Happiness is a doll that looks like me

When Maite Makgoba, an entrepreneur from Soweto, started looking for a doll that her three-year-old niece could relate to, she realised that there was a gap in the market for a truly South African doll with natural hair and an air of fun and excitement around her. This saw the birth of Momppy Mpoppy.

There are black dolls out there, but a black doll with a South African flair? Nothing to be found. Maite has also branded Momppy Mpoppy to include a kiddies’ clothing range and accessories matching the doll's clothing, party-themed accessories and more.

Conceptualising Momppy Mpoppy by looking at the needs of users (little kids who would love a doll they can relate to) and fulfilling this need, places the hat of designer squarely on Maite Makgoba’s head. After all, that is what design is all about.  

The SABS Design Institute caught up with Maite and asked her what her greatest challenge was in taking the doll from the initial idea to the point where it is now – firmly in the marketplace. Maite says: “Business has so many elements involved. You could have a manufacturing challenge and conquer it, just to have packaging issues, then comes issues with marketing, sales, customer come-backs, expansion… So, basically, the biggest challenge was understanding these dynamics, getting to grips with the basics and knowing my strengths. Then I had to learn when to delegate and to whom, so knowing my employees strengths as well.”

When asked where she is now with the journey of designing and developing a product, Maite says: “We are at a phase of growing the brand Momppy Mpoppy as the first African kiddies’ character and making her a household name. Momppy isn't just a doll, but also a kiddies’ lifestyle brand. We started Momppy so that little girls could identify with the doll; from there came requests for party merchandise and for Momppy-themed parties. So we are branding other products and we are in the processes of shipping to distributors in other parts of the world and into Africa. Our Momppy-branded clothing will be launched now as seasonal items. So yes, these are exciting times… we are pioneering the African kiddies’ lifestyle and entertainment market.”

What message does Maite have for young black entrepreneurs who would like to take their designs to market? “It is important not just to make pretty things, but to make pretty things that can change minds and norms and stereotypes. Make beautiful objects that celebrate your own uniqueness as a human being. I mean, it is in our hands because we are the future, so we had better make sure that we like the tomorrow we are creating for ourselves and the generations to come.” 

Momppy Mpoppy is marketed amongst others via social media. There are also physical and online stores that stock the doll and accessories. Visit https://www.facebook.com/momppy or find her on takealot.com for a gift that will not disappoint.