TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Corner we speak to the founders of the LoCrate Market, Kgosi Rampa and Sifiso Dlangamandla. Kgosi, let me start with you, take us through how you guys came to start up?
KGOSI RAMPA: The LoCrate Market in its inception we were a group pf creatives who attended other markets in the north and we were already creatives and we thought, you know what, guys, let’s try and create the same type of environment for ourselves in Soweto with the resources and the creatives that are around us already.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: For you, Sifiso, why did you guys pick Soweto?
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: We grew up in Soweto and there are a lot of misconceptions around Soweto and what Soweto is and how Soweto is positioned, and we wanted to change that, we wanted to show that Soweto is not gangster-ville but there is a lot of good that comes out of Soweto, there’s a lot business propositions that could come out of it and there are a lot of creative people in Soweto. So we chose Soweto and we chose our location precisely because the people who grew up in that area or if you grew up around the Vilakazi precinct you are privy to lifestyle-orientated events and experiences. So it was not to teach people from scratch but to say to people, hey, do you remember when you interacted with a certain lifestyle, occasion or experience and they catch on quickly, for the rest they will have to adopt because you start with the early adopters and then they teach the rest.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Kgosi, what’s in the name LoCrate or is it just a name?
KGOSI RAMPA: No, it’s definitely not just a name, it’s actually an acronym for the local creative.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Right, okay.
KGOSI RAMPA: The local creative was a bit too long, so we just decided to cut it and make it LoCrate Market.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That said, Sifiso, take us through the back story of you have a name, you start up and you are managing a lot of people within this market, what are the procedures that you guys had to go through to get this thing running?
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: I think the first thing that we had to do was give it to the people and not make the LoCrate Market about me and Kgosi and Reggie but it was about saying to the people this is yours, own it and it’s upon you to make sure that it prospers and it does not end up as one of those businesses that start and end because people couldn’t manage themselves properly. So we do simple things like check if the products are on a par with what we are trying to do and with that said, people also start managing themselves because they know that to get into the LoCrate Market there is a standard. With that standard comes a certain creed of people because if you are targeting people who know things or like things, I think your things need to be in order.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Now, Kgosi, how then does this run as a business because we know that a business must generate money, must have profits, is this just a fun exercise for you guys or is it something that really, really makes good money, is it a viable business?
KGOSI RAMPA: When it started it was something really fun, it was something really cool, innovative but obviously there has to be some level of sustainability. So it’s very difficult for us because I know a lot of markets that come up they end up charging an entrance fee for people to come into the market and we’ve chosen a different model from that. We’ve created other brands around the LoCrate Market to insure that we are sustainable, so we started doing tours around the local creatives who we work with, they’ve got shops and we take the tourists and corporates to these shops to identify small M&As in Soweto. We’ve also bought some infrastructure that we hire out and we also have a festival that we run in December called the Makhelwane Festival that runs on the first weekend of December. So the market itself is not as fruitful but everything that comes out of it, here and there obviously we do make some good money from activations that come on board on a month-to-month, partnerships and sponsorships.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That’s amazing. Sifiso, you mentioned product and the standard of product, what kinds of businesses showcase at the market?
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: Primarily the stallholders are SMMEs, people who have fashion brands, people who are into gourmet food, we are starting to see a lot of people doing desserts and some of the things are not African or it’s not what we grew up with but obviously adopting the European style, which is great. But we also have business-to-business relationships with other brands and all those brands want to attach to us because we are attached to a certain crowd.
You see a lot of FMCG brands coming and saying that we want to showcase our product to your audience because our product is positioned in such a way that if you are aspiring to be somewhere in life, if you care about education, if you care about changing the world for a better course, you’re definitely a target market to us. So our product is gunning for people who are open-minded enough to think that they can change the world. So in the way we have positioned our product we are able to attract sponsors, as Kgosi has said, but we are not open to any sponsor, we say no sometimes. It’s good to say no and swallow the pain, sometimes money is not everything, you need to be able to protect your product. So if a brand is not aligned to what you are doing you need to say I’ll let this one slide and there are better products that will come that have ethics and a greater perspective of what we are trying to do, not just coming and communicating to black people the very same old ways they used to be communicated to pre-1994. We are not that crowd, I think we have changed, so a bit of education is needed if you want to tap into the type of product that we have.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Totally agree with that. Now, Kgosi, challenges, I’m sure this hasn’t been an easy road?
KGOSI RAMPA: It’s been a crazy, crazy road for us. There were so many challenges, off the top pf my head just the administration of the project is a very massive one, also maintaining relationships that’s also a big one. Doing business with SMMEs, small businesses, is also very challenging from a financial perspective and a communication perspective, they are also running their own businesses. Challenges have been there but we have tried to make sure that money is never a challenge. Never use money as an excuse for something not happening. So I think that’s been our biggest lesson with regard to money. When we started we had a motto to invest energy instead of money from the get-go.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: I like that you say that and I want to pose this question to, Sifiso, that for most small businesses they usually say money is the challenge, money is the impediment, I can’t start because I don’t have this resource called money. What are your views about the current SME space in South Africa?
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: I think the biggest thing they need to adopt or apply is learn to collaborate with each other, with that comes different forces. If you look at our relationship, Kgosi comes from an ICT background, Reggie comes from a communications background, I come from a branding background, so with all of that coming together we create a bomb. There is no obstacle that we can’t overcome, so we always come up with solutions because we don’t put money at the forefront. If you are chasing money you will never make money, you put the time into idea creation, you innovate on your product, you position, you look at your target market. If your product is positioned in the right way I promise you, somebody is going to come to you and say how can I help. Learn not to ask for R1 million from the beginning, baby steps, a mere R10 000 will help, a mere R5000 will help. Sometimes not even money but connections, some relationships, somebody could help you with a media relationship, newspaper relationship, doing interviews, look at now, we are here, why would we be doing the interview if we thought our business was made, we’d be saying no, we don’t see the need. But we see the monetary value beyond the interview, we know that beyond this interview something could come up, somebody could hear this interview and say, hey guys, how can I help you? So for me it’s having the right frame of mind all the time and know that you don’t know where your next help is going to come from, so be open-minded all the time, listen to other people, your help could come from that guy at the gate.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Kgosi, what can be expected from LoCrate Market going forward, what’s in the pipeline that we can be excited about?
KGOSI RAMPA: LoCrate Market started off as just a market and has expanded into different product offerings. For example, with LoCrate Tours we’ve started taking students around Soweto, showing them local entrepreneurs, just to show them businesses that are doing it, that if they also want to do it they can. We’ve started doing alternative tours from the normal stuff of going to Vilakazi Street and another thing that I’ve already mentioned is the Makhelwane Festival. The Makhelwane Festival is a very, very important event to us, it’s our annual festival that we have in the first week of December. The gist of it is LoCrate Market but on a strip of road, where the traders are not in stalls, they occupy houses, so you’ll have a fashion trader turn a house into a fashion boutique, you’ll have a food trader turn a house into an eatery, you’ll have a local service provider who does kiddie stuff and they’ll turn a house into a crèche for the kids.
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: We want to create a bit of nostalgia, one of the houses will be a stokvel…
TUMISANG NDLOVU: I love that [laughing].
SIFISO DLANGAMANDLA: That’s what we grew up with and our parents have been playing stokvel, where they contribute R300, R500 and they share in December. So you can see there is a movement towards commercialising that whole stokvel business. Originally it belongs to the townships and it belongs to the people, so we want to embrace that. Mageu belongs to the people and mageu is not with the people. There are things like that that we do, things like a kitchen party, kitchen parties are what our parents used to do when they were going out. I asked my mom, what does kitchen party mean, people used to use their kitchens to hang out, like drinking tea, eating food and they’d be having a young party, not like we do now. It’s to bring back that moment of where I come from, I used to go to my gran’s house in December and I’d hang out with my cousins, so we want to bring back that spirit of us coming back together and being a community again. Like I said, the money part, automatically it will come, do the right thing and everything else will come. So we want communities to come back, hang out, have a wine bar, have a gallery, have a DJ booth and music artists but creatively, not this normal doof, doof but artistic type of music. We’ve got nice partnerships, so I think we are going to have a nice event this year.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Lovely product. Lastly, where do people find LoCrate on social media and events, you mentioned the Makhelwane Festival is the first week of December, you have another LoCrate that’s coming up, where do we find you on social media?
KGOSI RAMPA: LoCrate Market is on the first Sunday of every month and if you are looking for us you can find us on our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, just search for LoCrate Market. Our website is www.locratemarket.co.za For the Makhelwane Festival it’s
www.makhelwanefestival.co.za We’re excited about that one and hopefully it will be supported by Gauteng Tourism Authority, so it should be a good one.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Thank you so much for your time, gentlemen. That was Sifiso Dlangamandla and Kgosi Rampa, the founders of the LoCrate Market in Soweto in this week’s SME Corner.