Goodbye Malaria, a private-sector partnership working in support of the elimination of malaria in Southern Africa, has partnered with the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) by launching two pop-up stores selling branded Goodbye Malaria merchandise at O.R. Tambo International Airport.
The pop up stores are ‘owned’ by Lebo Mokoena, a young entrepreneur who was awarded equity in the stores by Goodbye Malaria and ACSA after coming out tops in a grueling Dragons’ Den-type interview process.
Twenty-nine-year-old Lebo already equipped with retail experience, coupled with her entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude, ensured her appointment.
There’s a retail mantra: The customer is always right. When asked to comment on this in her final interview, Lebo proved her mettle by disagreeing. She then proved her customer service skills when she explained:
“Goodbye Malaria is selling goods – but we’re also selling a story. If a customer was questioning our pricing, for example, I’d explain that there is a bigger picture. That the proceeds support our fight against malaria, and that buying a pair of pajama’s, for example, she would literally be helping to save lives while she sleeps.”
One of Lebo’s first tasks was appointing a sales team. And she was adamant, even in her interviews, that the successful candidates’ understanding of the Goodbye Malaria story would have to be at least as strong as their retail skills.
“I loved interviewing people, I proved to myself that I could do it. I am particular about who I want to work with and who I want representing the GBM brand,” says Lebo. “We now have the most amazing team, I believe each and every employee was a great choice for me and the brand.”
Not shy of hard work, Lebo ‘rolled up her sleeves’ even before the pop up stores opened for trading and got stuck in to the merchandising and stocking aspects that her position requires. Having spent some years in a managerial position with top-end clothing retailer Zara, Lebo recognises stock control as a tool that can enable accurate forecasting.
She says: “Being able to forecast stock requirements means that I can control production, manage my inventory, and create more value down the line.”
“The learning curve has also been intense, I’m surrounded by experts who are imparting so much knowledge from my finance and retailing trainer, Shirley, to so many others. While I’ve done many courses in retail training in the past, doing them as an owner / entrepreneur has shown me a whole new world. Its clear one can never stop learning.”
This approach to enterprise development by Goodbye Malaria and ACSA may well be a forerunner in the South African context, and it has offered some ‘firsts’ to Lebo as well – first time on a plane and first time seeing the sea being among her highlights.
More important than these experiences though, it has afforded this young entrepreneur the opportunity to build her own business while also creating employment for a team of young people who may, in future, realise the same dream.