Fashion designer, Occupational Therapist, and founder of Shweshwekini, Mapitso Thaisi, is determined to take poolside cool to another level with her clever, Sesotho-print swimwear brand.

Mapitso Thaisi, founder of Shweshwekini

When did you start and how? What inspired you to create Shweshwekini? 

I started the brand in 2017. Although I had always wondered why there was never African print swimwear while I was a teenager. The idea probably grew on me in 2015 when I went to Thailand. I bought a bikini that didn’t fit properly. I then decided from there on to never buy swimwear and instead make my own – with an African touch to it.

Why the name “Shweshwekini”, how did you come up with it?

At the time when I was contemplating whether to really go into the swimwear business or not, I remember seeing adverts on Instagram of “Kentekini”. I first thought of including different African prints in my collection. However, I realized that those ideas were already taken and I had to narrow my interest to one thing – my culture and the Shweshwe prints. That is how the name Shweshwekini came up.

What’s the product/services range? 

Our product offering ranges from swimwear for males and females and activewear only for women. In the men’s range, we have swim shorts and boardshorts. The female range has a wider selection from two-pieces to full swimsuits and cover-ups.

Who is your target customer? 

As a premium swimwear brand, our target market is men and women who love traveling. Who are not afraid to splurge on an outfit. The Shweshwekini woman is an independent, career girl who likes spending weekends away and traveling and she is not afraid to show off.

What are some of the challenges that your brand has faced? 

Running the brand individually for a long time was a bit of a challenge. Especially when there are events or different stores to supply, but now I have a bit of help. 

What have been some of the key highlights of your brand’s journey? 

Winning the Foschini Sebza Girl award back in 2017 when we first started. It was really amazing to be recognized like that. In the following year being one of the Design Indaba 40 Emerging Creatives for 2018. But I think the highlights come when a customer is really happy with their order and they tag the brand wearing their Shweshwekini. I can never get over that feeling of pride.

Where and how people can buy your products and/or services? 

Currently, people can purchase Shweshwekini on shweshwekini.com. We are also on Zando and Africa Rise store in Sandton City Mall and Joburg.

Where do you see your brand in the next 3 years?  

I definitely can see the brand having its own flagship store at one of the popular malls in the country – maybe Mall of Africa, V&A Waterfront, or Gateway Mall. Somewhere “touristy” and hopefully somewhere in Africa, Europe, and America.

Is there any advice you would want to share with anyone thinking of starting their own business?

Just be sure it is what you are passionate about because a business can be a lifetime contract unless you plan to sell it once its value is high enough. Otherwise, marry the brand from day 1 and take the business seriously. 

Do you have any books or resources that have helped you along your journey with Shweshwekini

I have been mentored, the awards or accolades I have won have really helped to provide me with great resources and mentors along the way. I do a lot of online courses and join communities that deal with e-commerce and selling online a lot.

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