“If we could work together as youth, we can do great things.”
Julia Ndeilenga, founder of PillowChick, is an entrepreneur and holder of a Bachelor in Business Administration, having majored in Marketing Management. She was born and raised in Walvisbay where she completed secondary school in 2010. Thereafter, she moved to Windhoek and a year later, she moved to Cape Town to pursue her degree. After being based in Cape Town for three years, Julia moved back to Namibia in search of employment with a desire to be independent. She has since been in the media industry, learning about business techniques and establishments over the years.
Julia started with PillowChick Designs in July 2019. She had been trying to add to her bedroom with pillows. Initially she planned on purchasing them from a furniture retailer until she decided to challenge herself by making her own, which consequently brought PillowChick to life. She bought fabric and went about making pillows, which turned out quite impressive for someone who was simply experimenting. Upon successfully making her own pillows, Julia made more prototype pillows to test what she thought could be a potential market. She completed 20 pillows in one evening for her very first collection, named URI or ‘My Light’ in Hebrew; the URI Collection sold out within the same week she had posted it on her social media. This not only motivated her, but also instilled confidence in her belief that there was a market she could capitalise on.
What inspired you to start this business?
She has always been a décor enthusiast and creative – a trait she strongly attributes to her father’s love for decorating in their home. This business was thus born of that love.
“My inspiration was drawn from my passion for decoration as well as the desire I had to be successful. It wasn’t a dream. It was more of a vision that I had. I wanted to be known for something that would be an inspiration to another person. I wanted to be known for something great and PillowChick has been my greatest achievement.”
What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
“The freedom of not having to report to anyone; the achievements and the pressure that comes with everything and the thrilling feeling of having to accomplish all the goals set. It feels amazing.”
What sets your products/services apart from those in the same industry?
“My products are for décor enthusiasts because not everyone likes to decorate around their houses so I really am working with a very niche market. Apart from that, my pillows are locally made from different fabric. They are comfortable and clients are given an opportunity to choose in which fabric or colour they would like them in. They are also very affordable as we don’t want anyone to be left out of being in a beautiful environment with PillowChick pillows.”
What challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome some of them?
“Being in business is not easy for anyone especially when you have set goals for yourself. There are so many setbacks that comes with wins. My challenges since I have been in business are the work load and the limited time I have, most especially when you have a full-time job. I basically have to live two lives and I have to divide my hours to be able to manage both my roles. At first it was a little difficult but as time goes by I was able to adapt and master it.”
What is your business philosophy?
“Listen to your clients. I always listen to client specifications, because in as much as I am the provider of the service, I am not the one going to use the products. My aim is to beautify your space but at your specifications.”
What advice would you give to someone trying to break into this industry?
“Start with what you have and everything else will fall into place. When I started PillowChick I didn’t have any of what I have now, including my own machine. I constantly had to go up and down to my younger sister to be able to finish orders that were placed.
Also, when starting a business, humble yourself. Do not price your products too high; make them affordable as possible to gain clients. No one would buy something at a high price which they don’t trust. Focus on building relationships with clients. When I started off, I would even give out pillows for free. This way, I could get my products onto the market, for people to experience their quality and affordability.”
How important is networking as a growth component of any startup?
“Networking is very important in every business aspect because this allows you to interact, share ideas and skills from different people.“
What recommendations would you make towards the improvement of the operations of startups?
“I always thought that we as the youth aren’t working together enough as designers to break into the design industry. I have a dream that one day Ramatex will reopen so that it can once again be used as a clothing factory. We would not need to import most of the things we do now because Namibia has got so many talented young individuals who I believe could create a lot of these imported products. If we could work together as youth, we can do great things.”
Startups in Namibia, and all over the world, are facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic; how has your startup adjusted to the situation and/or assisted in disseminating information, combating the spread of the virus, etc.?
“The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t affected my startup much, apart from not getting all the fabric that I need to be able to make the orders placed by my clients. It did, however, keep me on my feet which I am most proud of. I have been making masks since the start of the pandemic and this has helped with the boosting of my brand during the lockdown. I was happy to sign with Ohlthaver & List: Pick n Pay, providing them with masks during this difficult time. I am proud to be associated with one of Namibia’s biggest brands. It’s another achievement and we can only be grateful.
Additionally, I have also been utilising this time to grow my brand as well as myself as an individual, by reading books, watching motivational videos and videos on investment, business and financial management as well as other business ideas I can venture into.”
Starting PillowChick is a moment Julia recalls proudly. At first, she was uncertain about whether she could accomplish it and she had several critics telling her the idea would not work. Despite the odds, she pushed herself and after a little over 6 months of operations, PillowChick Designs found itself on the shelves of Nictus Namibia. Julia dreams of opening a shop of her own in the near future.
In her own words, “I strongly believe this is just the beginning.”
Cell: +26481 376 5169