From vegan street food to stylish fashion accessories with a beautiful purpose.
For sisters Phumzile and Nolwazi, their business means so much more than the beautiful products they make. The inspiration behind Polka.dot.coco came after founder and creative director Phumzile Zama returned from volunteering and working at an orphanage in 2013.
When Phumzile was working at the orphanage, she started a mentorship program called the Princess Diaries Mentorship Program. The purpose was to create a safe space for girls to open up about their past and the day-to-day challenges they face. One of the many opportunities Phumzile had was to be an assistant teacher and she wanted to incorporate basic cooking skills with their learnings. Her best students were the ‘special needs’ students who unfortunately were not coping with mainstream school work but were very talented and skilled. She realised that these amazing children might not get a chance to further their education and when they turn 18, most orphanages have to release them to create space for babies.
Polkadotcoco’s vision is to skill, empower and hire these young adults, particularly the girls because they grow up in communities where poverty, teenage pregnancy, and abuse seem normal. Phumzile and Nolwazi want to break this ugly cycle. Their mission is to create a business that is financially sustainable so they can employ orphaned young girls and give them the opportunity they deserve to become who they’ve been created to be!
But their business didn’t start out with fashion accessories. It began with vegan street food in 2015. Their first market was anything but a success and someone suggested that their wear something that would set them apart from other vendors. Taking the advice on board, Phumzile found a piece of an old mini apron and hand sewed 2 of the worst bowties ever! With confidence the sister duo went back to the food festival for day 2, looking fly and you guessed it, they sold all their food! Many people complimented their “street look” and started asking if we would make and sell the bowties (they’re quite certain that they were just being polite)! But this is how their bowtie business started.
Hard work and resilience paid off
It was anything but smooth sailing from there as the sisters had to hold down their full-time day jobs during the week and attend markets on the weekends. Often these markets were in Johannesburg (they live in Durban, KZN) and involved a 9-hour one-way bus trip! We admire their determination to see their new business grow because it’s this kind of grit and resilience that will see them realise their dream of helping orphaned young girls. When you buy their products you play a part in their story of possibility.
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