All things adulting,  Career

A sit down with multi-hyphenated entrepreneur Donae “Donna” of NovoDonna and Novo Designs

 

NovoDonna is a fashion brand that houses a mix of trendy and timeless fashion for the woman who dares to STEP INTO THAT NEW.

What have been some of  challenges of starting your own business(es) ?

Too many to mention, but the one that ranks as the most challenging is not having a handsome start up capital. The kind that really allows you a marketing budget because what good is a business if no one knows about it? And social media can only do so much…for free.

Granny sewing
Grandma Winnie
Where did the love of fashion start ?

Undoubtedly in my granny Winnie’s sewing room! I spent hours on the floor with customer’s fabric cut-offs carefully and care-freely sewing my love for fashion into every doll’s dress. My gran also afforded us the privilege of wearing garments straight out of a magazine – we would show her what we wanted and she’d simply make it. I vividly remember my first career day at school, there I was a 6 year old me with a crayon and white sheet of paper on a clipboard, drawing clothes. I then “graduated” to fashion blogging in my early 20s and published a local look book along with fashion-directing a national publication called Journey Magazine for a bit. So fashion has been imprinted into my life since I was born.

   ” NovoDonna’s slogan is ‘STEP INTO THAT NEW’. I personally love change and encourage it. Stepping into that new means embracing new things and with the embrace of new things, we grow. “

What inspires your fashion line ?

I am mixed-race, otherwise known as “coloured” but in my world, undeniably colourful, diverse and eclectically “mixed”. I take pride in a DNA of mixed nationalities so my heritage allows me to explore and this I try to bring forth in my collections in an otherwise minimalist, modern, understated and timeless way. More often than not, I am inspired by what I go through, I pour my heart into my creativity.

What’s the process like for creating each line ?

A cocktail of emotion for one! I still feel like I haven’t gotten it quite right just yet, but that’s why everything is a journey right? Typically, for both my original and sourced collections I spend copious amounts of time pinning ideas first and foremost. For the original collections I then source fabrics and then consult with my trusty pattern maker and get patterns made. Once patterns are approved I get a sample made with my cut and once those are approved, into production we go. All the while I conceptualize the name of each collection and the photoshoot, schedule models, fittings and the photographer and then off to market. I am leaving many tedious details out but in a nutshell, sometimes it’s the chicken, sometimes the egg, lol.

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What have been your greatest achievement(s) with the business?

There have been many (small) victories for me. Getting my brand online when South Africa was just learning about online shopping. Getting featured in an Mzansi Magic movie production called Setopo – there was NovoDonna rolling in the credits on the small screen. NovoDonna has also been worn by J Something’s wife, Coco De Fonseca, Radio and public personality, Khutso Theledi to name a few. And simply seeing my garment as a brand that I’ve created with my label hanging in a retail space at The Zone at Rosebank and Norwood was quite a thing.

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What is Care is closet and how can we get involved ?

Care Closet is our social responsibility as the Novodonna brand to those less fortunate. The initiative is currently in its fourth year and this year August (projecting) will see the 5th Care Closet event taking place. Care Closet is an outreach event that restores the dignity of women less fortunate. Giving them a shopping and pampering experience they otherwise cannot afford. There are five ways in which anyone can assist, that is:

  1. Donating of your pre-loved clothing and miscellaneous items in wearable condition
  2. Volunteering leading up to and on the day
  3. Cash donations
  4. Meal/food parcel donations
  5. Toiletry donations
Where can we find Novo Donna products ?

Oline at www.novodonna.co.za and in store at Manor Gardens Collective in Norwood, Johannesburg.

        NovoDesign is a creative company specializing in branding and graphic design

How did Novo designs come about ?

I have just recently rebranded from Creative Genesis to NovoDesign, in keeping with the ‘Novo’ (new) brand prefix, creating a more streamlined brand architecture. My main line of business is NovoDesign and I started freelancing as a side-hustle a good 12 years ago, while still working full-time. Eventually in 2017, after a brief 2 year stint at an advertising agency upon moving to Jo ’burg, I took the plunge to venture out on my own and officially opened my creative company.

What services do you offer?
  • Creative consulting and conceptualization
  • Brand creation
  • Graphic Design
  • Corporate gifting
  • Web design
  • Copy writing
  • and I outsource other creative services outside of our portfolio
What sets you apart from your competitors?

I have been blessed that I haven’t needed to formally advertise to date. My business has been sustained by word of mouth so I guess I am doing something right that sets me apart? If I had to single out one thing, though, is that I am affordable, professional and super passionate, and it shows.

What have been the lessons from the pandemic from a creative perspective?

My clients have taught me just how resilient people can be. Nothing like hardship that births opportunity to fight or take flight. Ironically, I had witnessed bigger clients really fight, and an influx of new micro businesses flying into the market requiring my services. It was just awe-inspiring creating brands for people who, for the first time, decided to take the plunge that the security of a job would’ve prevented. Unless you were super rich during the peak of this pandemic, the majority of us evidently DID NOT feel secure.

What have been the highlights of Novo designs ?

Brand co-ordination for corporate conferences on an international scale, conceptualizing and designing products seen in international stores and really just creating brands for ordinary people who want to effect extraordinary change. I am currently working on a brand for a baby formula that will launch into the market later this year.

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How do you balance both businesses ?

If you find the answer, please call me! Lol. Balance to me is perception. Juggling is more like it, because I feel like life juggles me along with everything concerning me, it’s a cycle of up-down. To be really honest, I haven’t found real balance, I’ve just been doing my best to keep 2 brands alive In the best way I know how, with somewhat of a presence out there with the right folks who keep me going month to month, year in and out.

Any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?

Firstly You’ll never be ready enough. Secondly be calculated in your approach and decision-making and stay relevant while staying true to yourself in these ever changing times. Passion goes a longer way than a pay check ever does so remember why you started when the going gets tough.

 

                 ” You never know who’s watching, so always show up at your best.- is a favourite motto of mine.”

Favorite restaurant?

I’m a foodie so I don’t have just one. Fine dining, I love Pigalle’s lamb shank and for a good casual chow, I love Spur

Favorite holiday destination?

Anywhere coastal. I love our local spots and my husband and I frequent Durban’s south coast and the East coast, both being from coastal cities. But one day when my ship comes in, I’d love to visit the Maldives.

What is a  Bible scripture you live by ?

God is within her, she will not fall – Proverbs 46:5 – this has kept me going.

What book are you currently reading ?

Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi

If you have a morning or night routine care to share it with us ?

On a good day (with no pressing deadlines) I wake up early before my husband, stretch, listen to the birds and meditate and pray, my husband then wakes up and makes us some tea and the working day begins

How do you want to be remembered or the legacy you would want to leave behind ?

I want to be remembered as someone who effected change and influenced the trajectory of the lives of women who will come after me; creating a legacy of female front runners of industry. Personally, I also want to make my mark in fashion and modelling.

How do you define a life well lived ?

A life well lived will be a life spent doing what I wanted to and getting lost in what I loved, not in a style set by society’s standard, or traditions or the naysay of patriarchy but a life I wanted to wake up to, one that fitted me and not one I need to fit into. A life that was abundant, provided freedom, fairness and unspeakable joy.

Competition time!!

Firstly thank you so much to Donae for her time and collaborating with us for our next give away. All you need to do to enter is below, good luck everyone. Ps. My Facebook and Instagram pages are at the bottom if you’re viewing this on your mobile

 

 

 

 

 

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