Nkululeko Lehapa is a clothing and textiles entrepreneur who is passionate about creating local employment through the mass manufacturing of textile goods and services. His passion for the fashion sector led him to found Busanimen Studios in 2013. The startup makes high-end men’s tuxedos and now has about 12 workers.
Before starting Busanimen Studios, Lehapa worked at Investec Private Bank in Sandton, Johannesburg, as a client support banker, so he could pay his own tuition fees and assist his mother while at the university studying BSc in Applied Maths and Economics.
“I worked afternoon and night shifts while studying full time during the day,” Lehapa told Forbes Africa. His financial status meant that he could not afford formal suits and so decided to make his own formal work attire. He said he received much attention for the quality and craftsmanship of his clothing, leading to the founding of Busanimen Studios in 2013 at age 19.
He moved from mobile service to having a studio in bustling Braamfontein, Johannesburg’s city center. “Our business model was to provide a mobile service where we sold quality suits, at the best fit, at the best price and this was superefficient,” Lehapa said.
In 2019, the South African entrepreneur said he made his first one million Rand in sales, which translates to $62,875.
“[In 2019], we made our first R1 million ($62,875) in sales in a studio with a production capacity of only three machines,” Lehapa said. “This milestone validated our existence as it meant we had a well-defined business model, however, as a result of this achievement, we found ourselves starving for growth and expansion.”
Despite Busanimen’s growth, the business took a hit when COVID-19 hit and the South African government instituted lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus. This led to a drop in sales as people did not need suits.
“Our business suffered because many people worked from home and did not need suits, as there were no events to attend,” he told Vukuzenzele. “COVID-19 forced me to look at how I could sustain the business beyond what I was offering at the time, and I decided to launch Busanitextiles.”
With Busanitextiles, he and his team started manufacturing high-quality, high-quantity hospital linen and hospital wear, as well as school uniforms, he said.
Busanimen is also now working with the fashion school at the University of Johannesburg to assist students with work and career guidance.
Lehapa was recently featured in Forbes Africa’s 30 UNDER 30 of 2022. The list featured some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs operating in Africa and showing resilience despite the pandemic.