“I have a story to tell!”

Pelisa owns an eCommerce vintage store.

Name: Pelisa Mpumlwana
Company: LISAS BOX – eCommerce vintage store
Website: www.lisasbox.co.za 
Location: Nqamakwe, South Africa

When did you start your business and why?
I started my business LISAS BOX in November 2018 and two months later officially opened my vintage eCommerce store. Vintage brings up memories, it tells a story. I’ve always loved vintage, from the time I was a young girl. I was constantly searching for beautiful vintage items. So I was already living the life and now I’m just following my passion. However, when I told my family that I wanted to start my own vintage store they were somewhat sceptical in the beginning. Entrepreneurship does not run in my family. Especially my parents were constantly asking me: are you sure you want to do this and are you ready for competition? Yet, I knew I had something special to offer and I have a story to tell. LISAS BOX is like a vintage box with limitless treasures that need to be discovered. 

What is unique about your business?
That I don’t sell just vintage, I sell an entire online experience around the two things I’m passionate about: history and art. I love storytelling and creating videos in which I teach people about our tribe’s history. Just like my grandma and dad used to tell us stories around bonfires and family gatherings, especially during Easter and Christmas time. These stories were a form of art, similar to the rock paintings made by our ancient ancestors on caves. Vintage is the preservation of art of belonging! The vintage products I sell are unique pieces and in some cases one of their kind. They all hold memories and stories from a time gone by. I love to spread my love for history and art through my vintage store and by offering an immersive online experience that makes visitors keep coming back. 

What are the biggest challenges you face as (female) entrepreneur?
For every eCommerce store it’s a challenge to be noticed with the rise of so many online stores and an increasing competition. Apart from the general challenges every entrepreneur faces I also feel as a female entrepreneur I need to be more persistent. Often our voices are not being heard and we have to fight the perception that women are not capable of running a successful business. For instance, it was a struggle to be taken seriously when I tried to apply for funding. And then there is the challenge of balancing responsibilities between business and family. It’s difficult to show commitment and to grow a successful business if your first priority is supposed to be your children and husband.  

What would you have done differently if you were to start your business again?
I would have done more market research to analyse my market, my target audiences and to find partnerships. Looking back, I wish I would have started working with a history organisation that could have inspired me with lots of historical stories. And I would have already started working with art students so I can also model their modern art on my eCommerce store. Lastly, I would have trusted my ideas and invested in it much earlier.     

What is your key to business success? 
For me one of the most important keys to success is discipline. I’ve trained myself to consistently work on my business. Now even my kids know, from 9am to 5pm its LISAS BOX business time. Another key to success is reflection and evaluation to make sure your activities are as effective as can be and you are on the right track to realize your goals. And the last, but not least, is to work smart instead of working hard! 

What type of support do you as a small entrepreneur need?
Having a good business mentor would be a great gift for me and most small entrepreneurs. A mentor that can share her/his lessons and experience and provides guidance, motivation and support. I was lucky to have worked (virtually) with 9 different mentors last year during a programme that was offered by my bank. I managed to get a coach out of those mentors who still makes sure I stay focused. The zoom meeting we have once a week motivates me to grow. And I’m also co-founder of an online community, where entrepreneurs share a platform for virtual markets, and we are looking for opportunities to raise funds via crowdfunding.  

What is your ambition for your company?
I dream big. My dream is to be a market leader brand in the vintage industry and to be a listed eCommerce company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by 2030.  

Best advice you can give other female entrepreneurs?
Impossible is Nothing”, a quote by Muhammad Ali, which later became the Adidas slogan. For me, the word itself says I’m possible. And when facing challenges in business and as an entrepreneur, you  should always remember the reason why you started in the first place.

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