It took a while to get back to her feet. When she got to her beloved shop one morning and found that it had been vandalized and looted in the middle of xenophobic protests, she was gutted.
Businesswoman Florence Nkateko Khoza (35), who is also Yvonne Chaka-Chaka’s daughter in law, had damages worth over R300 000 to contend with.
Her shop Lufi D was in the Maboneng Precinct in the heart of Johannesburg CBD.
At the time, Yvonne Chaka-Chaka condemned the violence, which spread through the city for days.
“There are a lot of losses and we don’t know what this means for the future of the shop. We can’t continue like this,” she told TimesLive at the time.
But she’s rebuilt her business in the same place, Lufi tells us proudly. “It has not been easy, but we made it,” she says.“That was a very difficult time for my business, and I am glad it passed. The damages caused last year took time and we were closed for months. But through hard work, we have been able to recover.”
And then she was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the closure of most businesses in the country during level five. That presented a new set of challenges.
She had to let go of 14 staff members. “It was not an easy decision to make, but it is something I am working towards fixing,” she says. “I am planning to get back all the staff we have lost by the end of this year. I survived the xenophobic attacks last year which cost me thousands, I know I can overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The first steps
Lufi started her business in 2016 after leaving her nine to five job as a sales representative at an insurance company.
She had a National Certificate in Information Technology from Birnam College in Johannesburg but has not worked a day in IT. ”I worked in corporate from 2009 until 2016, but realized I needed to start my own business,” she says. “I knew I wanted to be my own boss. So, I started with the money I had from my pension.”
After Lufi left her job, she hired a designer to assist her with learning to cut patterns and sketch outfits. In less than a month, her business was up and running.
“I started supplying The Space stores nationwide, which I still do up until today,” she says.
She also hired more professional designers and seamstresses to work at her store and had a total of 46 staff members. “The demand was very high, and the business was doing well,” she says.
Now she’s added a new business to her list, to prove that when one door closes, two can open.
The Spar, which was recently launched, employs 13 staff members. Even before becoming a self-taught fashion designer, Lufi has always dreamed of owning a spa and hair salon. Growing up in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, Lufi used to enjoy doing hair. “I would charge my friends at school and teachers to do their braids or relax their hair or sometimes I would do it for free. But it is something I enjoyed, so opening a spa and salon was always on the pipeline,” she says.
“But it took me longer to open a salon and spa because I wanted to focus on the fashion design before branching out into other business ventures. I wanted a place where women could spend the day getting all their beauty needs. For me, business is not just about making money but fulfilling the needs of people and giving them a great service.”