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Dimakatso Lekekela: Nobody else can design your life for you

An innovator of note, Dimakatso Lekekela, 31, is the Digital Marketing and Brand Specialist turned founder of dietary supplement company Zuri Nutrition. The highly energised CEO, who holds qualifications ranging from a BA Honours degree from Vega and a diploma in Nutritional Therapy to various Digital Marketing certificates from the eMarketing Institute in Denmark, founded the company in 2020 after two intense years of research and product development.

DESTINED FOR ZURI

As it were, Dimakatso has always been active and athletic. “Growing up I did track, gymnastics and I was always dancing or working out. Being fit was a way of life at home.” She continues to share how both she and her mother worked out regularly and continue to do to this day. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-20s and working as a Brand Manager for an airline company that the future CEO realised she wanted a future in fitness. “One day I told my colleague “You know what? I think I’d be so much happier doing this kind of work at a health and fitness company”. I signed up with HFPA (Health and Fitness Professionals Academy) – Rivonia that very same week. I eventually worked for a fitness company but very soon left to start my own.”

TAKING OFF BEFORE THE WAVE

The biggest challenge for the startup business owner came before she could ever call Zuri Nutrition an actual business. She shares with us that because she had the idea before the supplement boom, every step she took towards establishing the company became the next hardest challenge. “I also started this business in an industry where the people in it didn’t look like me and didn’t market to [customers] who [looked] like me. So this lead to one of the toughest challenges I still face to this day – which is educating my customer about our offering, making them understand that the solutions we provide are real, based on science and are a legitimate solution to their beauty and health concerns,” she explains.

That pain point is what drives Dimakatso to ensure she build a brand that is transparent and educational first. She says, “The biggest misconception [amongst] with our [potential] customers specifically, is that there are hormones and drugs in [all] supplements. This [is because] they have not been exposed to health supplements long enough to be well versed in nutrition and supplementation. To counter this, we are open about our ingredients and list them publicly on all our platforms. We also publish educational posts weekly to [help] teach our customers about vitamins, minerals and nutrients. We explain how they work in the body and how they can assist [them] in achieving their health and beauty goals. This [encourages] our customers to learn more about and trust our ingredients and products and [debunk the idea] that drugs and hormones are needed in supplements to achieve results.”

FOR THE LOVE OF THE FINER THINGS

When Dimakatso couldn’t find a brand with a clear target market that she and likely her peers could relate to, she created one. “Our target audience is young, hard-working, urban professionals or students that love the finer things in life and love to look good but don’t have the time, money or know-how to eat well to achieve his/her health and beauty goals or desires. They care about their image and try to stay well put together. [Our mission is to] supplement them where they lack by adding a nutritional and health boost so they can realise those ambitions.”

MORIRI BLEND – A HAIRCARE STAPLE

While Zuri Nutrition may have been conceptualised just before the supplement boom, the launch of the came just as the natural hair movement approached it’s peak. The Moriri Blend, a hair supplement sold as pills/tablets, is one of the bestselling products from the brand. “With our hair supplement, we always try to emphasize the fact that hair is a non-essential tissue, which means the body does not prioritize it when distributing nutrients, the body will prioritize vital organs. This means that if a person is not getting enough of certain nutrients, the hair will not receive it. This is where [our Blend] becomes vital as it ensures the body gets enough nutrients to feed a person’s hair and scalp. A lot of people aren’t aware that their hair thinning, loss and slow hair growth is due to nutritional deficiencies and implementing a multivitamin designed for hair health assists with these issues.”

Since its launch, Zuri Nutrition has received amazing reviews from Moriri Blend users who have successfully improved or overcome thinning hair, receding hairlines and bald patches, and experienced reduced hair shedding particularly during the detangling process in their wash-day regimen.

IMAGINATION VS REALITY

Many aspiring entrepreneurs imagine how life will be their own boss and most times they soon learn that there are stories that can only be written and lessons that can only be taught by experience. Dimakatso is no exception. Although she prepared herself for a bumpy road, it turned out to be far worse than she had expected. “It [involves] a lot more planning and preparation than I thought. We manage the entire value chain of the business and that’s a mammoth ask. We don’t private label so there’s research and formulation, product development, production runs, packaging, legal, finance, sales, fulfilment, after-sales, IT and marketing. [All this] and we are still very small! It’s exciting but tiring and definitely worth it. Our products truly help people and are creating an impact so that keeps me going,” she shares.

DIMAKATSO’S TOP 3 DIGI-BRAND BUILDING TIPS

  • “Do your research. Know your customer in and out, what they think, how they feel, how they resonate, build trust and relationships with other people and brands. Once you know this, you can carefully create a brand identity that is easily grasped by your customer.
  • Do not try to replicate another brand, especially one that is in your space. Be authentic and relatable to your customer.
  • Create a footprint online and/or offline, be easy to find and engage with, so don’t cut back. Build a website (your online home base), invest in social media content creation and digital marketing that will send your customer back to your online home base where you can easily convert them once they arrive.”

WHAT IS YOUR BEST BUSINESS ADVICE?

“I was told once to be patient with myself in my entrepreneurship journey, that slow and steady does it. This has allowed me to embrace every step in my journey with Zuri Nutrition and to grant myself the chance to perfect each step before moving forward. I’ve learned that rushing through things can cause an easy crash, there is no such thing as a “quick buck”. I want to build a business that will outlive me and I’m aware this will take time so I only make moves that will propel the business but not overwhelm it.”

WHAT CAUSE/S ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

“Breast cancer awareness and women empowerment. Cancer hits home for me – we [currently] work with oncology wards to assist in creating awareness and encouraging screenings, mammograms and healthy lifestyles. We also ensure [our] products are safe to use for post-chemo patients in their hair regrowth journey. As someone who is continuously seeking to learn and study further, I make sure that the young women I work with continuously develop professional skills to propel them further in their personal and professional lives, beyond working with and for Zuri Nutrition.”

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

“I want to be remembered as someone who was not fearful of stepping into spaces that did not welcome her. As someone who didn’t let her circumstances and her challenges limit what she could achieve.”

FUN FACTS

  1. I’m love dancing. In 2015 I won a Best Female Dancer award in Mumbai (India) after performing a Lion King dance piece.
  2. I’m a foodie. The road towards nutritional science was not a mistake. I love cooking and eating. The latter more so than the former!
  3. I love literature. I studied literature at Wits University and the love never died. My favourite writers are Arundhati Roy, Zakes Mda, Khaled Hosseini and Njabulo S Ndebele.
  4. I raised money to start Zuri Nutrition by freelancing as a self-taught graphic designer.
  5. I love working out so much that I studied and became a certified personal trainer but I don’t practice. This is simply because I lack patience, even with myself, HAHA!

WHAT DO BLACK WOMEN NEED MORE OF?

“As a sister to a young black woman, I believe we need to work more in celebrating and shining a light on game-changing, intellectual women who are not only thriving in their communities, careers or businesses but even those in the beginning of their journeys. Pop culture, in my view, has done more damage than good to the evolution of women, particularly black women. We need to remind young black women that it is still “badass” to be smart, to work towards something and build our own legacies. To be intelligent before we are “Instagram-pretty”. I worry a lot about young women who believe they don’t have to work or be smart so long as they are beautiful on the outside. This is why I love the work that Director Woman is doing. It’s really important. Women have capabilities far beyond the opportunities they have been awarded and we need to remember that and not be distracted by what pop culture tells us we need to be.”

FOR GIRLS LIKE ME

““Don’t drink the kool-aid”! People are going to tell you who you need to be, how your life should turn out, or convince you of limits to what you can achieve based on the little they know about you. Nobody else can design your life for you. If you have crazy and outlandish dreams, go ahead and try your best to achieve them. Happiness and prosperity are something we all deserve, regardless of who we are, where we are from, how we have lived and what we have done in our lives. Your circumstances do not determine your future so keep pushing and keep growing. Your persistence and hard work will astound you in all that you achieve.”

About Author

Director Woman Fastrack is a monthly, in-depth publication that profiles African business and career women. The feature articles are designed to inspire, impact and inform readers interested in starting their own business or pursuing a particular career field.