Her search for a befitting present for her three year old niece, opened a new door of unimaginable opportunity to her and thrust her into the land of her dreams.
Maite Makgoba is the founder of Childish Trading and Manufacturing, the company introducing the Momppy Mpoppy doll.
The idea to create Momppy Mpoppy came to her when she visited a toy shop in Soweto in search of a present for her three year old neice, she discovered to her surprise that the dolls in the shops where mostly white and blue-eyed. And the few she could find with a more African skin tone, were generally dressed in bland traditional clothing, and lacked the real African luster, and so she desired something bolder and unapologetically African; dark skinned and straight haired; probably something the little girl could relate more to.
More than purchasing a pretty little princess for her neice, Makgoba desired to break the stereotype, to create something that will always remind her neice and other African children of the beauty and uniqueness of their continent; something they can always be proud of.
Right there, she conceived the Momppy Mpoppy vision – a modern African princess doll.
“My niece had obviously fallen in love with this whole princess, glamour and funky thing, and I wanted her to see what is trendy and pretty in herself as well. That she can also be like that. That she doesn’t need to have blonde hair to achieve that, or light skin in order to be a princess – she can look like a princess as she is,” Makgoba tells How we made it in Africa.
“So I wanted that type of mentality to be put through but there wasn’t anything like that in the market that could assist me to be the aunt [I wanted to be] to my niece. So I just decided to be the solution to the problem.”
Currently, Makgoba is to South Africa what Taofick Okoya has become to Nigeria. Remember the young Nigerian who founded Queens of Africa, a black doll line that is currently outselling Barbie? Taofick also got the inspiration for his doll line while searching for a present for his little niece. Now you agree that there’s something about girl children that ignites vision in the hearts of men.
Makgoba received the first version of a Momppy Mpoppy doll mould from a Chinese manufacturer in 2013- an indication that business was set.
To push this vision and exercise her entrepreneurial wings, she needed funds. But like most startups, raising the required capital posed a challenge; but not one strong enough to hold down the vision.
With her little savings, Makgoba launched her business
“We thought we can’t just wait for funding – things needed to get started. We needed to show commitment from our side. So [the manufacturer] would send back designs or samples and we would approve, or not approve, ask them to extend the hair a bit, make the nose less sharp, make the lips a bit fuller, and trying to achieve as close as possible to African features as we could with the budget that we had.”
Once the mould was approved, the focused entrepreneur set up a small factory in Johannesburg where the doll’s clothes are designed and produced, and the Momppy Mpoppy, styled and packaged. The dolls are currently being sold via online retailer Takealot.com, as well as Lilliputs Toys in Rosebank Mall.
Makgoba’s target is to have a variety that will be more accessible and be able to compete effectively with the international brands.
Momppy Mpoppy is sold for R179 (US$13.90), which Makgoba explains is less than similar dolls in the market. Her aim is not to make her products exclusive, but to ensure that they are accessible, hoping that it will gain a strong ground within the first three years. “…So if more people are aware of the brand, the better chances of it growing.” She says
The company is also developing a child’s clothing and accessories line where young girls can have matching outfits with their Momppy Mpoppy dolls. Her idea is to create a household name similar to the Barbie or Mickey Mouse brand.
“We want the brand to go on to be part of a child’s lifestyle… So that was the thought behind it… and Africans are in love with fashion anyway, so why not?”
She attributes most of her company’s biggest successes to dreaming big and believing
“At the beginning of this year I said to my team that we are going to end up in Forbes Magazine. And we did it.
“You have to think really big because that is how you challenge yourself. The bigger the dream, the more drive you put behind it.”
Despite challenges, Makgoba maintains her zeal and courage, taking one calculated step after another on track with purpose. She understands that as a woman in a new line of business, the journey won’t be all rosy, but she has no second thoughts and also hopes that other young entrepreneurs especially women will learn to see and embrace the great opportunities opening up before them.
“I mean, right now we are sitting in a position where the continent is ours. It is up to us to shape it, to direct where we want it to go. So wherever the direction, it has to be for the better of this continent.”