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Meet Nelia Annandale, founder of Keedo
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Meet Nelia Annandale, founder of Keedo

Most parents would be familiar with home-grown children’s clothing sensation Keedo. With a loyal customer base in South Africa and abroad, and a large distribution network throughout southern Africa, it seems the brand’s popularity knows no bounds.

 

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(Image source: bizmag.co.za)

 

The idea for Keedo was sparked when founder Nelia Annandale began sewing clothes for her new-born twins more than 20 years ago, using memories of her childhood and her love of brightly coloured African clothing as inspiration, according to an Entrepreneur Magazine feature. The future clothing-store mogul was recovering from a skiing accident and so decided to put her time of convalescence to good use.

 

Keedo was soon launched in 1994, and six months later a customer from Switzerland bought merchandise to sell back home. This alerted Ms Annandale to her product’s export potential, an opportunity she grabbed with enthusiasm.  

 

12 years later, Keedo was supplying more than 100 boutiques across the USA, and it seemed that things couldn’t get better. But then the global ‘Great Recession’ hit, and it hit South African entrepreneurs in the export business particularly hard, as they faced less demand for their products. Keedo was no exception.

 

At the time, the brand had more than 60% of its business tied up in the export market, with most of it in the US. Ms Annandale quickly realised she had to re-assess her business strategy or risk losing a significant percentage of her market – a potential death sentence for most SMEs - emerging or established.

 

After much consideration, Ms Annandale decided that her best chance for long-term sustainability was to develop Keedo’s existing presence in Africa. Though the brand was always available in South Africa, growing it was never the main strategy.

 

Her revised plan included strengthening Keedo’s local market presence, increasing her number of stores, initiating an online retail platform and subsequently increasing business turnover.  All these actions not only maintained Ms Annandale’s business in a time of great economic stress, it also grew and strengthened it.

 

Today, Keedo is thriving: international exports to more than 16 countries throughout the globe comprise 25% to 30% of the business, and it now also supplies Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia. Most significantly, Ms Annandale’s enterprise also has 20 retail branches across South Africa. As the bank that calls Africa our home, we encourage and facilitate success of this nature. We are invested in the development of African entrepreneurs, as their prosperity translates into greater prosperity and upliftment on the continent, as Keedo’s over 200 local employees can undoubtedly confirm.

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