Sometimes you need to stop overthinking the plan and just start – and that’s exactly what Koena Selolo, a successful woman entrepreneur, did.
Koena Selolo’s story is truly an example of what happens when you take talent, drive, and initiative and whatever resources that you can find; and make your dreams come true. Koena took these characteristics and watered them so that she could watch them grow. She didn’t have any funding when she started – but she made it work. She puts in the hours to juggle marketing her business, making the pieces, deliveries and selling at markets – on top of her studies and spending quality time with family and friends. She’s a champion of note.
The result was her jewellery brand Kgosigadi – lovingly hand-crafted accessories for women of every age. Kgošigadi means “queen” in Sepedi, and according to Koena, every woman is a queen who deserves to feel special and look regal. She keeps sales going through social media, organic marketing and even something as simple as wearing her pieces daily. “Where did you get that necklace?” is the best question a potential customer can ask!
It is my pleasure to present to you Koena Selolo, the student who is turning her hobby into an empire!
What did you study and what are you studying now?
I have a National Diploma in Local Government Finance and transitioned from finance to fine arts. Currently I am studying towards a Diploma in Jewellery Design and Manufacture.
What influenced your decision to change paths?
What influenced my decision is that in the process of obtaining my first qualification, I won a business pitch competition held in my institution where I pitched the whole idea of making accessories to affirm women’s individual beauty. I would always make neckpieces and earrings for my sisters since a young age. I would use anything from buttons to copper wires. Winning opened my naive eyes to seeing beyond just being a consumer but being a maker. I can create my own income and create jobs in the future.
You grew up in a family of girls, and you’re the youngest. What was that like?
Growing up as the youngest of three girls was a wonderful experience. I had Ma and two sisters to learn from. I could take lessons from the mistakes they made in their own individual journeys. This also meant I had to perfect myself and not make my own mistakes – rather a challenge in terms of finding my voice because there are three other voices that are louder, [more] protective and wiser than mine. (What does this have to do with her success as an entrepreneur?)
What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to get your business started?
Capital was a challenge! I started on just old copper wires to sell my first batch of earrings. This has been a challenge in terms of cashflow as any money made needs to go towards buying material and to run other overhead costs such as transport, booking stalls at markets etc. I ‘m still learning in that regard because I’m studying without financial aid, so any profit need to go towards buying new tools for my practicals and to pay rent, etc. I wish I had known sooner that you can never run away from your passion. It will forever chase you!
What has been the most enjoyable part of the journey so far?
People receiving my pieces with warmth.
Learning and growth! From making costly mistakes, to going to school, to learning to stand strong despite all of the challenges thrown my way.
There are exciting developments in fashion now, with more and more designers entering the African accessories market. How do you make sure that your brand stands out?
Being authentic is important for me. One should not only be abreast with trends but aim to set their own trends. Do not do what everyone is doing – you won’t keep up.
What would you say is the one thing you’ve learnt about yourself since starting to create your own accessories?
My resilience threshold is much bigger than I had thought. There were times I was down (financially and emotionally) but I always looked for ways to get up and try again. I haven’t ‘arrived’ yet but I’m learning to be better every time I’m down.
Hahaha balance neh! My life is a constant rush hour traffic. I can’t say I have mastered balance but I try make time for all the important things. I see Kgošigadi on an international scale of not only creating contemporary jewellery but commercial jewellery, and also creating homeware like Carol Boyes.
Don’t question yourself in the beginning – then you’ll never start. Don’t question yourself in the middle – you’re still in it and you should give yourself time to grow. And don’t question yourself at the end, because one day, you can retire on an island that you bought. Because at the end of it all, you worked hard and achieved your dream!