The rise of the 'Insta-preneur' in SA

Turning followers into customers


The picture sharing platform Instagram brings to mind colourful images, catchy captions, emojis and hashtags. However, in recent years, the platform has expanded beyond just sharing personal images, and is now increasingly being used by individuals around the world to market their products and in some cases even make sales.

Instagram is suited for this. According to Instagram's advertiser statistics, 75% of the app's users take action after viewing a post whether it's visiting a website, conducting an online search, shopping or telling a friend. 

Existing brands have been using Instagram as part of their marketing and advertising strategies for years. However, a new crop of entrepreneurs are using the platform to sell their products directly to their customers on Instagram before they go on to invest in their website or even a bricks-and-mortar store. In most cases the platform continues to form the cornerstone of all their marketing efforts. 

Many of these businesses are founded by female entrepreneurs. This is no surprise with research by eMarketer showing that women-centred industries such as fashion, beauty and jewellery dominate. Women make up 58% of users compared to 42% men. 

South African entrepreneurs are following closely behind. We interview four local entrepreneurs who use Instagram for their businesses to find out how instrumental the app was to their success, and how they turn followers into customers. 

NativeChild ​- Beauty

Image provided

Sonto Pooe- NativeChild founder

Tell us about your business and target market?
I started the business in early 2015. NativeChild is a plant-based natural hair and body care brand with our target market being ethnic women, men and children. Our products are safe, biodegradable, paraben and petroleum free. 

What role has Instagram played in your startup and its success?
​Instagram has played a major role in how we've grown. As our following on Instagram grew, so did our clientele. The more our clients share their success with our products on their pages and ours, the more enquiries and customers we get. Instagram allows us to be in touch with our clients daily and hourly. 

How do you market your products on Instagram? 
We are followed by people who have an interest in going 'natural', who want healthier alternatives that work, or some who just want inspiration. We market our products by posting about them daily.

We have brand ambassadors who love the products and share their love for them. We occasionally also do sponsored posts to have a greater reach.


The NativeChild Instagram page. 

Rich Factory - Fashion

image provided

Rina Chunga- Rich Factory 

Tell us about your business and target market?
My business is an African contemporary, ready-to-wear and bespoke brand. We cater for the "new African" who is looking to up the way the rest of the world looks at Africans and African Fashion.

I started creating garments for people in 2007 during my gap year. I made clothing on the side throughout my tertiary career to help me make money for my stationery and fabrics I needed for school, as well as transport money.

When I finished school I already had a fair client base so it was the natural thing to just grow the business instead of waiting to be hired. I used to be a one man production from my bedroom. Now I have a store in Parkhurst and I employ four people. The business has grown 100 times what it was.

What role has Instagram played in your startup and its success?
​Instagram has played a big role in my business. It is a free marketing platform. My clients are able to see my pieces, who is wearing what and how, and the prices, all without me having a website.

Also, I get to learn more about my clients, making it easier for me to supply them with what they want. Instagram users are also mostly big buyers and big spenders so it's a good platform to reach them on. 

How do you market your products on Instagram? 
Because we like to keep up with trends, Instagram is a perfect platform to reach our clients. Our clients like to wear new exciting pieces for every occasion and this means they are always looking for what's new and ready to shop for new pieces. 

I ask clients to post pictures of their garments, this way they market the brand to their followers as well as get featured on our page alongside other Rich Factory brand lovers. 

The Rich Factory Instagram page. 

Skates and Candy - Fashion

Image provided

Bayanda and Buhle- Skates and
Candy founders

Tell us about your business and target market?
We started our business in November 2015. We started off by just advertising our range on Instagram, the following year we launched an online shop. Initially Skates and Candy was just a children’s brand, and last year we introduced a range for moms/ladies.

Skates and Candy is a lifestyle brand that sells mostly gender-neutral apparel for children and a little something for their modern moms. We cater for children between the ages of three months to 11 years. Our clients' parents are women between the ages of 25-35, professionals and business women, married with an LSM of 7-9.

What role has Instagram played in your startup and its success?
​Instagram is an integral part of our business. Frankly, we wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for Instagram. When we initially started our business we didn’t have an online shop, so we completely relied on Instagram for sales and exposure. 90% of our sales are from Instagram, even though we have a website.

Not only has Instagram helped us to increase our website traffic, it has also given our brand a lot of exposure. We’ve been invited to several radio stations, featured in magazines and on TV shows as a result of our social media presence. Instagram gives you a platform to get to know your clients and vice versa, that is critical for online stores.

See also: Not just for selfies: How these local brands are using Instagram for business


How do you market your products on Instagram? 
We’ve recently sent out a survey to our existing clients, to find out exactly who they are and where their interests lie. Our clients are stylish and modern moms that want their children to also look good. They value comfort and quality.

 They are also interested in different topics that are centered around parenting. We use our Instagram and our blog to share fashion tips for moms and their babes and some parenting tips as well.  

The Skates and Candy Instagram page. 

Dear Rae - Jewelry

Image provided

Karin Rae Matthee- Dear Rae

Tell us about your business and target market?
Dear Rae Jewelry was started by Karin Matthee in 2010. She worked from home initially, stocking local Cape Town design stores and selling at markets around the city. Karin’s dream of growing her jewelry business materialised when she opened the Dear Rae shop and workshop space at the Woodstock Foundry in mid 2012.

In the beginning of 2013, the brand and retail manager, Amy Keevy, joined the team and launched the online store, focusing on social media as the main marketing strategy within the company. At that point, Dear Rae was a small start-up made up of Karin and three employees.

Since then, Dear Rae has flourished. We have expanded our space at The Woodstock Foundry to include a separate shop and workshop, a custom-designed consultation area, an office area and another smaller workshop. With the success of our studio and growth of our online store, as well as the ability to expand our customers country-wide, we now employ 10 full-time and three part-time employees. 

We have been fortunate to have grown a target market of women and men of all ages. Starting with a teenager who buys her friends a special Dear Rae item that they have been lusting after, to the boyfriend who knows that the special occasion or anniversary gift can be found at our store. He then returns to Dear Rae for their dream engagement ring and wedding bands.

The Dear Rae Instagram page. 

What role has Instagram played in your startup and its success?
Our focus on Instagram only really began around two years ago. Before that we had used mainly Facebook to market to our customers. But with Instagram rising to stardom it was a no-brainer to start using the platform to allow our jewels to shine.

Since we started to use Instagram more strategically, there has been a definite and steady increase in followers, customer correspondence and sales. We have grown from just over 3000 followers to almost 25 000. 

How do you market your products on Instagram? 
​Instagram has a higher percentage of women users, which works in our favour. Ladies love to swoon over new jewels and share that excitement with their friends and lovers. And being a creative business, having a platform that is visually focused makes the most sense for our marketing. 

Instagram allows us to visit our customers daily, to share with them what is happening behind the scenes at our studio and show them what we are creating. Whether it be with a new design, a beautiful engagement ring or how our space is evolving, we love sharing the Dear Rae culture with our followers.

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