Somizi Mhlongo on Sompire Kids & building his empire

by Goodwill Thomo
Somizi Mhlongo on Sompire Kids & building his empire
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Television host, businessman, author and actor Somizi Mhlongo, rose to superstardom when he was just 13 years old after making his first appearance as an actor in the film Scavengers. He has since emerged as a prominent (and flamboyant) personality in Mzansi’s entertainment industry. By Goodwill Thomo

Somizi Mhlongo - BabyYumYumThe Idols SA judge’s latest business venture is launching his kiddies clothing line, Sompire Kids, with the tagline “Brave enough to be yoself”. Somizi’s brand slogan catalyses instilling positivity and self-confidence in children, empowering them to embrace their unique fashion-forward selves with boldness and self-assurance.

What’s truly admirable about Somizi is his unwavering determination, commendable work ethic, and deep commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of both adults and children.

The brand specialises in creating fashionable and luxurious clothing for children between the ages of 2 and 12. The collection includes a wide range of clothing options, including onesies, dresses, t-shirts, two-piece sets, and outerwear.

The vibrant brand focuses on finding the perfect balance between trendy designs and comfortable fabrics, ensuring that children can move freely while still expressing their individual style. This approach not only appeals to parents, but also resonates with the young peeps.

After dedicating over two years to the development of his clothing line, he joyfully shares that he has reached a significant milestone. With immense satisfaction, he announces the successful launch of his online store, which now enables customers from all corners of the country to conveniently browse and purchase his meticulously crafted products.

Despite receiving public backlash for the brand, Somizi emphasises that he’s open to receiving constructive criticism as he views it as a valuable opportunity to improve and enhance his products. We delved a bit deeper into the inspiration, the rationale behind a children’s brand as well as the ambitious plans that include launching a physical store. Picture 4 - BabyYumYum

How do you feel now that you’ve launched your kiddies clothing line?

I still have anxiety–it’s overwhelming. I started conceptualising the brand more than two years ago and it’s been going up and down. Initially, I wanted to work with designers, and I asked them to come up with concepts so that I could choose a designer with whom I could work full-time with, but when I viewed the drawings, I felt that nothing spoke to me.

I didn’t trust myself to come up with my own ideas. I forgot that the brand needs to be a representation of who I am. Then, I started diving into my creativity and began designing the clothes on my own. They were initially excessively flashy and over-the-top, and I had to simplify them. For the first batch, I used a manufacturer from China, communicated with them about the materials and fonts.

We live in tough economic times– the brand Sompire must allow all kids to rock it.

What inspired the brand?

In everything I do, I think about it thoroughly: why am I doing it? If I bring something that’s already there, I’ll be bored and won’t be able to offer anything to the project.

Initially, I wanted to design for adults, but since everyone is designing adult apparel, I noticed a void in children’s clothing. I remembered that kids love me, and I love them– that’s why I chose a children’s brand.

What sets your brand apart?

Some children are too brave, flashy, and vocal, but there are also introverted children. Not every kid needs to be like Somizi and be talkative. I pushed the narrative that allows kids be who they want to be.Even the logos on the clothes: “I’m handsome, pretty and intelligent” are hopefully instilled in them until they become adults.

How did you ensure a good price point?

For me that’s key. Kids must not be excluded based on how much they can afford. The kid who wears Burberry must not feel like they are more important than the kid who wears Pep clothes. Just because Somizi lives this flamboyant and lavish lifestyle that’s for him and it does not say anything about someone else. Kids should have access to every item. Picture 1 - BabyYumYum

We live in tough economic times– the brand Sompire must allow all kids to rock it. A wealthy parent must not think that they are lowering their standard by buying it because we didn’t compromise on the quality. We made sure that affordability is key.

Plus, my fans are not a certain group, it’s everyone! I considered all of that. My first thought was not about profit. This is a passion project for me. I wanted to tick one of the boxes of things that I’ve always wanted to do in my life.

What has been the response so far?

To be quite honest on day one I cried because we launched at 9am and by 9:30pm a certain range had been sold out. I was emotional because I couldn’t tell if they were buying to it because it was Somizi or because they admired the brand. I told myself that whatever the explanation was, I didn’t care because I had achieved my goal and was satisfied. Some people were waiting for others to purchase it, and now more people are buying it as they see kids wearing it.

How do you respond to criticism?

There are going to be naysayers of course. If Coke can have critics, it doesn’t mean that I won’t have them and that I should stop, there’s no way.

No brand is for everyone. At least I can differentiate between constructive criticism and detrimental criticism. There will likely be delays due to our recent launch, but we will acknowledge our customers’ feedback and promise to improve.

Dear child your dreams are valid.

When can we expect a physical store?

I wanted to open a physical store at first, but I didn’t realise how expensive it was. I thought it would be a good idea to go online first since it is accessible to everyone, and it would establish the atmosphere for the physical store.

I’m sure when the physical store will open. For now, I’ll have a pop-up store at the Mall of Africa from the 1st of October 2023. That will be a test of what the physical store is going to do and look like.

How do you distinguish yourself from other entrepreneurs?

I plan to deliver my products to fans. I want to have a physical touch with them. If I’m going to be in your province and you’ve placed an order, let me know. I will bring your order to you– even if it’s not right at your doorstep, but we can meet halfway.

What’s your vision for the future of your brand?

I’m going to expand. I am not going to focus on kids’ clothing. There’s going to be Sompire Kids toys and shoes. There’s room for growth. I plan to launch a line of products for babies and toddlers up to the age of two. I’m also working on Sompire Food, nutritional stuff that kids can take to school. It’s a long process but at least we’ve begun. I see myself having stores all over the county and beyond the borders. I see myself doing things to uplift children.

I wanted to tick one of the boxes of things that I’ve always wanted to do in my life.

What’s your strategy for work/life balance?

Picture 2 - BabyYumYumAt this moment I’m tired, I need a holiday! I try to prioritise within the 24 hours in a day, and that includes getting enough sleep –which I haven’t in a while. I try to do my best whenever I can.

What’s your advice to a young kid inspired by Somizi?

I’ve always remembered to never underestimate the power and intelligence of a child’s brain. I knew when I was nine years old that I was going to be what I am today. I have a vivid memory of sitting on my grandmother’s porch, envisioning what my life would be like in the future when I am wealthy and have a successful business.

I used to look up to the likes of Richard Maponya. I would say to a young kid that those thoughts that you’re thinking about as a kid are valid, don’t think you are living in a fantasy, and don’t underestimate yourself. If you imagine yourself owning a private jet, that dream is going to come to life. Dear child your dreams are valid.

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