Average read time: 8 minutes.
In the heart of the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg lies an industrial studio filled with charm and character, with an array of suits, fabric swatches and textures of fabrics. That studio belongs to the stylish dapper, Nkululeko Mahlangu, founder and CEO of Busanimen, an affordable tailored and made-to-measure suit company.
“Working in a restaurant, and learning all the lines of duty evoked passion and love for business in its entirety,” says Mahlangu. This ambition led Mahlangu into the business of fashion.“I’ve always been a fashionable person. Growing up I’d always wear the least expensive clothing but wear it well because I’ve always been obsessed with fit,” explains Mahlangu.
“I started the business in 2013 when I was 19 years old, studying and working at Investec. Ever since then, I’ve maintained a corporate job while growing my business,” Mahlangu continues. Working in corporate South Africa, the idea clicked that there was a market for individuals to have tailor-made suits at an affordable price.
The notion of buying custom-made suits has to many been an unattainable, not to mention expensive process. The impeccably dressed designer/entrepreneur has changed this narrative by making Busanimen more financially accessible, yet still offering high-end, bespoke quality suits.
“We make suits for weddings, matric dances, graduations and of course, professionals, but ideally it’s for a person who’s looking for a good quality suit that is affordable. Suits are exclusive and we want to make them inclusive,” said Mahlangu. In other words, he wants nobody to be excluded from the experience of having a suit made and fitted for them.
Business during Covid-19
From large corporations to small businesses, everyone felt the financial strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Busanimen was not exempt.
“I am very grateful that we’re still open and we survived. Hollard’s big ads for small business campaign brought a lot of awareness to the brand and a huge amount of visibility,” says Mahlangu.
The pandemic also gave him the opportunity to diversify into starting Busani Textiles, which is high quantity manufacturing for schools and healthcare which allowed them to stay afloat. The rigorous innovation and problem-solving skills Mahlangu portrays, particularly coming from a background in the finance industry, are absolutely impressive, especially for an SMME.
“For us, it was a question of, ‘you have sewing machines … so find new markets to enter, with whatever resources you have,” says Mahlangu.
Words of wisdom
“If you really want to be in this fashion space, you need to have passion for it, and you need to have a love for people as well as you’ll be dealing with people on a daily basis, be it staff, clientele, or social media, so you need to interact with people,” said Mahlangu.
“Don’t listen to what people say about the negative parts of the industry,” Mahlangu continued.
The fact that Mahlangu has created countless sustainable jobs is already a commendable legacy to leave behind.
“The legacy of employment and I can’t express it enough. The legacy that I created jobs and contributed to someone’s livelihood is important to me, that they have food on the table and can pay for their children’s tuition,” said Mahlangu.
At such a young age, Mahlangu has achieved success beyond his years and is still going to shake up the industry. What’s next for this overachiever you may ask?
“Setting up a larger factory space is our ultimate goal because that, in turn, gives us the upper hand of creating even more jobs in our country,” said Mahlangu.