Talking All Things “Kiddies Republic” Clothing Apparel, Memorable Business Lessons And More
Tshiamo Mathibela, affectionately known as #TheRetailGirl, is an astute curator of retail spaces, one of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) directors, and through her partnership with The Drip Group, is now the Managing Director of Kiddies Republic, a children’s clothing apparel store. Following the store’s grand opening in Polokwane, Tshiamo is actively utilising her multiple award-winning skill sets to develop and sustain the apparel’s brand culture and retail chain.
Implementing her consistent vision of achieving local enterprise prominence and changing the narrative around South African retail for emerging retailers, the Kiddies Republic apparel, made with small hands and growing bodies from 0-12 years in mind, has unique features such as:
- Competitive pricing
- A hop-scotch area on the floor complete with affirmations that they can identify with and celebrate their identities
- A book corner featuring children’s books by African writers
- A graffiti wall where customers can write and draw, curating artwork that will later be adapted into a fabric that will be used to create a clothing range
We spent the day and caught up with the passionate pioneer to talk about inspiration to venture into the retail business, her experiences and challenges in the competitive field, retail misconceptions, Kiddies Republic, and more.
Moziak: As an award-winning powerhouse in the retail space, what are some key lessons you’ve discovered along the way?
Tshiamo: Nothing can take away the power of collaboration and opening yourself up to learning something new every day. Ever so often, as people, we become too married to the initial vision we have of what our lives and career journey should be like, and when a curve ball presents itself, we usually fight the new direction we are headed towards, unwilling to earn from others while losing sight of the importance of building impactful relationships because we feel we have all the answers, skills, and crippling pride which hinders us from being vulnerable enough to say: “I don’t know how to do X, Y, and Z, or please help.”
Building a retail business requires you to remove yourself from the bigger picture. You are developing a product, brand and sometimes a space meant for others to consume, experience, and connect with. You cannot do it alone, and sometimes it may require you to deviate from the initial vision to win.
Moziak: Describe what you do in five words.
Tshiamo: I develop curated retail spaces.
Moziak: What inspired you to go into the world of retail/business?
Tshiamo: When I realized how people often overlook the process and thinking that goes into building a store, that was when I knew that I had to change the narrative around retail as a career and portray it as equally exciting and sustainable.
Moziak: What’s the biggest misconception people have about the work you do?
Tshiamo: I think in spite of the fact that people don’t have a clear understanding of what I do, the fact that it is within the retail sector often gets viewed as an unsustainable business. People still don’t see retail as a career. It is viewed as a stepping stone to something greater without knowing the opportunities for growth in the backend.
Moziak: Hardest lesson you’ve learnt on your journey thus far?
Tshiamo: Never let frustration be the reason to abandon your mission. Having to be consistently fearless and tough means you must always find a solution – to get out of the moments of frustration.
Moziak: How are you innovating in your business?
Tshiamo: Kiddies Republic, as a concept, is innovative. We’re closing a gap in a well-established market (kids’ clothing and accessories) which has been stagnant for years. Kiddies Republic has merged trends with value for money and has created a space for independent, thinking children who can celebrate their identity and style.
Moziak: A song that perfectly describes a day in your life?
Tshiamo: “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
Moziak: What are you reading?
Tshiamo: The Girl with the Louding Voice by Nigerian writer Abi Daré. The book is about fighting for your dreams and finding the courage to speak up for yourself.
Moziak: The best business advice you have ever received?
Tshiamo: Remain authentic to your values. If what you’re doing or the opportunity presented to you doesn’t align with who you are and what you stand for, then it’s not for you, and it’s okay to move on.
Moziak: What advice can you give to people thinking of venturing into the retail space?
Tshiamo: It’s important to be aware of the steps that will unfold as an incubation retailer. Building a store for your business often seems like the best move because so many loved local brands are doing that. If your retail business is ready to build a space where customers can physically engage with your brand, then it’s important to consider this:
- Do you have a team with the right character to receive feedback from customers? Your customers will be expressive, and it’s crucial to be in a position to receive feedback that will allow you to grow your business.
- Have you found the right location and size of the store? Have you signed the best lease terms for your business? This is usually daunting, but collaboration with your leasing agent and centre manager will take you far.
- Be vulnerable, be authentic, and think bigger than other people. That is innovation.
Connect With Tshiamo Mathibela
LinkedIn: Tshiamo Mathibela
Connect With Kiddies Republic
Facebook: Kiddies Republic