Siblings doing business together – Karabo & Mantshadi share how they make it work

A lot of people don’t believe in doing business with their family members but these siblings are redefining the norm, Mantshadi and Karabo are business partners making waves in the NATURAL HAIR business.

Getting to know Karabo

I am the last born child out of three children, from Thato and Lefu Mokoena. I am a full-time student by day and the boss lady by night. She is currently doing her MSc degree in the Cryopreservation of Microalgae at the university of the Witwatersrand. She is the chairperson of the Wits Postgraduate Club, and is also the student representative of the Phycological Society of Southern Africa. She has a passion for science and educating the masses on the importance of protecting biodiversity and how to create businesses that are sustainable in the long-term. She really just wants to change the world.  I grew up in Bloemfontein, where our parents currently reside and I went to boarding school there, at Eunice Girls School. Our family has always been business orientated, back home our grandfather had a “spaza” shop and so did my uncle and aunts. My parents also had his fair share of business that he did on the side as well. So I grew up around business minded people and have been exposed to it from a young age this inspired me to get into business. Beside business I am also an academic, am currently studying MSc degree in cryopreservation of microalgae I have always had an interest in microorganisms and their survival, I was introduced to microalgae in my undergraduate studies and how they are important to the environment and its regulation. There are also some great applications for them industry that are more sustainable than the alternatives that we have. With cryopreservation (preservation of organisms by freezing) I have the opportunity to find methods to help us conserve these species in a changing environment.

What are the challenges you faced when starting Nalane Group?

Our biggest challenge when starting up the company was having the funds to start up the finalization of the product, such as formulating correctly, getting it through testing and final mass manufacturing.

What are the difficulties of working with your sister?

My sister and I are in sync, we hardly ever fight and we understand each other very well. I think the difficulties we do face at times are time related – in terms of availabilities. And we do sometimes have different opinions, but we always somehow integrate them into one great idea.

Do you think SA women are empowered?

Not enough. We need more doors to be open for female entrepreneurs, but specifically black females.

How do you manage your full time job and running the business?

I try to dedicate as much time to the business as possible. It is really all about the balance.

What do you love the most about your natural hair?

I love that my hair defies gravity and is versatile. I love that on some days I can have my curls defined, on other days I can have straight and tied up; and I can also wear in afro.

Getting to know Mantshadi

I was born in Bloemfontein and spend most of my early childhood in the eastern Free State. I did my early childhood schooling in the small towns of Kestell, Tweeling and Bethlehem respectively. I was 8 when I went to boarding school; from there I completed her high schooling in Bloemfontein at Eunice High School. I am a middle child of 3, my siblings of which one of them is my business partner in Nalane Group, are Karabo Mokoena, my younger sister and our older brother Moeketsi Mokoena.

I moved to Johannesburg to complete my studies in BSc IT from the University of Johannesburg in 2007 and I have since been working in the corporate sector for the past 12 years’ experience besides my IT degree, I hold a Business Analyst diploma, I am a certified TOGAF Enterprise Architect and recently completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from UNISA.

I am an introvert by nature, but I have learned that to succeed in the world one needs to put them out there and adapt to whatever environment you find yourself in. I am a huge fan of God and His works; I have learned that I can do much more in this life when I acknowledge him in everything I do. I love challenging myself and when I believe in something I put everything into it.  Working full time and running a business can be challenging especially when you have deadlines on both ends, but the biggest thing is to be very good at managing expectations and your time. I am fortunate to work for a company that practical flexible working hours and I make sure I complete my work first and try hard to make sure I never miss my deadlines. This has helped me get my employers trust and confidence that my business doesn’t interfere with my deliverables.

What is it that you wish you knew before getting into business?

When you decide to do something, and believe in it wholeheartedly the God/universe/spirit will conspire to make it happen.  It takes a lot of patience sometimes, but you need to be persistent and never give up eventually it works out, and if it doesn’t something else does.

What do you love the most about working with your sister?

My sister is one of the few people that “know me, know me” and because of that she doesn’t get offended every time we have a difference of opinion and because we share the same vision for the company our synergies are mostly aligned. Therefore, it’s easy to work with someone that is similar to you and the thing I love the most is that we have the same work ethic, I don’t have to nag her, she knows what needs to be done and she gets it done!

What can you say to a woman who want to get into business but is scared?

Do it afraid! That’s one thing I’ve learnt you can’t let fear rule your life and sometimes you should ask yourself one question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” play out that scenario in your head and come up and believe for the opposite of what you imagined.

How do you deal with stress?

I pray, meditate and go on walks/runs, and take time out for myself to go to the spa now and again. These are the mechanism I use to stay aligned and stay peaceful.

How did you feel when you held the first range of your products?

Excited and proud, we had been manufacturing from home for two years then in 2017 we got our first batch from our contract manufacturer! I was excited and now I was confident that we could produce the same quality products that are tested and of high quality to our customers.

 What do you think can be done to make entry to business easy for women?

I think it should be a two-way strategy, government has allocated money for businesses run by youth and women because they have noticed that women run businesses can sustain families, however I think a lot needs to be done in educating women to capacitate them to run businesses that are sustainable and have longevity in mind. It should also not only be the government responsibility, corporates need to also play a part in allocating quotas for women businesses to become suppliers in their businesses.