Today I’m chatting to Sibelo Sibanda, the fearless founder of a new e-commerce venture focusing on selling sartorial items of quality online. This is a tough category to enter into, yet Sibelo and his business partner have the energy, drive and savvy to make it work.
How did the Millbug concept come about ?
Millbug came about whilst I was working at Boomtown Strategic Brand Agency when Fred Roed (CEO of digital marketing agency World Wide Creative and founder of Ideate) came to give a talk there before his presentation that evening in the Marketing Executive Forum. Fred had spoken about the next wave of business in South Africa being e- commerce This coupled with his lessons on building communities around your brand, just as the Grateful Dead did, got our synapses firing and hearts beating faster.
Talk us through the Millbug start-up activities ? How did you get to where you are now ?
The start up activities were packed with a lot of reading. We had to make sure we knew the best CMS platform, communicated the most honest message and that we put to market, products that truly represent our personalities. Thulisile is the creative director so her responsibility is to pick the garments that are sold on the site and convey the overarching message of Millbug. Sabelo is the managing director and is the magento developer and business strategist of the team. Start up activities were basically concerned with overcoming the steep learning curve that any new endeavour presents.
You say you have insight into the African Youth Consumer Market – how so ? And what have you learnt about this target market ?
Sabelo was born in Zimbabwe, spent his first 9 years on this beautiful blue marble there before moving to SA some 18 years ago. His parents lived in Mozambique for 3 years and so he used to vacate for a month there twice a year during that time and now his parents live in Kenya where he has also gotten to travel and talk to many people. He is currently a correspondence MBA student at the Edinburgh Business School. Thulisile, a final year Economics student at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is from Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape and benefits from having friends from all over the continent at the university.
This created a really cool dialogue between us that lead to the creation of Millbug. We have gotten to where we are now by being passionate about Millbug. Nobody likes slaving awayat something all day and all night but we would all indulge in a passion of ours all day and all night – it really doesn’t feel like work. This passion seems to open up the creative faculties for extraordinarily bold initiatives. A lot of love has been put into Millbug and it’s really amazing to hear our community say the same.
How much has international fashion trends impacted on African fashion in your opinion ?
International fashion has contributed a great deal to African fashion. Since the days of District 6 we can see a correlation between international fashion and trends in South Africa. In comparison with African countries that required traditional garments to be worn by law, some SA designers could be accused of not being representative of their heritage but in our opinion there’s a space for all types of design to coexist harmoniously in the fashion utopia that we envision – Millbug!
Having an “online retail” setup, how far and wide has your product range travelled ie: where are some of your online shoppers from ? Any trends here ?
That’s the most awesome characteristic about this form of business, we are able to have a global presence from our Port Elizabeth based company. We get shoppers from all over the African continent; Nigeria, Cameroon, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Mozambique to name a few. We get shoppers from Wales, England, Italy, Spain, Paris, Turkey, North America, South America, Australasia and East Asia. Colour Blocking has taken the world by storm, polychromatic and energetic. Stripes are in this season, bold black and white colours abound. Wonderfully vivid prints make unforgettable statements. Neon is undeniably trending right now.
Have you showcased your product range at any tradeshows/fashion “indabas” ? If yes, which ones and how was the experience and what was the outcome ? If no, do you plan on doing so ?
We haven’t been to any fashion indabas yet but will be attending many expos and conventions from September 2012 onwards. Millbug (Pty) Ltd. is registered with the Nelson Mandela Bay Chamber of Commerce and this facilitates the initiative.
Do you have a “most popular” item ? What is it ?
Our most popular item right now is a classic red dress.
A brief run down of your product range ?
Our product range is bold, edgy yet elegant. We appeal mainly to millennials through clothing items that embody our motto, “Only The Unique Belong”.
Where to from here for Millbug ?
We have very clear goals for the future of Millbug. In the next 5 years, we will be the number one e-commerce company in Africa and 5 years after that we will be the biggest mcommerce company in the world. Most importantly, all this will be achieved without becoming douche-bags.
Thanks Sibelo. It is great to see young entrepreneurs such as yourselves giving it a crack in the online space. We wish you the best of luck!