Cheryl Johnson is the founder and owner of NATAi NATAi, one of the most popular modern clothing brands in Harare. Her clothing can be found on many Instagram pages, sported by prominent social media icons like MisRed and Miss Chindiya. Cheryl has mastered the art of delivering exceptionally made garments, most of which can be worn in more than one way – offering more bang for your buck. A true stickler for outstanding customer service, she also offers pre- and post-purchase garment tailoring to make sure your clothes fit just right. Join us as we learn more about the brains behind the brand.
Q: Who are you and what is NATAi NATAi about?
A: My name is Cheryl and I’m the Owner & Creative Director of NATAi NATAi, a locally made Zimbabwean clothing brand with a focus on quality, timeless and sophisticated essentials for both men and women.
Q: What is the inspiration behind NATAi NATAi?
A: NATAi NATAi was named after my mother, who is a huge inspiration to my work. My mother first introduced me to fashion when I was a little girl. I have always felt drawn towards the idea of having my own clothing brand and continuing what she started.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and what was the point that really made you go for it?
A: I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but the idea of working for myself was cemented when I chose Business Administration as a major in college. Most of my family is very entrepreneurial, so it was only natural for me to follow the same path. When I moved back to Zim after completing my degree, I felt like I had no other choice really, because finding employment is tough! I took it upon myself to create something that could utilize all my talents and educational background.
Q: What has been the most challenging thing about having your own clothing line?
A: Owning a clothing brand, especially one in which you produce your own pieces, is very multi-layered and complex. The biggest challenge right now is learning how to delegate, because as NATAi NATAi grows, I’m not able to do everything on my own. I have to let go of some control, share tasks and responsibilities and trust the NATAi NATAi team and myself to push the brand forward.
Q: What are five things that people don’t know about you that you would like to share with us?
- I love documentary photography and would love to pursue that more!
- I love ironing and find it therapeutic (this came in handy when I started NATAi NATAi).
- My favourite colour is red but I barely wear it.
- I despise heels so you’ll mostly ever find me in sneakers or sandals.
- I’m extremely afraid of butterflies and moths.
Q: What is your go-to outfit while you work?
A: Owning a clothing brand requires me to move around a lot, especially when I’m searching for fabrics for clients, so I have to be comfortable! You’ll mostly find me in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt or a cute NATAi NATAi top.
Q: What has helped you maintain consistency with NATAi NATAi?
A: I believe my ability to be consistent with NATAi NATAi comes down to my personality – I’m very disciplined, dedicated and love to see things through. So even on the tough days, I will get up and put in the work.
Q: Tell us about a valuable learning experience you have received through running the NATAi NATAi brand?
A: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not be infatuated with the idea of winning or success, because it distracts you from the work and dedication required to build a lasting brand. Be focused, consistent, organised and build systems that will allow you to grow and the rest will unfold.
Q: Describe your typical day.
A: Running NATAi NATAi requires me to wear a lot of hats, so every day is different! I’m the social media manager; I run the website; I direct the photo shoots; I buy the fabric! My day usually begins with me preparing my son and taking him to school, then responding to clients, listing down new orders and updating the day’s agenda for the team. I’ll then do some fabric hunting downtown or uptown, so that takes up most of my mornings. Most clients prefer to come in and have their measurements taken and feel the fabrics, so I make sure to be in the studio for a few hours so I can attend to them until we close for the day.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring Zimbabwean fashion entrepreneurs?
A: Just start! That’s the hardest part – decide you want to do something and literally just start! The rest will unfold and you’ll learn and improve along the way.
Q: What can we expect from you in five years?
A: In five years, I hope for NATAi NATAi to have more locations and to be more accessible to people from all over the world!