Overcoming entrepreneurial challenges

Keedo clothing founder Nelia Annandale shares some insight into the entrepreneurial challenges she faced…

According to entrepreneur, investor and author, Guy Kawasaki:

The best reason to start an organisation is to make meaning – to create a product or service to make the world a better place.

In a cut-throat business world, where approximately 96% of all entrepreneurial ventures fail in the first two years of operation, perhaps the key to success is, as Kawasaki would say, to make meaning.

To define making meaning, one would have to delve deeper than the mere product or service offered. Touching the lives of customers is important, but creating sustainable employment and support for not only the staff, but also for the communities in which they live, is essential.

How founder, Nelia Annandale, addressed this issue with Keedo clothing, was to blend imagination, comfort and style to create functional and fashionable designer clothes for children. The company ensured that the product is 100% proudly South African, being designed and manufactured in South Africa. While the clothing manufactured by Keedo lets kids be kids, the brand goes further by carrying a message that educates children to respect earth and love nature.

Nelia Annandale
Nelia Annandale, founder of the Keedo clothing brand.

Focus on creating employment

With only four percent of South African entrepreneurs growing to become employers, Keedo focussed on providing sustainable employment where people are heard, cared for and fairly remunerated. Employees are encouraged to grow to reach their full potential.

“Our secret is to be socially aware and make a difference in the lives of staff, underprivileged children and nature,” says Annandale.

“We accomplished that through various CSI initiatives, including our Forever Wild Save the Rhino Project, our Keedo Prem Project Rag Dolls and our Keedo Grows health and education projects, to name a few”.

Where it all began

In 1993, two years after the birth of Annandale’s twins, as she lay in a hospital bed after a near fatal accident, she realised that she had something to offer mother earth and her children and that the time for action had come. Annandale had battled to find comfortable, fun, colourful clothing that was soft on the skin of her own ‘keedos’ and this sparked the idea to create a range of clothing that suited her needs and was kind to the environment.

Six months after the initial launch of Keedo, a Swiss customer purchased some merchandise for resale abroad, alerting Annandale to the fact that the product she was selling was export worthy.

The secrets of success

As the Keedo brand celebrates its 20th anniversary, Annandale reflects on how she has made a success of this entrepreneurial venture, which now boasts 12 company-owned stores and exports to 16 countries, when so many others have failed.

“The secret to my business success is my unwavering commitment to back my dream with hard work.

“It is also the ability to anticipate future trends, delivering unique, quality garments, providing customers with a fulfilling shopping experience and exceeding their expectations.

“Keedo has embraced environmental awareness and sustainability since its inception in 1993, long before it became a prevalent topic, and this has supported the establishment of the brand.”

The hard work has certainly paid off, with Keedo winning five major awards in 2012, including; the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award, the 9th Annual Award for Top Women Successfully Leading Business: Top Gender Empowered Company: SMME, the Cape Chamber of Commerce Exporter of the Year Award in the design category and the Black Business Quarterly Business Woman of the Year Award as special recognition for transformation.

A last piece of advice

Annandale’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is the same advice that was often given to her: “Always treat people with the same respect that you want to be treated yourself” and “happiness is a choice”.