High-Impact Entrepreneurship

eMBA field report: breaking down barriers, both physical and psychological, in South Africa

Elizabeth McKenna is an MBA candidate at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She is interning with Stoned Cherrie in South Africa through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Arriving in Johannesburg, I was immediately struck by the unrelenting fences and dividers in the city. Gates, walls, electric wiring, and other barriers to entry served as obstacles at every turn and every step. Given this pervasive element, I expected a corresponding wariness from the city’s denizens. My experience could not be more contrary. Nkhensani Nkosi, the Endeavor Entrepreneur for whom I am working, has welcomed me with open arms as have her staff, the local Endeavor team, and even her family and friends. Nkhensani has treated me like an equal in discussing business ventures and like a friend, including me in family activities and weekend events.

Nkhensani’s company, Stoned Cherrie, is a fashion house that embraces an Afro-Urban aesthetic. Nkhensani strives to bring a modern African product to the local and international marketplace. Like many South African entrepreneurs, she faces many barriers to entry in her native country. The predominant marketplace in South Africa is the shopping mall due to its security and its convenience. The owners of this real estate ultimately dictate market access and pricing. Unfortunately, these decision makers cater to large department stores and international brands. My project at Stoned Cherrie is to find unique solutions around these barriers to entry. We are looking at innovative retail methods and new ways to market and sell Stoned Cherrie merchandise.

Our primary solution is e-commerce. This has been an intriguing challenge as no other South African fashion designer has yet to establish an e-commerce platform. At first, my project overwhelmed me as we discussed warehousing, courier services, sales forecasting and website design. As I thought about the many components to the project, my anxiety only multiplied. Working directly with Nkhensani has been a remarkable experience. She believes in making the impossible happen. As we have chipped away at all of the project’s variables, our vision is slowly becoming a reality. With its challenges come great rewards. In my mind, e-commerce, m(mobile)-commerce, and s(social)-commerce are not only the most cost-effective and efficient methods of selling but also the future of retail. I believe that the establishment of an online platform for Stoned Cherrie will create global access and ultimately lead to a new set of global customers. I am thrilled to be working with Nkhensani on such a valuable asset to her long-term business development.

Working and living in Johannesburg, I have faced overt barriers to entry. However, in my short time here, I have learned that beyond these barriers lies a wealth of opportunity, creativity, and an incredible future for South Africa.

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