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» #WCW Meet Black Female owner of Barbara McKenzie Boutique

October 15, 2018

#WCW Meet Black Female owner of Barbara McKenzie Boutique

Lindelwa Skenjana (LS), Founder of Mbewu Movement sat in an interview with Kendibone Sapepa (KS) of Barbara McKenzie. Barbara McKenzie is clothing brand that is a tribute to the founder’s late mother; Barbara. Coupled with a play on the founder’s name; Kendi – Barbara McKenzie was born. Founded in Johannesburg in 2013, Barbara McKenzie is a clothing brand that provides fashion-forward clothing for stylish and fashionable women. The Barbara McKenzie woman, loves being beautifully dressed and embraces her femininity through classic-inspired, yet modern clothing.


LS: Thank you for agreeing to speak to Mbewu Movement; please tell us more about Kendibone ‘Kendi’ Sapepa?

KS: I am a Xhosa female who grew up in the coast, eMthatha…and I am the founder of Barabra McKenzie. The store opened in December 2016 but Barbara McKenzie has been around since 2012

LS: How did you the birthing process of Barbara McKenzie begin, where did it all start?

KS: It was a grade 10 project, where you could shadow someone in an environment you would like to work in and I shadowed a fashion designer. I then studied Marketing

2LS: Is Barbara McKenzie what consumes you come sunshine and sunset?

KS: I am still a full time employee; I am growing my brand and business to a point where I can take it on full time. To me- it’s all about freedom (of time, creativity) and it is also about leaving a legacy for my country and children one day.

LS: Is it only Barabara McKenzie clothing stocked in the store?

KS: Barbara McKenzie is a boutique and we house upcoming South African designers’ clothing. My first step was to try get my clothing into more established boutique stored and when that did not work out, I called up my business partner to the brand Sculpture and told her we should put money together and open up a store…this is after plenty rejections from various brands.


LS: Wow- you found a solution in the face of disappointment, very inspiring Kendi. What about the art in the store, are these carefully considered pieces?

KS: From the art in the store to the railings in the store- these are all hand made by South African creative.

LS: How do you drive brand awareness for Barbara McKenzie?

KS: My marketing strategy so far has been mainly social media and influencer marketing. For example, well known figures who wear my garments to social events.

LS: Who are your fashion icons? Who do you look to for inspiration?

KS: I pay dues to brands like Babatunde and everything that gives me life. I also adore Nomzamo Mbatha and how she has proudly showcased African print garments in her public appearances, Solange Knowles as well. I was recently in Windhoek (Namibia) and their traditional garments were also a source of inspiration.


LS: Any partnership projects with partners on the African continent or the rest of the globe?

KS: I am slowly making headway in partnering with people from other parts of the globe. I was recently in touch with a designer from Namibia, an organisation called *Bold Africa.

LS: Any lessons around start-up capital/funding when one takes the leap of faith and wants to start their own business and just does not have enough capital to do so?

KS: It is incredibly hard trying to source funding to maintain and grow my store. You fill in forms, you apply and get no response. I have found it incredibly hard sourcing funding from public sector bodies/institutions as opposed to private sector. I am now a part of the Standard Bank Young Lioness’s initiative and they provide training/grooming around topics related to running your own entrepreneurial venture.


LS: Wow…that sounds challenging; one would imagine public sector funding institutions would want to be a part of a sustainable, proudly South African business. That said- what message do you want you brand/legacy to convey to the world?…


KS: Embrace who you are is essentially the message I want to leave in society; stay true to who you are, be authentic and don’t try to be anyone else. BE WHO YOU ARE!


Interviewer: Lindelwa Skenjana (Mbewu Movement Founder)

Interviewee: Kendibone Sepapi (Barbara McKenzie Founder)

Photography: Robyn Solomons (Miss Marshall Photography)