From growing up in Alex to servicing big Sandton corporates with a blooming flower business

Published Mar 28, 2023


While the corridors of South Africa’s business capital may be flush with cash, a young entrepreneur saw the need to add some colour and a different kind of greenery to the fold.

Kgomotso Moraka is the owner of Manolo Flowers, a mobile flower business that found a niche servicing corporates in Sandton.

Having a life-long love of flowers, which she inherited from her mother, gave Moraka the vision to notice a gap in the floral industry that many had overlooked.

The entrepreneur told Business Report that her passion for being a business owner was not always so clear.

A plot to dream

“Growing up in Alexandra, Gauteng, my mother was known as a woman who loved beautiful things,” says Kgomotso Moraka.

She goes on to describe a pivotal moment in her upbringing when her family moved to the ‘upper’ township and her mother could finally grow a small garden of her own.

Despite the challenges of raising children and working a job in retail, cultivating everyday beauty for her family in this way was empowering.

Moraka watched too as her mother brought home small bunches of flowers she had bought from Woolworths or a florist.

“Flowers have always been a part of my life,” she says.

“And creating a business that pays tribute to this has been rewarding.”

Before she delved into the world of entrepreneurship, Moraka first dreamed of becoming an air hostess or an accountant.

Instead, she found herself working weekends at a retail boutique in Sandton, before getting a job as a student advisor at an institution, recruiting students from Swaziland, Botswana and Gabon.

“It was only years later that I realised that being an entrepreneur is what I wanted,” she says.

Textbook business to real-world entrepreneurship

This resolution pushed Moraka to pursue an online Bachelor of Business Administration degree through Milpark Education, allowing her to formalise her education while she kept her job as a school advisor.

She believes her studies were the foundation for her success later on.

“Small businesses are not usually equipped enough,” she says, adding that her degree gave her the essential tools and understanding of finance and budgeting.

But being an entrepreneur is its own education, Moraka says.

“It teaches you resilience, discipline and dedication,” she says.

Moraka believes it engenders a mindset of innovation, which, with South Africa’s high unemployment rate, is a crucial skill to cultivate – whether or not you’re a business owner.

She adds that it’s especially important for young women in the country to equip themselves with a dynamic set of skills to navigate the world.

Sensing an opportunity

Manolo Flowers creates arrangements for private functions, anniversaries and birthdays, but it found its niche catering for corporate brands.

Back in 2010, when Moraka was fully employed and working as a student advisor, she’d walk into company reception areas and boardrooms and notice how stark and soulless they felt.

She immediately thought flowers could liven up the atmosphere.

After doing some research, she discovered how common it was for executives to send flowers to their associates and business partners.

“That is exactly how it started,” says Moraka, “and the business has thrived through the years.”

With a team of just three florists and a driver, Manolo Flowers maintains an impressive client database, including Community Investment Holdings, Wiphold Holdings, Holiday Inn Rosebank and Ithuba Lottery.

Their regular corporate clients are serviced on a Monday, when reception florals are changed and indoor plants maintained.

The business has created arrangements for events hosted by author, speaker and businesswoman Amanda Dambuza, and one of South Africa’s leading majority black-owned professional services firms SekelaXabiso, to name a few.

One of the secrets to success, Moraka believes, is investing in a few trusted employees and keeping overheads low by having a mobile shop.

But what really sets Manolo Flowers apart from its competitors is that it’s a people business that does flowers.

You can create stunning arrangements but if you fail to win a client’s trust, that is what they’ll remember.

Moraka believes that communication is one of their key strengths, especially with the delivery process.

“I’ve had many compliments from our clients about how we really master professionalism and communication,” says Moraka.

Women making their own ways

“Set your goals and be very intentional about where you want to be,” says Moraka, who draws inspiration from positive leaders who can identify change.

A positive mindset, she says, is essential to staying motivated to problem solving in business and the workplace.

With Africa having the highest growth in women-owned-businesses in the world, it’s more important than ever to build on the success stories of women.

It’s time to harness this energy and show women they can do business their way, defining for themselves what success means to them.

For Moraka, success means working hard, seizing opportunities and setting her own course – and stopping often to smell the roses along the way.