Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior Lifestyle WriterMany people know that popular beauty queen Tyra Banks has paralysed her supermodel status into film, television, and music; her career is proceeding well according to her ambitious plans.
With the help of a supportive family, Banks has successfully managed her fame in positive ways, and has chosen roles and collaborations with other African-American arts professionals who seek to portray their community in a diverse, multifaceted way. Her hit show America’s Next Top Model and her budding pop music career, along with her continued modelling, Banks was poised to reap the benefits of superstardom.
Zimbabwe has its own Tyra Banks in the name of Natalie Mhandu who always turns heads when she passes.
Everything about her, from her gait to her personality, from her heels to her weave, demands you to stare.
She pays attention to how she looks to the minutest detail and if she applies the same attention to her business, then she is headed for greatness.
Today she turns 29 and she already owns StylePhilosophy, a clothing and lingerie line that affords her holidays overseas.
She describes herself as a feisty dream chaser, who is driven by a constant need to achieve greatness.
“I am naturally goal driven in everything I do hence I strive to be good at everything I do,” she said.
Natalie who is a vivid staunch fan of social media from Facebook to Instagram, where she posts her fashion pictures daily, described herself as ambitious, free spirited, feisty and strict.
“I am generally very sociable and fun to be around but also very strict and quick to reprimand and that’s what aids me in running and building my brand. It also allows me to juggle being the boss at work and a mother and a wife at home,” said the socialite.
But while she is being looked at as a success amongst young entrepreneurs, her ambition is far grander and she is far from satisfied.
“My dream is to be on the Forbes Africa Top 10 women before I turn 40.
I’m working towards this dream by increasing my financial intelligence and by taking mentorship from remarkable entrepreneurs like Pastor Shacky Timburwa of UFIC who is a self-made business man and devout Christian.
I pray for my success every day and that has been my greatest tool in my growth,” she said.
She only has one year experience in the business.
“I started my business in 2018 as a personal dare after I had travelled on holiday and realised I had excess cash I could spare to buy a few things for resale.
Initially I wanted to open a baby shop in my hometown Chegutu and I used to day dream myself selling the trendy baby stuff but that changed the day I bumped into a lingerie store in Turkey and I realised that market was yet to be introduced to the Zimbabwean consumers and I dived in it!
“As for the home wares section of my entity, I was introduced to it by a friend after I had gone broke and depressed sometime last year. Felicia Mandipaka who is also into home wares took me to the suppliers and convinced me that I’d love the home deco business as I am a lover of beautiful spaces and that venture changed the face of business for me,” she said.
Natalie says her trick so far is her hands-on approach to business.
“I started flying to South Africa twice every month to stock up and the returns have been so good. I’ve learnt to liaise with the bus couriers and touts from downtown Johannesburg for better rates. My hustle requires being hands on with everyone I work with. When I travel overseas to China and Turkey for my clothing and lingerie stock, it’s usually very difficult to adjust to time differences but I can safely say I enjoy mingling with my suppliers and negotiating for better prices and lower courier rates. My main problem with these travels is the food. I struggle to cope with the food but I’ve always believed in enduring for the greater good. I can safely say my stocking trips are very educational as I learn new things every time I travel,” narrated the diva.
But everyday, Natalie has to juggle between being a mother, a business woman and the beautiful socialite people admire on Instagram.
“I’m a mother and a wife before everything else! I’m the warmth that binds my home together, strict but loving and easy going so my daughter and husband adore me to bits!
“As an entrepreneur I’m daring and a go getter! I take risks and I’m very focused.
“Social media is playful, witty and deceiving! I often get people assuming I am someone else but they are always shocked to realise that my online presence is there to model and advertise my merchandise and make my followers laugh. I find the content that grows my audience positively hence I filter who follows me and who doesn’t. I try to be inaccessible so as to keep that privacy of my actual life from my social media presence.”
Besides posting herself in enchanting lingerie on her private Instagram page, Natalie has also used celebrities to market her other wares.
“As an entrepreneur, you need to mark your presence in the industry by allowing social media influencers to introduce your brand to the market
“StylePhilosophy has dressed remarkable social media characters like Miss Becky, Tanya Chikuni (former miss curvy), Maxine Adams (CEO of ChristianByHaddasah makeup line), Angel Casey (a supermodel) and Shashl (a universal records artist). Our growth has been greatly fuelled by the influence that these ladies have on social media for example if Tanya posts a picture in an outfit from my store and tags my store page it creates traffic with customers and that boosts sales and helps me build my clientele.
Social media has been my power tool from the beginning and I’m grateful for all my social media influencer friends for helping me build my brand into relevance considering that fashion industry already has tough giants like Cynthia Bizure, Nono House of Glam, Nomathemba Ndebele, Pokello, to mention but a few who have set the bar very high.
“I intend to break new ground by introducing more creative and innovative marketing methods with a more western approach thereby keeping our Zimbabwe fashion industry up to date with the latest trends.
I’m naturally very creative and daring so I see my brand StylePhilosophy soaring into greatness and higher dimensions as I intend to create content that keeps our fashion front up to date regardless of societal boundaries and stereotypes on how or what we should wear,” she explained.
Natalie has walked on a thin line between controversy and normal business etiquette largely because she sells lingerie and advertises it on her body.
She reckons Zimbabwe is not yet accommodative of lingerie models or her line of business.
When she tries to showcase her business as a woman entrepreneur, tongues have gone wagging.
“Zimbabweans are still getting to understand the global concepts of fashion.
“People here are still enveloped in those cultural or societal values from the 19th century and now we are in the 21st century. Some don’t really get to understand that fashion evolves, it grows and I think Zimbabwe is yet to actually catch up with others. I sell lingerie and if I am to do a photoshoot advertising my stuff, most people will definitely not embrace the fact that it’s pictures that sell.
They label you a prostitute. Zimbabweans are not daring enough to accept certain trends. But I’m very convinced that maybe in a few years’ time we will catch up because I see how these fashion houses are introducing new things and that is very commendable,” she said.
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