Little One’s are beautiful concept stores in the Craft Market and Acacia Mall. They sell pretty much everything a chic’ mother would want. Furniture, clothes and accessories are some of the items you’ll find inside. I personally love their nappy bags. I sat down with Laone and Onalenna, the two enterprising mumpreneurs to find out more about the brand.
How did Little One start?
Onalenna: It started with two big ideas. When we were pregnant with our first kids we would sit on google and see these beautiful things. But we would always have to go to Joburg to buy the items we wanted. We realized we’re not the only people who have to travel to get stuff, that’s when we thought, we need to do something about this. We need to bring these things closer to the people.
Then the second idea came about as both of us had difficult pregnancies. Our only point of knowledge was our gynaes and google. This is why the other idea had to do with providing education and maternal care. We parked this idea until recently.
Where did you two meet?
Onalenna: Haha. We’re actually childhood friends. We first met in Sunday school and we’ve been friends ever since. So we are more like family. You know those sibling fights? Yup, those are what we have.
When did you open the first Little One?
Laone: The first Little One opened in the Craft Market in September 2015. Acacia branch was in October last year.
What did you ladies do before being shop owners?
Laone: I’m a marketer by profession. My last job I was heading the marketing department for BTC. In December 2016 I left to do Little One full time.
Onalenna: I worked in financial services and the investment industry. I was in that for 9 years. My last job was with Bifm where I was the investment specialist.
How do you ladies find working together?
Laone: Challenging at times. We’ve known each other long enough to get over the hurdles when they’re there. We fight from time to time, we don’t always agree on concepts, but we have separated the parts to the business. Like one is marketing and strategic planning and then the other is admin and finance. That makes it better.
We do also bounce ideas off each other. If one of us finds a new supplier we discuss it. I’m a very impulsive buyer. So half the time if I find a new supplier I’m like ‘yes we have to get this!’ It’s good that Onalenna is the calmer one.
You said the two of you are like family, do you think that works?
Onalenna: Yes I do. Even if we’re having a huge fight it dawns on us that in a way we’re married to each other. You have to fight, make up and come back. So yes it has helped us a lot. I imagine if my partner was someone else that it wouldn’t have worked.
What do you think your biggest challenge has been?
Laone: Learning business. Learning how to run a business and what it’s about. I remember when we first started out we thought it’s going to be easy. It will just fly. But then there are a lot of dynamics you need to learn. Supply chain, logistics and the cost implications of getting stuff to Botswana. Then there’s the impact on margins. There’s so much, we’re constantly learning.
What advice would you give other business owners?
Onalenna: Oohh that’s a hard question. I would say if you believe in your idea you have to carry on through the challenges. Get feedback from your customers and see where you can improve your business. Also I think people should start thinking about going digital. Obviously being in a mall has greater overheads and stuff.
You say go more digital, so why did you open a second store?
Laone: To improve our footprint. The craft market is a niche market, people don’t know about it. We wanted to grow our customer base.
How’s it going?
Laone: It’s going well. We have over 300 clients that are completely new. We’re reaching more people which is fantastic.
Your stock is so unique, where do you get it from?
Laone: Everywhere! I’d say 70% from South Africa. Some is from Turkey, China, UK. We have shoes coming soon from Australia!
Your clothing is beautiful, are your children always clean and immaculately dressed?
Onalenna: Haha Not really. As you see we go for simple easy clothing so kids can still be kids.
What’s your parenting style?
Onalenna & Laone: “STRICT” haha.
Laone: But actually besides being strict we try to be as involved in their lives as much as possible. Especially now with the shop I enjoy spending more time with them. Although it isn’t as much time as I thought! We also try to involve them by bringing them to the shops. So they understand what we are doing.
How different do you think your parenting style is to your parents?
Laone: Very different. My mother never hugged me as a child. She wasn’t very affectionate and was very cultural. In the past if you were seen being nice to your kids you were seen to be spoiling them. It’s funny though because my mum now parents my kids in a more modern way than I do. She’s always hugging and kissing them.
I still draw from my upbringing though. It’s very important to me to have well-mannered kids. You need to greet your elders. You need to say please. We want to instill Setswana into our children. Certain words can sound disrespectful when said in English rather than Setswana. Like hi compared to Dumelang.
So what’s next for Little One?
Laone: Well I guess it’s the service part of the business we wanted to do from the start but had to park until now. We have put together a team; we have a doctor, a financial planner, a dietitian and a midwife. These people will help you with your and your child’s journey. From 0-10 years and beyond. That project should be off the ground in May.
I wound up my interview with the two beautiful and intelligent woman of Little One. We’d giggled our way through our chat and I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wish them well and I love the independent brand they’re building. I also couldn’t help myself and bought my son a shirt on the way out. Oops!
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