Bongeka and Tobeka Lwana love fashion and beauty, so it came as no surprise when the Mthatha sisters created a niche perfume bar. Both have backgrounds in public relations, so they left the Eastern Cape for Joburg to pursue business.
Bongeka says, “I worked in the mining PR sector for a long timeI left my job in 2015, as the company was restructuring. I talked to Tobeka about my business idea, and we registered our main company, the parent company to the Neo Luxury Bar.”
Tobeka adds: “I still hold down a 9-5 job in the marketing and communications industry. It’s hard to juggle business and a full-time job, but Bongeka runs a well-oiled machine.”
“Neo Luxury Bar opened its doors in February this year. We run a niche perfume bar – we curate one-of-a-kind exclusive scents for men and women. We wanted to gift people with personal indulgence, offering something different,” says Thobeka.
THE SCENT BUSINESS
“We import the perfumes from France and Italy. We visited luxury scent company Xerjoff in Italy, for instance – one of the best in the world. We also needed to know which scents would work in South Africa and our climate,” says Bongeka.
“The distributors were helpful in choosing what we could get, as they already have clients in Africa – so we have world-class fragrances at competitive prices. Currently, we operate in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton – the look and feel of our bars is exquisite. We’ll soon be opening another satellite store, and we will do several pop-ups around the country. But that won’t do away with the exclusivity of our brand – which is why we franchise Neo Luxury Bar,” explains Thobeka.
Bongeka says: “International customs and import-export rules are very strict, and then there are the shipping fees, which hugely affect our prices. But we’ve managed to find out feet. We do have quiet and peak business periods, like any company. So far, the response has been phenomenal!”
She says she wouldn’t want to be in business with anyone else. “It was a natural progression for us. We’re very close – we party together and are each other’s best friends. It made sense to work together. Tobeka is very open with me, and she can be tough – but I know it comes from a place of love. We haven’t had many issues as yet, because we’re new in business!”
Tobeka agrees: “Working with her is easy – we both understand what we’re trying to build. We keep our feelings aside, because there are tough conversations that must be had. Bongeka keeps tabs on everything, and I’m more of a marketing director – but we’re both involved. We run a luxury brand, but trust us – it’s not glamorous at all!”
Read more about more sisters in business in our July issue on shelves now.