Born from the need to celebrate African children and their natural beauty, husband-and-wife team Thabo and Mpumi Motsabi’s range of dolls is available exclusively in Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets nationwide.

They founded their company, Toys with Roots in 2015 with just one product and one supplier. Toys with Roots was one of the winners of last year’s Shoprite Hustle competition, which was open to small business owners with an annual turnover of less than R1 million.

“We entered the competition to raise the profile of our business and the exposure from Hustle helped us to raise R40 000 through crowdfunding. The plan was always to supply to Shoprite, so we are extremely pleased that we have achieved this goal.” – Thabo Motsabi

Mpumi wanted to buy her two young daughters dolls they could relate to, and this is what sparked the Motsabis’ entrepreneurial journey

“I wanted our daughters – who were seven and four years old at the time – to know that they are beautiful just as they are. When I was growing up there was nothing that celebrated me as a child. I wanted a different reality for my daughters.” – Mpumi Motsabi

She started selling the dolls she’d bought on Facebook. “Everyone was so excited to see beautiful black dolls and wanted them.” From here the idea was born to start a company that sells a variety of dolls and other toys celebrating African children.

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“When I was growing up there was nothing that celebrated me as a child. I wanted a different reality for my daughters.” – Mpumi Motsabi

Toys with Roots approached the Shoprite Group to stock a range of their dolls and buyer Monique Richards really liked the product, but the Motsabis could not meet the retailer’s pricing requirements.

“Our buyer facilitated a partnership with an existing toy supplier, whose mentoring helped us align with the Shoprite business processes as well as find another company that could produce the volumes we needed at the right price.” – Thabo Motsabi

The result is Rainbow Kids – a range of three dolls named Khana, Pula and Nandi which retail at R99.99 each and are now available exclusively in Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets nationally.

Through their partnership with the Group, the Motsabis have achieved their goal to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds also have access to dolls that represent them.

“This relationship means we can begin to play a part in promoting self-love to a much wider group as Shoprite has distribution channels across Africa.” – The Motsabis

Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to “keep at it, be clear about your value proposition and what you want in return, and learn how your partner does business and align yourself with this.”

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