If the age old saying, “clothes maketh the man” is anything to go by, it is no wonder that Nkululeko Mahlangu, founder and CEO of BusaniMen, is cutting such a wide swath in the high-end suit industry of Gauteng.
We spoke with Nkululeko about his thriving business, the challenges he’s overcome, the impact that Hollard’s Big Ads for Small Business campaign has had, and what the future looks like for this dynamic entrepreneur.
BusaniMen designs and provides stylish tailored suits for special events, like matric dances, weddings, and graduations, from their studio in Maboneng. “We started in 2013 out of my own personal need for formal wear,” recalls Nkululeko. “At the time I’d started working for a big investment bank in Sandton and just couldn’t afford formal wear. As a fashion enthusiast, I love looking good, so I decided to do something about it!”
Nkululeko set to work. Teaching himself how to sew, he started making his own suits. When colleagues at work wanted suits like his, he saw the opportunity, and BusaniMen was born.
Ironing out the kinks
“When we started we had all the usual challenges that SMEs face. Massive challenges, like where do we get capital to buy machines and equipment? What processes and policies do we need to put in place to run a sustainably successful business - we just lacked business know-how,” says Nkululeko. “Then, as we grew, the challenges evolved with us and were centred more around staffing and skills. We also needed guidance on expansion goals - when is the right time to invest in growth, and how do we do it?”
Wisely, BusaniMen always sought to surround themselves with people and resources who could support and coach them. They gained valuable business know-how from Hollard’s team. They turned to mentors in the fashion industry who helped, lead, directed and shaped them.
Then, when Covid-19 hit with its resultant trend towards leisure wear and home-office attire, it caused BusaniMen to rethink their offering to stay viable. “We’ve been forced to focus more on the large manufactured goods for hospitals and schools,” explained Nkululeko. Always quick to turn a real need into an opportunity, BusaniMen diversified and BusaniTextiles was created.
Stepping out in style with Hollard and MotionAds
Hollard’s marketing team created a marketing strategy for BusaniMen that included digital marketing, ads in the community newspaper, community radio spots, and street pole ads for OOH advertising.
“The impact has been broader and more significant than anticipated,” says Nkululeko. “Hollard’s initiative has definitely taken us into a different spectrum altogether, with greater business awareness and exposure. We found that having a trusted name like “Hollard” associated with our brand really affirmed and validated what we do. It has given us the credibility we needed for others to confidently work with us, and has played a huge part in taking us forward.”
In conjunction with that, MotionAds - the original food delivery bike advertising platform in South Africa - provided 10 food delivery bikes in the Sandton area that were beautifully branded with BusaniMen’s campaign.
According to Nkululeko, the MotionAds bikes touched their target demographic in a visceral, almost palpable way - taking OOH advertising directly to peoples’ neighborhoods, communities, and homes.
Says Nkululeko, “So many people have sent me photos and messages saying, ‘I’m driving behind a scooter, and I’m looking at your face!’ I found it to be a more emotional, more direct way of marketing.”
A cut above the rest
BusaniMen doesn’t know what it means to dream small. Long-term plans are for a factory that employs 50 to 100 people, as well as further expanding into the medical and school uniform space.
“We are still hungry for more,” says Nkululeko. “We are always knocking on doors to find opportunities.”
The vision is big. The dream is big. It follows that they needed Big Ads, backed by people who care about helping Small Business. Combined with the community engagement and agile reach they got from MotionAds, we’re confident BusaniMen will continue to dress South Africa in style and grace.
We spoke with Nkululeko after the campaign had ended to find out how effective he felt the MotionAds bikes were in deploying widespread brand awareness.
"The bikes were definitely more tangible and relatable than traditional OOH advertising mediums," he said. "I received a lot of messages from people that we know who took photos of the bikes. The fact that the bikes are a 'moving' marketing placement makes it very interactive."
As for new business, they estimate 20% of their new customers this year found out about their services through the Hollard campaign.
Nkululeko concludes with, "I can happily say that MotionAds delivers an interactive and personalised service. It was great to meet the drivers, and we really loved the monthly check ins. Superior service."