In the November 2014 issue of Destiny magazine ex Miss SA Cindy Nell talks about Cosmetrix which is a cosmetics company that she co-owns with her husband. Cosmetrix owns brands including Caribbean Tan, Catrice and Essence. One of the issues that Cindy talks about is limiting imports and supporting South African businesses instead. Catrice itself only imports one of their mousse bottles from China.
The issue of supporting local businesses is spoken about quite often on twitter and on blogs. It is a catch 22 for many of us because we want international quality but we want local businesses to succeed too. Unfortunately when these issues are raised, entrepreneurs take it as a personal attack instead of using it as advice to improve their offering.
A few weeks ago my friend Palesa went to the opening of a restaurant and what was supposed to be a joyful evening turned into her lecturing the owners. For after many things had been going wrong on the night, Palesa pointed out to them that it was unideal to open when you are clearly not ready to open. They apologised of course.
Another friend of mine had been visiting Cape Town a few years ago and noted how even in black-owned businesses, tourists were treated better than other (local) customers. Many say that this is because waitrons complain that locals do not tip, while most tourists give generous tips.
The two abovementioned scenarios are just two examples of how many local businesses make it harder for locals to support them. The restaurant has lost a customer in Palesa on the very night that they open and the restaurant in Cape Town has lost a customer in my friend due to treatment.
As a company that is passionate about South Africa, Cosmetrix has opened their own factory in Cape Town which employs more than 60 people. They furthermore also purchase their paper bags for R8 (after tough negotiation) from a local manufacturer while it would only cost them R6 to import them from China.
So the point of the matter is that local businesses need to stop playing the victim. They simply need to try harder to satisfy the needs of local customers in order to retain them as customers. It is clear that locals do want to support local. Entrepreneurs need to realise their role in making this easy to do.
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