By Motlabana Monnakgotla
Tshego Manche grew up in Klerksdorp and found sartorial visibility in big city Johannesburg.
Born in Klerksdorp, a small town in the North West Province of South Africa, Tshego Manche was raised in a business-oriented family.
Her parents owned a salon and cosmetic store in the township for over 20 years before venturing into other businesses.
“Coming from that environment, I already knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says the 30-year-old fashionista today. “I aimed for what I am passionate about. Growing up, I always said I am a small town girl with big city dreams.”
Manche, known for her sartorial sense among friends, studied for a BCom degree in Marketing Management and whilst in varsity, worked at Pulsate, a fashion store in Africa’s richest square mile, Sandton, in Johannesburg.
“Two weeks after being employed, the owner flew down and said he had to meet me as there was a spike in sales. I was never afraid to approach people and tell them about the store, and also interact with customers. I then learned customer and marketing skills, and developed a deeper love for fashion which led me to want to start my own brand,” says Manche.
La Manche clothing was registered in early 2012 and was ready to put the all the theory into practice. Manche dropped out of varsity during her third year and went on to start selling on a small scale to friends and family, and she opened her physical store end of 2012.
Her mother contributed immensely to her startup and invested in clothing, packaging, and also paid for her flights and accommodation to look for stock in China and Turkey. The brand started growing. In 2014, she employed three workers, teamed up with stylists and magazine editors and the brand grew with sales doubling, she says.
“In 2015, we hit our million mark [offering local and international clothing]. From 2016 onwards, we hit a decline in sales as new entrants in the market came; rental for my space was also high and the location remote. In 2017, I started 100% custom-making; growth had been slow yet steady and I had nine employees by the end of 2019. I decided to close my physical store in April 2019 and stay with one employee. Now in 2020, we are focusing solely on the online space we have rebranded and restructured.”
The coronavirus also had an impact on business but this has taught her that digitizing the business is the best way to go. She also took to social media, encouraging other entrepreneurs during the tough times.
“I invited different people from different industries to come talk to people and engage about entrepreneurship every Monday for 10 weeks. We had one livestream with over 10,000 viewers,” says Manche.
Who would have thought a small town girl would encourage entrepreneurs in a big city to keep pushing ahead in the hard times.