Profile: UnbreakableS2 Winners - Mirriam Kgole Kanju & Thando Vimba
As CAN DO!, Nampak Bevcan's consumer facing brand gears up to kick off the third installment of their annual ‘The Unbreakable Entrepreneurs’ campaign; we catch up with last year’s winner Mirriam Kgole Kanju to gain a sense of how winning the competition impacted her career and business for the better. The campaign aims to identify and empower young entrepreneurs who best represent the unbreakable nature of the beverage cans that Nampak Bevcan manufactures.
The founder of LIOMI Perfume – a Black, woman owned business reflects on the struggle to get into retail spaces in order to reach a larger client base prior to entering the competition. “It was a bit challenging because it was expensive. We also did not meet the requirements at the time”. The Limpopo born and Johannesburg raised entrepreneur began her journey not entirely sure about what she wanted to study following her high school career. The indecisiveness surrounding this major life decision prompted her to pick up Public Relations because she seemed to enjoy the field, along with Media. “Soon after studying, I realized that that wasn’t what I wanted to do. After graduation, I started working for a perfume company and saw the opportunity to start my perfume line”.
Not long after the revelation, while also deciding to leave her formal job, she arrived at the decision to start reselling perfume. “I met my mentor who is one of the biggest perfume manufacturers in the country and began making perfume. I started doing pop-up markets and it grew into something so much bigger”. In a short space of time, LIOMI has become a fully-fledged business retailing online as well as through their physical store in Dainfern (Johannesburg, South Africa).
The luxury oil-based fragrances are now much more accessible to the public than they were prior to Kanju’s win in last year’s competition. The transition from having to distribute products through sales representatives; to having the option to shop in-store, online or over the phone with the assistance of a team of employees is a testament to the professional strides one can make during the course of their entrepreneurial journey when they have access to the correct resources and funding. Such is the mandate that the CAN DO! Unbreakable campaign is founded on. The competition does not only seek to help entrepreneurs through funding, but it sets businesses up for access to greater opportunities to ensure sustainable growth.
Another testament to this would be Thando Vimba, founder of Mr. Sponge and winner of the first installment of the competition. “I always take the road less traveled. When I graduated, I decided to start my own business. The competition really changed the game for me in terms of taking my business to the next level. I had just started my business in 2017 when the competition was launched. I did not have any start-up capital or resources or any outside investors.”, he exclaims.
The premium sneaker care service positions themselves as the best in town when it comes to their specialized cleaning services. A large driving force behind the business idea was the high level of youth unemployment in South Africa. Following his win, the company continues to operate successfully in the heart of Pretoria. “Winning the competition helped to purchase the resources I needed to begin operations. We used the money to purchase months’ worth of stock, branding, high-end business systems as well as equipment and customization kits”. He goes on to explain that the team was later able to launch a waterless sneaker cleaning product. “I managed to build a sustainable business from this. Today Mr. Sponge is a recognizable brand and we are growing”. Vimba states that the team are currently working on scaling the business and employing more young people in the process. “CAN DO! did not just give us resources, they continue to support us and put us on. For example, when they have their hip-hop music events, they invite us to set up our pop-up store to promote, clean sneakers and sell our products during their events. I am so grateful for the opportunity”.
‘The Unbreakable Entrepreneurs’ campaign proves year after year that this is the kind of platform that is necessary to not only encourage people to consider entrepreneurship; it further validates the fact that no idea is impossible to achieve. Your dreams can easily be within reach when you have the right machine behind you in order to further empower the current generation and inspire the next.