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Home of Local Online Shopping

Posted on July 11, 2018

Vusi Mabona is the founder of zoke.co.za – a premium online marketplace for South African brands. It allows customers to shop from a range of locally manufactured products including books, watches, homeware and personal care brands. The idea to build a platform exclusively for local entrepreneurs was developed after Vusi needed to reach customers for his first business which traded interior design accessories.

I’m an architect by profession but I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I had difficulty getting my products into the market and that dilemma gave birth to Brands Afrika. I realized that a lot of entrepreneurs were producing and manufacturing but their biggest failure was getting their product into the hands of consumers

Formally Brands Afrika, Zoke solves the problem of accessto markets for local entrepreneurs  while also encouraging a culture of buying local to stimulate the economy, “I personally believe that buying local is the only way to transform the economy. We need to start producing”. Zoke is home to Bathu ( which means ‘shoe’ in township slang) – a popular shoe brand among Joburg youth which consists of a range of brightly coloured mesh sneakers that are produced at a factory in Durban.

Most of these entrepreneurs would rely on Facebook and Instagram for marketing and sales but they didn’t have an ecommerce presence. The special thing about interacting with them is realizing that these are youth owned businesses and being able to give them an additional distribution channel, connecting them to a bigger market

Driven by high mobile penetration, ecommerce is growing exponentially in South Africa and is estimated to about R 10 billion during 2017. There are massive growth opportunities in the digital commerce sector which can result in greater competition but Vusi’s response to that is simple: You cannot exist in an industry with no competition.

Your competitors can make you realize things about your industry that didn’t know and force you to be creative and innovative

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Like every entrepreneur, Vusi has experienced a fair share of failure but his wins more than make up for it. In 2016, he won The Hookup Dinner Johannesburg’s pitching competition twice which afforded him the first round of funding for his business. “THUD gave me the validation that my idea can work because it was still in the ideation phase. I had the confidence to approach vendors to collaborate with me because now I was more credible”. In the same year he also won the Innovation Hub’s Gauteng Accelerator Township Economy Competition which is directed at identifying and nurturing township based innovation.

Some of the key lessons he’s picked up are doing research about an industry before delving into it and knowing how to manage and reinvest money when the business starts to make a profit or when there is access to funding. What keeps him coming back even after several failed businesses is a personal vision of the legacy he wants to build, leading intra-Africa trade and the need to solve problems in the African community, “I want to create an African market place. To solve problems, promote and support local business and create employment”

Written by: Dimpho Lekqeu

Dimpho Lekgeu is an award nominated radio journalist and digital writer. She began her work in the Ann7 newsroom at 19, hosting daily news programs and the daily African bulletin. She aims to create dynamic platforms for African youth to tell their stories and be inspired. She’s Christian and believes in black girl magic.