Growth is a steady process that requires patience and persistence, and if you are Gorata Moabi you might even end up dressing celebrities.
The 33-year-old Shoshong native wasn’t always crazy about fashion. At school, she wanted to be a model but soon realised she was happier showing off her clothes than her body.
Upon graduating from Ravos Vocational School in 2009, Moabi worked for various local designers, honing her skills and tirelessly saving for her big project: Gudah Designs.
She explains that Gudah means ‘to love’, her name in the Shona language.
When Moabi finally said bye to being an employee in 2016 she was working for Lebo Merafhe and admits leaving her comfort zone was a difficult decision.
“It wasn’t easy but I knew that I wanted to get ahead in the industry under my own label. The fact that I love what I do also helped,” says Moabi, while simultaneously dressing up a dummy to display her designs.
She looks around her shop. It wasn’t always this big. The subdivided real estate is home to other businesses but every time a tenant leaves she takes up the vacant space.
Moabi remembers that when she first went solo only a cramped spot in the corner was available. She struggled to fit both herself and her first machine (a Straight and Overlook), bought with her savings, in the confined area.
Now her smile escapes easily at the thought that one day she might end up occupying the whole building and turn it into the big factory of her dreams.
The space at Block 3 complex beside Tswana Spar is perfect for the new mother as she lives close by. It is also ideal for her fashion design business.
She does consultation, drawing, cutting and sewing on a pre-order basis but plans to start producing stock for customers who don’t want to wait.
Her clients are individuals who want to look unique but she has also dressed Sprint Couriers and KPMG as well as Btv’s Leungo Andre Pitse and the presenters of the hit show, Sedibeng.
Just like most business owners in Gaborone, Moabi laments high rentals and the devastating impact of Covid-19.
“I also need the proper equipment to meet demand as well as proper elegant materials. Currently, we have to order from outside the country but as you know with the Covid situation it’s not easy!”
Balancing motherhood with managing a growing business is another challenge.
Moabi also faces stiff competition from other designers but believes her unique brand of fashion gives her an advantage over the rest.
“Many designers focus on corporate uniforms but Gudah is about stylish and elegant designs. We also give time to our clients, make house calls and deliver. But most importantly we create relationships with our clients,” she states.
As if on cue, at that moment a female client enters the room and greets Moabi with a warm embrace.
As for the pandemic’s effect on Gudah Designs, Moabi notes Covid-19 lockdowns have dealt a denting blow to the three-year growth of her business.
“Now only regular customers come and want to be dressed for baby showers and birthday photo-shoots. People are still careful with expenses because it’s very uncertain but meanwhile, I still have to pay my three employees as well as rent and utilities!”
Despite the mounting challenges, bowing out is the furthest thing from the youthful entrepreneur’s mind.
In fact, Moabi’s ambitious mind is locked on her goal of expansion to international levels.
In 10 years she is confident she will have a big branch in Gaborone, complete with beauty spa. She also plans to expand her brand beyond Botswana’s borders and dress international celebrities.
To anyone looking to follow in her footsteps, she has simple advice.
“Focus, commitment and love for fashion. Just say to yourself: I can make money if I’m patient!”