A chance TikTok video that lasted just 30 seconds between a Grade R pupil and her teacher a year ago has launched what could be South Africa’s next best thing.
And now the Danasoli brand is available at selected Edgars stores countrywide and online. The partnership deal between Johannesburg-based businessman and entrepreneur Themba Mthembu and retailer Edgars was signed in July this year.
South Africans love humour, and with that Nhlalonhle Mazubane captured the hearts of South Africans when she laughingly told her teacher on a TikTok video that not only was she unable to draw a “danasoli” (dinosaur), but that its eight legs as depicted in her picture were “i-righty” (right).
Mthembu says the social media reaction to the video and Nhlalonhle’s drawing was sensational and emphatic – the people loved it.
Realising the opportunity, Mthembu travelled from Johannesburg to Ulundi in northern KwaZulu-Natal to meet Nhlalonhle, her father and her grandmother together with her teacher and videographer, Nonhlanhla Dube. His aim was to get permission to convert the drawing to a clothing brand. Once permission was given, the entrepreneur started printing T-shirts, which he sold online.
But, as Mthembu told a television anchor on E-News, his vision was so much bigger than just selling T-shirts. His aim was to create a recognised South African clothing brand that was developed, owned and protected by black South Africans. “I don’t want to be seen as exploiting anything or anyone. I wanted to do this the right way. That is why I approached Retailability. The partnership makes perfect sense to me because having the brand in the Edgars stores will give me the opportunity to take it to a much bigger market. At the same time, I know I am doing things the right way and in Nhlalonhle’s best interests.”
And what the Danasoli journey proves is that anything is possible – no matter who you are, or where you live. This is the message Mthembu says he wants to get out to young and aspiring clothing designers. “This could happen to anyone. Nhlalonhle’s story should encourage those who have big dreams to keep on dreaming and not to give up.”
As custodian, Nhlalonhle will receive all the royalties arising from the use of the brand, which undoubtedly will change the life of this little girl whose mother died three years ago, forever.
“The Danasoli brand has a definite corporate social responsibility element to it as well. For example, the school – Mveloyamaswazi Primary School – which is attended by Nhlalonhle in Ulundi needs so much in the way of upgrades and resources. Some of the proceeds from sales are ring-fenced to make improvements to her school before looking to see what other schools we can support and help in the area,” Mthembu says.