Popular clothing brand MK Originals is run out of a Khayelitsha bedroom – and is helping to create a township market
- Strolling down Cebula street in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, you’d easily mistake this clothing store as just another garage.
- But this is where MK Originals, an on-the-rise clothing brand founded in 2014, makes its clothes.
- It's now a booming business that at the end of 2018 grossed R150,000 in profit.
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Walking down Cebula street in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, you could easily mistake this clothing store as another garage door with people sitting in front of it.
But if you look closer you’ll find the heart of MK Originals, a clothing brand founded by Siyabulela Sophi.
“Traditionally, people start businesses to make money and profits. But mine is different, I started this business to ignite change within my community,” said Sophi.
The 29-year-old, who is studying towards a masters degree in project management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, has turned his late younger brother’s bedroom into a clothing store full of caps, jackets, shirts, shoes and crewnecks.
“So, what we do is that we buy the fabric, but we get seamstresses and people with sewing skills here in Makhaza to assemble the garments and pay them for it. After that, the garments go to our studio in Claremont for printing and embroidery. I would say 80% is done by the community and 20% of the work is outsourced,” said Sophi.
At the end of 2018, MK Originals recorded around R380,000 in revenue and made around R150,000 in gross profit.
“We also receive orders from churches, schools and private companies who ask us to make T-shirts and other garments for them. This has been an important stream of income for us,” Sophi said.
Sophi and other local entrepreneurs recently started an event called “Udaba Pop-Up Experience” which takes place on the first Sunday of each month.
“We open the street and set-up various food, drink and clothing stalls. So people can shop and enjoy themselves on a Sunday,” he said.
He added that a portion of MK Originals's profits also go towards initiatives including workshops, skills-development training, and supporting the local football club.
“We want to assist other young people who want to go into business. We want to have conversations about product development, market access and challenges in getting funding,” said Sophi.
“The rate of unemployment seems to be getting worse each year. As young people we can’t wait on government or the private sector to create jobs for us, we must start our own businesses. Sure, we’re not all going to be entrepreneurs, but even if you find employment you must have a skill that you can fall back on in case things don’t go as planned,” he added.
Sophi currently employs seven people and his future plans include purchasing houses in the township, renovating them and turning them into stores, in a bid to normalise entrepreneurship in the township and to show off its creativity.
“I want to do this because you won’t see us at the mall. I believe we will lose what we stand for in terms of culture. We want to show off the creative side of our community.” says the entrepreneur.
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