Passionate young entrepreneur with a heart for babies excels in competition

Posted on January 27, 2023

A third-year BConsumer Science Clothing Retail Management student in the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences, Zellemari van Niekerk, recently ended up as one of the five finalists in a national entrepreneur competition with her baby clothing range, Foxi Original (FO). She also does this to pay for her studies.

Zellemari admits she was excited about making it so far in the Afriforum Entrepreneur competition. “It showed that my passion and hard work were being recognised. However, being around finalists double my age with businesses over ten years old, I had to take a step back and look at how far I’ve come. For me, it’s always how I can improve and do better. I have learned a lot from everyone and made wonderful friends and connections. Although it was one of the most stressful times in my career, it made me stronger as a person; and proud. I am proud to have brought up a business from the ground whilst studying.”

She explains, “When I design and make baby clothes, I love to design unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. First, I do market research before I design collections by looking at the current trends and the market and asking my clients what they’d want their little ones to wear. Then, when I make the clothes, I think of the photos I’ll get back and how cute the baby will look. Custom outfits for birthdays, baptisms or weddings are some of my favourites as I get to design and make something so special for a milestone that baby reached or for someone’s special day,” Zellemari shares her passion for clothing and babies.

One of her lecturers, Dr Suné Donoghue, from the Department of Consumer and Food Sciences, only praises Zellemari and her work. “She is a real entrepreneur with her own business, studies clothing management and makes time to do community engagement.”

Zellemari has been involved with a non-profit organisation, Rock of Hope and Joy – Place of Safety, loving homes for abandoned, abused and neglected babies and toddlers, for the past four years. “They are so close to my heart.”

After completing her studies, she plans to continue with her business and says, “I love working for myself and am a leader at heart, so that I will continue with FO. However, I would love to get some help and employ a seamstress or two; quality is essential when it comes to my products, so finding the perfect candidates will be a struggle, but I’ve been praying for the right people for a long time.”

“The knowledge and skills I learn from my studies directly contribute to my achievements. Time management is one I’ve learned from studying whilst running my business is time management. I would get nothing done if I didn’t plan my days by the hour. Another thing is communication skills. I would say that I am quite an introvert until you get to know me. I love talking to my clients and getting to know them, making the perfect clothing pieces for their little ones. Studying at UP has helped my social anxiety, especially when I do markets.”

She does not have a role model in the same business or career. “But I admire Taylor Swift and her passion, resilience and ability to make art based on what she loves. Everyone always thinks that success is owed to them and that they deserve it. However, it is not true; if you don’t work for it 24/7 and put your heart and soul into it to deserve it, it isn’t for you. Success doesn’t happen overnight.” Zellemari’s favourite quote: ’The world doesn’t owe you anything. You must work for everything you get and appreciate every bit of success the world gives you’, indeed emphasises this.

Zellemari concludes, “The one thing that will keep inspiring me to do what I do is the clients’ love for Foxi Original. It motivates me to keep going, to design better and continue to do what I love. If I didn’t have people supporting my business, I wouldn’t be where I am today and where I hope to be one day.”



Foxi Original designs by Zellemari

- Author Martie Meyer

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