuyoMy brother went to make a loan of R10 000 from the bank that enabled us to buy the first refurbished computers that we were able to off sell to the teachers.


Alaba: How is your brand different from other Tech brand in South Africa and what problems is it solving?

LuvuyoOur company is embedded in the townships and rural areas and we pride ourselves in bringing digital services closer to where our market is. 


Alaba: What are the challenges, competitions and how are you overcoming them?

LuvuyoIt’s a challenge to manage a growing business in terms of putting systems and processes and also getting the right manpower. 

To retain man power, they get an opportunity to own a Silulo franchise – this gives them a sense of accountability and ownership.


In regards to systems, we are now on pilot project where we integrating CRM and backend. We are driving a rhythm across the business that encourages alignment and data accuracy.


Alaba: What is the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

LuvuyoTo expand in every province, township and rural area in South Africa. Thereafter we will branch into SADC. Also, we plan to deepening our offering through our online store and getting more accreditations so that we can add more training courses. 

We are partnering with Universities (UWC, WSU) to get accredited content that will assist us scale. We will expand through franchising and also looking at funding opportunities. 


Alaba: How is the government supporting the business ecosystem in South Africa?

LuvuyoI don’t feel that the government supports businesses much but the Broad Based Empowerment is support enterprises through Enterprise Development, preferred procurement. These are some of the great opportunities the government has created to assist business prosper.


Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in South Africa and Africa?

LuvuyoIt is very important to focus in your business and operation until you get the model right – thereafter you can diversify. In the beginning, it’s all about the passion, you have to give your all, sleep and eat your business, It is a tough and lonely road. Go out and build your network so that doors can be opened to you in terms of mentoring, funding and advice. 


Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

LuvuyoI feel very proud to be an African entrepreneur and really believe that it is our time to rise up and prosper. No one can do it better than us. It is also important for us to give back to our communities.


Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

LuvuyoI read biographies, political books, business books and enjoy travelling. I am currently reading: GROWING GREATNESS – A journey towards personal and business mastery by PEPE MARAIS

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Interview with Mathapelo Pitse, Founder and CEO of J’ADORE D’AMOUR

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Mathapelo Pitse is the Founder and CEO of J’ADORE D’AMOUR, a proudly South African luxury shoe brand. Mathapelo boasts immaculate skills in areas such as sales, business development, business expansion and customer relations. These key aspects were integral in the founding and management of J’ADORE D’AMOUR’ to ensure the smooth-running within the business as well as success for the overall brand.  When it comes to the creativity and style of footwear development, Mathapelo Pitse has always had an eye for minimalistic designs exotic textures and bright colours. This has seen the brand appeal to an audience who believe in a style that should be audacious sophisticated, timeless and unapologetic. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Mathapelo speaks on her brand, J’ADORE D’AMOUR and entrepreneurship. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your brand?

Mathapelo: My name is Mathapelo Pitse and I’m the Founder & CEO of J’ADORE D’AMOUR. We are a proudly South African shoe line that caters to high-end ultra-feminine consumers with a love for sophisticated trendy footwear. We prides ourselves on being a highly collaborative brand as well as a socially responsible one, with future plans of expansion to compete within international market standards in the footwear industry.

Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and start J’ADORE D’AMOUR?

Mathapelo: My passion for entrepreneurship stems from an early age and I’ve gained a lot of experience as an employee as well as a business owner. How my journey with J’ADORE D’AMOUR started is very interesting. I was spring cleaning my house with my mom and we were getting rid of old things that I wanted to give away. I then realized that I owned an overwhelmingly large collection of shoes and that’s when I had an aha moment, and the rest is history.

Alaba: What makes your brand USP stand out and how has the market responded to your products?

Mathapelo: Our unique selling point and trademark is definitely our metal heel! We want to appeal to the modern woman who is audacious, classy, fashion forward and fashion conscious. We want our clients to be unique and stand out with our shoe designs.

Alaba: Any challenges so far since you launched and how are you managing them?

Mathapelo: Just like many businesses out there, funding my business was a challenge. I had to rely on my passion and creativity to sell the vision to the masses no matter how small it was. Another challenge was converting our social media followers to buyers however we came up with different strategies to bounce back.

Alaba: In what way do you think the South African government can support entrepreneurs?

Mathapelo: I believe the government can assist local entrepreneurs with funding. Entrepreneurs are beneficial for the economy and employment of our country and with the support from the government, a lot of opportunities will be met.

Alaba: Where do you see your brand 5 years from now?

Mathapelo: I’m currently expanding my brand and trying on new and exciting projects which I will officially launch soon. 5 years from now, I’ll be the proud owner of a media empire.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Mathapelo: I feel very fortunate to be afforded the amazing opportunities thrown my way. I have a very supportive team that understands my brands and its visions. Entrepreneurship is not an easy journey.

Alaba: A little piece of advice to young and budding entrepreneurs out there?

Mathapelo: Just go for it! It all starts with an idea (no matter how big or small it may be) and it’s determined by your time and dedication to put that idea into action! 

 

 

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Trueflutter – Matchmaking App for singles of African descent: Interview with Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye

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Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye

Trueflutter is a matchmaking app built for single Africans on the continent and in diaspora, in search of committed, fulfilling relationships. An online community of Single Africans in search of something real, make genuine and authentic connections. The App takes you beyond surface appearances with the use of audio bios to hear what a person sounds like and what’s important to them even before you connect. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola speaks with Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye on his experience growing a Matchmaking brand, successes and challenges in Africa. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself, business and the gap it’s filling?

Dare: My name is Dare Olatoye, I’m the co-founder of Trueflutter which is a matchmaking app for Africans on the continent and in diaspora

Alaba: What’s the inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for Trueflutter?

Dare: My sister got married for the first time when she was 47 years old. She met a great guy and they have a beautiful family. The interesting thing is that the person she married lived just 15 minutes away from her and had also been searching for a partner for many years.

Thinking about that, I realized this was a problem that technology could solve, which is why my brother and I set out to build Trueflutter.

Our vision is to provide a platform where single Africans can easily connect with highly compatible partners.

Alaba: What makes your brand USP stand out and how has the market responded to your products?

Dare: The major challenge people have with online dating is that most of the profiles have sparse or superficial information. Our platform helps you get a much deeper insight into a potential match with the use of Audio Bios and responses to carefully thought out prompts.

Alaba: How long has Trueflutter been in business?

Dare: We launched the MVP in September 2018 and had over 15,000 users sign up. That helped us gain valuable user insight which we built into the current version that was launched in January 2021.

Alaba: What are the key initiatives for the success of the business and great accomplishments?

Dare: To us success simply boils down to assembling a great team at Trueflutter and building a great community around the product. This means the most important thing we can do is listen to our users and ensure our product continues to evolve based on their feedback.

Alaba: Kindly share your most difficult moment in business and what did you learn?

Dare: Our founding team has always been very goal driven and when we set targets, we drive ourselves incredibly hard to achieve them. We had set a goal to launch the new platform on January 8th 2021 and had all our promotional partners ready to go.

However we experienced a serious setback in timelines with our development and ideally should have postponed the launch date, but we literally worked 18 hour days to still meet the timeline.

Unfortunately we launched prematurely, with quite a number of bugs on the platform. We have since resolved these but that premature launch meant we lost many of the early adopters of the platform. The major lesson is that it’s okay to release a product that is not yet perfect, with the caveat that users know it is still on beta (just like what Clubhouse did). Public launch dates should only be set when the platform has been stress tested by thousands of users and you know the user experience will be flawless.

Alaba: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Trueflutter’s growth and/or the user experience?

Dare: I think online dating is one of those few industries that thrived because of the pandemic. We saw an 820% spike in activity on our platform and a 270% increase in organic downloads. Our voice and video call features are also now used by more people with duration of calls at an all time high.

Alaba: What’s your favourite feature of the App so far?

Dare: Hands down it’s the Audio Bio feature, which also lets you reply with a voice note to users you like. People don’t actually realize how much your voice says about you, and when they listen to someone’s audio bio, it helps them easily decide whether or not they want to connect.

Alaba: Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

Dare: As the primary platform where single Africans on the continent and in diaspora meet.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Dare: I am incredibly proud to see what my peers on the continent are doing. Despite the challenges of funding and infrastructure, we are beating the odds to build incredible products that are solving real problems. And the rest of the world is sitting up to take notice.

Alaba: Finally, what advice would you give entrepreneurs and investors in your industry?

Dare: To entrepreneurs, I would say every challenge is teaching you something. Every investor that walks away from your pitch meeting without investing, does so for a reason and if you find out why, it will make you better prepared for the next pitch.

Every customer that leaves a bad review is communicating a problem that thousands of other users are also experiencing, so you shouldn’t take it personal but embrace the feedback with gratitude.

For investors looking at the online dating space, few people realize how profitable it could be until they start diving into the numbers. But they also need to realize that it’s a long game, and like most consumer tech products, needs to be approached from the perspective of a long term investment. Trueflutter has been very fortunate to attract these kinds of investors.

 

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Prudence Ramotso: The South African entrepreneur who turned her love for shoes into a brand

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Prudence Ramotso, Founder and CEO of PRUDENT (Source: Prudence Ramotso)

Prudence Ramotso is a South African young lady who is passionate about fashion and envisioned a different kind of a brand that cares about customers and offer high quality products services. She decided to follow her dreams by creating the brand PRUDENT. A brand with designs inspired by African names, Prudent Shoes is a South African Shoe Brand established in 2019 and manufactured by one of the best and finest stylish shoe makers in Italy. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Prudence shares her entrepreneurship journey, the gap her brand is filling in the industry and the future. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your brand?

Prudence: My name is Prudence Ramotso, I was born and raised in the Vaal (Sebokeng). I love shoes and fashion , I am ambitious and goal driven. I realized there was a gap in the South African female footwear when I was shopping around for shoes back in 2016, my entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t let this to rest. After my research in 2019 PRUDENT shoes was born, we offer what was missing in the market which is good quality shoes at affordable prices and shoes that have characters from the African names that are engraved on the outsoles.

Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and start Prudent?

Prudence: The rate of unemployment in South Africa increases daily and knowing that I have the ability to make a difference and create jobs in the future inspires me everyday. I took my love and passion for shoes and turned it into a brand that fills the gap in the female footwear industry. It started in my bedroom on my cell phone. I left my full time job as a financial advisor for an insurance company and gave birth to PRUDENT shoes in 2019 and I never looked back again.

Alaba: What makes your brand USP stand out and how has the market responded to your products?

Prudence: Our shoes are made of high quality material and attention to details (better workmanship). Our insoles are glued and stitched on, with our unique style names engraved on the outsoles. Like the brand name says PRUDENT, you take prudent steps when walking in our shoes, which means taking careful and calculated steps you think for the future.

The market response is very good, customers are happy with the quality and saying the shoes make them comfortable. Most customers say the shoes speak to them laughing.

Alaba: Any challenges so far since you launched early this year?

Prudence: The challenges we have is reaching a big scale of the market and getting the brand out there.

Alaba: In what way do you think the South African government can support entrepreneurs?

Prudence: Government must encourage localism, encouraging customers to “buy local” is a pillar of regional development strategies. There are products that are not manufactured in South Africa due to lack of suppliers, however they are South African brands and they make us a competitive country. Also, the government should give small businesses a real advantage in procurement policies and the process must be clear, protective and accessible to all small businesses.

Alaba: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

Prudence: I see my brand growing and being the trusted female footwear brand in South Africa and in 10 year recognized globally. Also, as a brand helping fight the high rate of unemployment.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Prudence: Being an African entrepreneur feels amazing at the same time is hard and exciting. We are 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies as Africa and the ease of doing business in Africa is improving to an extent that a good number of countries including South Africa, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia now outperform China, India, Brazil and Russia, we can say our future is bright as AFRICAN entrepreneurs.

Alaba: A little piece of advice to young and budding entrepreneurs out there?

Prudence: Believe in yourself and your dreams, it is true your network is your networth. Be persistent and never give up, start where you are with what you have and go for it. If you can imagine it , you can do it!

 

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