Like many entrepreneurs, Maite Makgoba had to overcome a lot of challenges to get her plastic princess on to the market. Now she can brag on social media when stars such as Nicki Minaj compliment this particular product.
Maite Makgoba’s dream is expanding – she created a fashionable black doll for South Africa, which will also be shipped to the United States to be sold there. (Image: Screengrab via YouTube)
Momppy Mpoppys are young, trendy and uber-fashionable. They wear sky-high neon-coloured heels and will not be seen out in public without a slew of accessories of bangles, earrings and bags. Momppy Mpoppys are a new, South African answer to the ubiquitous Barbie-type dolls found across the world. They’re black, they’re sassy and they’re beautiful.
Makgoba, herself a young South African black woman, was inspired by her nieces to create a fashionable doll that looks like them and dresses like them. And she is soon expanding her business to the United States.
The owner of the company Childish Trading and Manufacturing, she said it was important for her dolls to keep up with trends, which is one of the reasons the dolls were created. This was important as it allowed the young girl owners to match their dolls. And after a doll is made, it gets a photo shoot with a young girl.
Speaking to international news agency AFP, Makgoba said she was motivated to create the Momppy Mpoppy doll when she realised that the black dolls available on the market did not appeal to children.
“They were frumpy and unattractive, some in traditional attire,” she explained. “That is not the reality of today.”
Through the doll, she aimed to create self-awareness among young girls that they were beautiful with their dark skin and their afros. “We want kids to see beauty in Momppy Mpoppy, to see themselves while playing with her. Dolls are often white; people in magazines are white. This is even in a country like South Africa where the majority are black,” she said.
Where it all began
Maite Makgoba said it’s important that her plastic princesses keep up with the trends. (Image: Screengrab via YouTube)
Momppy Mpoppy is not the first black doll on the South African market.
Nigerian businessman Taofick Okoya is playing in the same market. He also saw a gap when he could not find a doll for his niece and came up with the Queens of Africa and Naija Princesses dolls, which are overtaking Barbie doll sales in Nigeria.
Locally, Molemo Kgomo is a South African doll maker who also went into the industry after a frustrating experience trying to find a black doll for her daughter. In response, she launched Ntomb’entle dolls.
Unlike a typical Barbie-type doll, the Ntomb’entle dolls have fuller figures, curly afros and bigger eyes. They are also dressed in colourful traditional African outfits, representing the Ndebele, Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Xhosa, Pedi and Venda.
Makgoba, a cartoon lover, said she started researching and developing Momppy Mpoppy in 2013. “The first Momppy sample was born in April 2014 and by June, my babies were ready. June is myself and her niece’s birth month. It is this particular niece who gave me the Momppy inspiration.”
She calls herself a super aunt. “I am obsessed with my nieces,” she said. “They inspire me. This (product) is from them and for them. Every aunt, mama, papa and gogo will tell you how much our princesses change our lives.”
Makgoba knew she wanted a cute, catchy name for her dolls that young girls would find playful and which could easily be part of their lives. “It’s South African culture-inspired from the words Popo, Popie, Mpoppi, iPopi et cetera.
“Everybody in South Africa gets that it’s a doll. Plus, the world would learn a thing or two about Africa through Momppy Mpoppy – she can easily be our modern South African scout to the world.”
Makgoba said that at first, her family and loved ones did not get her vision for Momppy Mpoppy. “But now they are brand ambassadors,” she said. “They are proud and full of support.”
She grew up in Soweto and today most of her staff are youth from that area. “We employ and give a sales skills workshop. You have to serve the community that raised you right.”
Her advice to entrepreneurs
Like many entrepreneurs, Makgoba struggled to get funding for her product. Other challenges included finding a reliable team and of course, lack of sleep. But you had to be serious about your business. “It should have an x-factor to stand out from the rest. It should solve social and economic problems that our country faces, like unemployment.
“The wilder the dream the harder the work, so get ready,” she said.
As a child, Makgoba wanted to become a cartoon character; there are links to her life now as an entrepreneur: “It’s the same thing. You have to think you can change the world. Save the world or take over the world and those are similarities both cartoons and entrepreneurs have. I’m serious right now… dead serious.”