Atteridgeville’s Fancy Monama is the founder of Bluu Detergent, a detergent manufacturing and training company based in Pretoria that provides quality detergents.
For Monama, owning a production company that enabled her to manufacture her own products was a dream worth achieving. As an industrial engineer who specialises in production management, and the experience gained from working in various production companies, this was a no-brainer but she needed guidance. Her mentor offered the additional support she needed to manufacture quality detergents.
With a start-up capital of R3000 and the advent of the first lockdown, level 5, Monama got the opportunity to do a lot of research in soap making and when the lockdown ended she started producing from home for herself and her family and that is how she tested the product and market. However, her journey to entrepreneurship was not a smooth one. She was thrown into it. She adds “I was not prepared to be an entrepreneur, it was one of those things I had to do because I had to survive. So it’s not something that I had planned. I think it’s something that I was just thrown into and once I was in there I had to make it work.”
Despite this, her brand name ‘Bluu Detergent’ is an acronym which stands for Black ladies united undefeated. She says “It’s a name which I’ve always had in my head. But I never thought I would name my products after it. I’m very passionate about black women and supporting, and uplifting them. That’s how I came about naming my brand bluu.”
Her product range includes dishwashing liquid, all-purpose cream cleaner, bleach, and bubble bath and has a few additions in the pipeline. With a growing market that includes retailers, small businesses and households in and around Atteridgeville, greater Tshwane area and branching out of Gauteng, Monama doesn’t believe there is a formula to success or a particular path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. “Because success is relative but I believe that there are certain attributes or values that you must have for you to become a successful entrepreneur. One of those values is being disciplined. So there are certain things that you must have to become a successful entrepreneur, but there is no formula around it or pattern around it. Everybody’s journey is different.”
Her products were mainly created to solve a problem, which gives her a competitive advantage in a saturated FCMG market. She explains “So whether the problem is stains, my products are solving a problem, so basically how I come up with new ideas is by solving problems in my household. If I’ve got an issue with dirt that doesn’t wanna come out from a particular area or fabric, I’m going to look for a product that can solve that problem.”
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This kind of innovative and solution-based thinking comes in handy especially when her main method of marketing is on social media and flyers. “I market my business on various social media platforms and I also do flyers. I also have a sticker on my car. However, the one method of marketing that has been the most successful is social media marketing because it reaches a lot more people than any other form of advertising, so most of my clients have gotten through social media.”
She has built a successful customer base by making sure that every customer becomes a returning customer and also refers her products to a friend, a colleague and a neighbour. “What I do with my customers is to involve them in my conceptualisation stage. If I have an idea to produce a new product, my customers will be the first to know about it. They’ll be the first to test and use it, and their feedback is invaluable. This interaction makes them feel involved from concept until the final stages when the product is on the shelves. My competitive edge is my specialisation services, where I make specialised products for certain customers, especially if they have skin and/or smell sensitivities. I am able to tweak and change my products so that they can suit those specific customers, this makes my customers feel special. This is another reason I have return customers.”
Like many other entrepreneurs, Monama’s greatest fear is giving up. “Being an entrepreneur is not an easy journey. There’s a lot of instability and a lot of doubt, especially self-doubt. There are also hardships, difficulties and hurdles that you have to cross before you can call yourself successful. And because of that, sometimes it is difficult to see the light. And sometimes you’re in a situation where you feel like maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe I should give up. That’s my biggest fear, actually giving up on my dreams.”
Fortunately, the fear does not take away the fact that her favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the fact that everything that she does, every minute that she spends in the business and every cent that she spends is towards her legacy and that she isn’t out there building someone else’s dream. “That’s my favourite aspect. It’s the fact that I’m building a legacy for my children and my children’s children, and I’m building a name for my family.”
One of her most satisfying moments in business is having been in a store where some of her products have been sold and listening to a customer of that store ask for one of the products which were sold out on the shelf. And the customer spoke to one of the staff members telling them that she is not going to buy any other brand because she wants Bluu Detergents. “I was standing there and the client, my customer, didn’t know who I was. That was very satisfying to hear and watch them ask for my product and the fact that it’s their preferred product of choice..”
Monama’s story is one of hope, perseverance and determination. Despite the fear, Monama has managed to build a reputable brand and made sure it’s in front of her desired target market. Internally, she has learnt how to handle fear. “I always remind myself of why I started the business and of my ultimate goal. No matter how much or how long it takes me to get there I will push on ahead. That’s how I manage the fear.”
What can aspiring entrepreneurs learn from her? Doing your homework and doing some research is important. Create products or services that solve a problem and always remember your customers are king, treat them well but more importantly, there will be dark times and moments of wanting to give up but giving up isn’t an option if you remember why you started on this journey.