Like XtraSpace, Mbali Nene is passionate about her business and the power of entrepreneurship in helping build a strong South Africa.
She says creating jobs is the machine that keeps the country running. Mbali’s fashion label, Limba, is based in The Workspace’s Morningside Manor workspace as it suited their clientele, many of whom live in the area and want to be fashion forward, stylish and unique.
Designer Mbali Nene started her own fashion label, Limba, after years of working in the textile industry. She believed women needed a more realistic way to express their identities through the clothes they wore. Women, she says, are more than wives, mothers and employees. They’re also fashionable and feminine; complex beings that cannot be boxed into a “single perception”.
Mbali, whose fashion heroine is Coco Chanel, didn’t hesitate to make her vision a reality. “Nothing else mattered at the time than just doing it,” she says. “I did some designs and pulled together a small team. Our design ethos is simplicity with a bit of sexy. We started really small and are slowly growing.”
Hailing from Gauteng, Mbali started her career in fashion as a sales agent after studying fashion design and retail buying at Damelin. She became a floor manager and later quality controller at a textile factory before deciding to strike out on her own. “Design came naturally to me,” she says.
Now that she and her team are firmly on the road to growth and prosperity, she says their goals are “more ambitious than when I just started”, adding that they have made a decision to grow and “triple what we are making”.
She looks at challenges as a set of lessons. “Challenges? They mould how you run your business, but you have to stay positive. I’ve learnt that anything can be overcome with a team you trust… and that is gold. I go through various challenges on any given day and what I can tell you is that a team that works with you as you build your company is the team you need,” Mbali says.
Limba has recently adopted a new business model with a 25-month goal. “It’s an ambitious goal that can be achieved only by completing a schedule of daily tasks,” Mbali explains. “We are also expanding our product offering from clothing to include accessories. We have our first set of bags in production and next will be our range of women’s heels. We have been studying the world’s most successful luxury brands and are adapting and adjusting what works for us. Exporting will play a major role in our future plans,” she says.
The fashion industry is a competitive business. New, talented designers are entering the market every week, Mbali says. “Our difference is, of course, the type of designs we do, but our competitive advantage is our work ethic, our team, our dedication to the business and our commitment to delivering on goals and promises.”
Like XtraSpace, Mbali believes entrepreneurship is vital for South Africa’s future and should be supported. As she says, “We create jobs directly and indirectly. This is the machine that keeps the country running.”
Mbali’s learnings and advice
What are the three most important lessons you learned along your entrepreneurial journey?
Patience, persistence and perception. All can make or break you.
In hindsight, what would you do differently?
Everything! No, honestly, I don’t know… but if I had known then what I know now, I would still be an entrepreneur. The passion is all consuming and when you love what you do, through the good and the testing days, there really isn’t a second option.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out now?
Remember, it’s an exam before the lesson. Don’t worry too much about what you can’t control, and control what you can.
Any other insights?
Your journey isn’t the same as the next guy or girl. Don’t compare yourself with them because you will always lose when you don’t play to your own strengths.