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Anele Msweli is the founder and self-confessed “chief overthinker” at Mare & Itis Shoppe, a local eco-lux home-care brand that puts the environment and people at the forefront of what they do.

How it all began: as an avid traveller and skincare enthusiast, it became difficult for globetrotting Anele to find suitable skin- and haircare products in the Asian countries she found herself in. An idea was sparked: I will make my own using all natural products, thought Anele. So she did.

This self-made entrepreneur lets us in on her journey…

To be a success at anything, you need…

“You need drive, perseverance and the willingness to go through all the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur,” says Anele. “You need to understand and know your products more than anyone else in the industry, do your research, and serve with honesty and integrity.”

Psst: you don’t need a qualification to become an entrepreneur

Having a science degree has definitely helped Anele with understanding how different elements and ingredients work together – but not having a degree doesn’t automatically exclude you from being a successful entrepreneur. Rather, think about the practical skills you might need in your chosen area of business.

“I think a business course can be helpful as I don’t think I was prepared for what was coming,” admits Anele. “It’s a learning process. A day doesn’t go by without learning and you have to be open to that. You are constantly learning about the industry you’re in, the marketing trends that are forever changing… Every day is an opportunity,” she says.

Super-useful websites 

Anele recommends the following government sites that exist to help new entrepreneurs: The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offers courses and guidance; the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) is also a useful tool. Do your research and ask people who have taken a similar path – you’d be amazed how much advice they have to offer.

READ MORE: These 10 Brands Are Proof That the Local Beauty Space Is Exciting, Innovative and Almost Wholly Female-led

What about competing with large corporates – especially in the beauty industry?

“Most of the start-ups in the industry are women led, but the difficulty is competing with large corporates that spend thousands of rands on marketing and greenwashing [conveying a false impression or providing misleading info about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound],” says Anele. But she’s positive: “As women, it’s time to rise up. Things are certainly looking up for us. The future looks like loads of women lifting each other up – that’s for sure.”

And that awkward question: what about money?

“It’s an ongoing battle – cash flow and funding,” admits Anele. “Mare & Itis Shoppe is completely self-funded and you must know how difficult that is, especially in the middle of a pandemic!” The solution? Be smart with how you manage your money, and how you manage your relationships with your suppliers. For example, you might have 30-day accounts with them. That softens the landing, explains Anele.

And don’t take anything personally. “It’s hard to not take everything personally, but at the end of the day, you are running a business,” she says. “Focus on your goals and plan until kingdom comes. You can’t over-plan, can you?”

Owning a business is not as glamorous as it looks on social media

It’s a full-time graft! “You need to fully immerse yourself in the industry and constantly learn,” says Anele. “Surround yourself (even virtually) with people you look up to, people who inspire you every day. Resilience, consistency and perseverance will get you through the tough times. This may sound cliche, but lead by example – with humility, respect and drive.”

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Anele truly loved the book The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. “As an introvert and someone without a big social circle, it resonated. It made me want to do more for myself. Get out there!” she says. “I hardly read non-fiction nowadays, but I can recommend a few podcasts, such as Heroine and Therapy for Black Girls. We all need to do the inner work and a whole lot of unlearning; these podcasts are so good with just talking it out with other women.”

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