Innovation honcho of Fakhi Concept Group, Brightsoul Rain, talks selling top-tier clothes, good customer service and business pressure coping mechanisms.
Usually things we are passionate about drive us towards an unconventional life full of uncertainties, from desiring to be an entertainer, fashion designer or an entrepreneur, there's no guarantee of stability, as compared to having a 'normal' career. Worse, if you are an Afrikan and staying in Mzansi. Our parents often doubt art careers will work or can feed families and the South African government is not investing much in that sector.
So, having a job and taking orders from Bob becomes the ultimate choice, but ancestors and god stir life to a different direction. That what occured to Nhlanhla 'Brightsoul Rain' Mabaso, Director and Manager of Fakhi Concept Group, an entertainment and retail company.
"In 2019 I felt I should go and do what I've always had passion for, and live off it. I was out of my 9 to 5 and the next natural thing to do was to go full on with what I was passionate about. This stems from the fact that I started creating brands and events as early as 2003," the 30 something years old from Hammarsdale (a town about 50 km west of Durban, KZN) tells me.
A creative, art lover and father to an eleven year old daughter, Brightsoul Rain had worked in the FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) and Financial industries.
The easy to use online store, fakhistore.co.za (Fakhi meaning "Fight Against Killing Honest Intentions"), sells inhouse streetwear clothes and accessories, from t-shirts, beanies, caps, sweaters and bucket hats, starting from an affordable R250. You also find their own beverages and music.
With most businesses, lack of funds are a block. Others are able to get loans or funding, some can't get one cent and eventually ideas end-up dead. Still, learning how to deal with this frustration is of importance.
Pu Yi: Money is usually a constraint for creatives, how do you deal with that frustration?
Brightsoul Rain: To be frank, I haven't mastered yet how to deal with that part. I happen to risk with whatever I have at the time, invest on my next project and hope for the best. Even if I were to ask family and friends for assistance, it's usually when I'm 90% through with an idea and then maybe hit a snag, then I would ask for help. I believe people are only interested in funding or lending a hand on something that's visible and worth buying into. So maybe in future one would get it right, but so long we live to learn, create to sell and hope for the best.
Pu Yi: And now, you're on your next project, Fakhi Handcrafted Gin. May you share what brought it to existence, process of making it and how people can get it.
Brightsoul Rain: Fakhi Handcrafted Gin was a by chance project. As someone who has worked in the entertainment and FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) industry, I had always wanted to have my own spot, where I'd sell beverages and food. So, while that dream still stands, I thought to myself, why not start with something more attainable, that will not need a hectic budget to get it done and Fakhi Handcrafted Gin came to light. Fortunately, in 2020 I met someone who had an interest in what the brand is about and that person knew someone who knew how to make the gin dream come to reality. As they say, the rest is history.
It's now only available through our online store, www.fakhistore.co.za, as a pre-order product, then from April we start distributing to people who have pre-orders in place. As time goes by, we are looking at making it available to other shopping channels. For now, it's directly from our online store.
Pu Yi: Seemingly, you've family, friends or people who are supportive. As an important aspect of running a business and of being a creative, how do you think you attract them? Do you've conversations about support? How are those relationships?
Brightsoul Rain: I think, as explained earlier, it makes it easier for people to buy into something tangible not just an idea on paper. I think my formula of creating something, making it an existing idea makes it easier for anyone to buy into it or support it. Sometimes support is not financial, it's emotional and that will make it work. A push from your friends and family can go a long way. Trust me, as creative as one can be, not everything we think of has to see light. That's why it's so important to invest your time and money into it before asking for help elsewhere. Funny enough most people that have shown interest are people I met on the way and on socials. Not even natural friends we make face to face.
Pu Yi: On social media, entrepreneurs sometimes say, support comes from strangers. Your clothing items are seen being worn by the likes of Vinny Da Vinci, what's your marketing strategy?
Brightsoul Rain: It's absolutely true. Strangers are the ones who keep any business going. They do not care about background work.
My marketing strategy is simple. Sell quality and the next sale will come from someone who knows someone. As basic as it sounds, I treat each customer as my first and last customer, in that way word of mouth goes a long way into making the brand reach an extended mileage. Strange enough I've only had 1 photo shoot in the last 2 years, what we post on socials are all pics taken by our customers and sent to us. That tells you how much it means to make them happy by providing quality. From the start of the sale into completion and how you treat your customers.
Pu Yi: People gravitate towards quality. I remember when the Fakhi Soccer Shirts were in-progress, you mentioned they'll be printed by the same company that prints for our national soccer team.
Brightsoul Rain: Yes. Funny enough with the delay in production, due to lockdown restrictions on manufacturing, I felt customers who had pre-ordered had been dealt a blow and I ran a risk of not getting them as return customers. I then had to research and find an alternative company which delivered the product faster than the company that I had waited for 3 months to get the work done, even after restrictions were eased. Blessing in disguise. We've went on to create more colour options, vests and other casual products with that company. Once again, quality and how you treat your customers goes a long way.
Pu Yi: A month, by estimation, how many deliveries do you guys do?
Brightsoul Rain: It's retail market and that works when customers are keen to buy. Mid month it's quiet and the other 2 weeks are busier. So, it's not easy to work out how many deliveries as they change from month to month. You could go 3 days with no sales, the other 3 days have triple the amount of sales you've made in that week of month. Hence, it's important to always market your business or products all the time.
But, it's decent enough 'cause we now have 2 courier companies that collect parcels from our home based business and straight to customers.
Pu Yi: Your business needs a team that's hands-on. Have you hired people?
Brightsoul Rain: Not yet. But, we have a dedicated seamstress who overseas my clothing label making side of things, printers working together with him, then I collect stuff once a week from them and have parcels couriered. For now it's a working formula and technology makes it easy to navigate. 4th industrial revolution maybe. (He laughs.)
For other items done by external companies, they get delivered to our address then we distribute.
From outside looking in, Fakhi doesn't seem like a one man show.
Brightsoul is working hard to live a legacy and already his eleven year old daughter is grasping the business. In seven years, if he'd still be working alone, she might be Fakhi's first employee. "But, as the business grows I'll be considering employing someone. It's on the cards," he said regarding hiring.
With running a business, especially one dealing with retail customers, and doing it solo, I wondered what is his coping mechanism, "Days ain't the same. Sometimes it's music. Sometimes it's jogging. Also knowing that what I do is my bread and butter. So, if I don't work, it won't work."