Women Unlocked: How Amina Msimang started a successful online store

Women Unlocked: How Amina Msimang started a successful online store

UKZN science graduate Amina Msimang started a six-figure online fashion store when she was just 22 years old. This is how she did it. 

Amina Msimang
Amina Msimang / Supplied

At 24, Amina Msimang has not one but two successful businesses. 

The former Piertmariztburg resident started her modest online clothing store, Alvidae Collection, during her second year at university. She was 22 at the time. 

Amina got the idea for her business after struggling to find fashionable clothes that fit her modest style. 

"The reason I started my online store was because I always used to struggle with finding clothes that were stylish and modest at the same time, so I used to always shop online for modest clothing from international brands. One day I asked myself why there are no South African stores selling these types of clothes. So then I decided I wanted to start one," she tells us. 

Amina started her business during her second year at university. It was tough jugging her online store and studies, but she made it work.

"I was studying for a bachelor of science degree in biological science. Running my store whilst trying to obtain my degree was challenging at times, I would find myself packaging orders in the middle of the night and still have to wake up to reach my early morning class. I always put school first, so if I felt that my business was overwhelming me I would take a break from posting and adjust my social media posting times, so I would use different methods to cope with both of them."

Being a small business owner comes with a lot of challenges. One of the biggest ones for Amina was setting up her online store, which came with a lot of expenses. 

"Some of the challenges I have faced in my journey include; Shopify [a global e-commerce platform] expenses. When I first started my business I started on Shopify and as a small business the pricing of their plans was a bit too much for me. Another challenge I faced was the prices of customs and shipping, the pricing would affect my business because at the time I did not know how to price items accordingly without being too expensive but also still making a profit," she admits. 

But those are not the only expenses she had to consider. Buying inventory is another big expense online store owners will face. Branding costs and photoshoots also add up, but Amina says you can avoid these two costs if you teach yourself the skills. 

She did a lot of research on Google and watched a lot of YouTube videos to find out more about the eCommerce industry. 

But there was little information about how to set up an online store in South Africa, and Amina quickly had to learn the ins and outs of running a business to avoid her online store failing in the first year - which is common for 20% of new businesses

Running a business is a 24/7 job, but Amina has a daily routine in place to ensure she has some boundaries.  

"An average day for me includes waking up around 7am, checking emails as the first thing, making sure there are no urgent queries from clients and then I usually figure out what I will be posting on social media that day and I do the posts that I need to do around 10-12pm. I then message the different suppliers to check on orders or check new pieces they may have released. 

"Once I am done with that I start packaging the orders for the day and requesting a pickup for the day after from the courier company. My day usually ends around 4pm," she tells us. 

Her hard work paid off! 

"My main success story was the first time I made six figures in my business." 

Despite her success, Amina says there are a few things she wishes she knew when she started her entrepreneur journey. 

"I wish I knew that you never stop working on your business, you are constantly trying to better your business. I wish I knew that it is not easy to actually run a business and everything takes time and patience, it is definitely not a get rich quick scheme."

Starting her online store lead to another business opportunity. She dumped Shopify and co-founded an e-commerce platform called Faarvo

"I created my own website then I started talking about my business on YouTube, which resulted in a few people wanting me to help them make their own stores, so I started offering creating websites for people at an affordable price. This started to become overwhelming so then I spoke to my business partners and we came up with Faarvo (not overnight) but that is basically how Faarvo was born. We wanted to create an affordable platform that everyone can use and it was still affordable for Africans," she says. 

Faarvo was recently named one of the top five startups at this year's Annual Investment Meeting (AIM). 

Amina has one important piece of advice for women thinking about setting up their own businesses - START.

"A lot of people are scared to start because they think maybe their business is not perfect which should never stop you, we all make mistakes in this space and all you need to tell yourself is that you will learn from your mistake and you will come back stronger. 

"Another thing I would tell women out there is that don't feel like the market is saturated, whichever market you want to go into, that specific market is missing someone like you, someone with your talents and vision. So just start."

Follow Alvidae Collection and Faarvo on Instagram to find out more about Amina's businesses. 

ALSO READ: Women Unlocked: Balini Naidoo

Main image: Supplied.

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