In 2017 Anele started the brand as passion project while she was living in China. The niche brand has developed into a full-time business with growing demand for its products.
Anele and her three sisters were raised by their mother in Montclair, where she attended Mowat Park High. She then attended Rhodes University, where she completed a Bachelor of Earth Sciences degree.
The name ‘Mare & Itis’ has its origins in Anele’s student days at Rhodes. She explains, ‘Mare’ is word students at Rhodes use to meaning a fun time. ‘Itis’ is used to describe that sleepy feeling one gets after eating a large meal; “magie vol, ogies toe”. I decided to put these two concepts together to create something that is quint essentially me. I love a good time and I love food.”
After completing her degree, Anele volunteered for Greenpeace Africa. She says, ‘The most memorable part of this journey was on board the Rainbow Warrior: I learnt so much from sailing with an eclectic and multinational crew.”
ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS
In 2016 Anele moved to Harbin, one of the most northerly cities in China, which as it is situated near Siberia has long and freezing winters. The temperature can reach a very low -40 degrees centigrade.
During this time, Anele was using Chinese products for her skin and hair care until she developed allergic reactions to these including her hair starting to fall out. In addition, Anele found it difficult to find suitable cleaning products especially as she was unable to read the labels on the products she was using. This is when, Anele explained, she decided to make her own cleaning products using all natural ingredients.
The first product was the prototype for the popular Zesty Kitchen cleaner, which she made from vinegar and lemon. The small business grew from there with requests from friends to make additional products. Countless hours of research led her to a love for essential oils and natural products.
Anele then moved to Wuqing, a small district in Tianjin, where she worked long hours as a Montessori English teacher and training coordinator. However, the demand for her products grew and she started selling them in a local market as well as online.
ALL OR NOTHING
In 2020 Anele’s visit to South Africa for a wedding – with one suitcase – coincided with outbreak of Covid which meant that she was unable to return to China. This also mean that she needed to focus on her fledgling business in order to earn an income.
“The year 2020 will always remain a significant year for me and for the brand. It was all or nothing, and I have learnt so much about entrepreneurship and resilience,” explained Anele. The online business has now grown into a range of 45 products including essential oils, linen, and room sprays without alcohol as well as candles and diffusers.
Mare & Itis Shoppe is inspired by everything natural. “The products are non-toxic, eco-conscious as well as cruelty-free. I use plant-based ingredients which are biodegradable.” In order to be sustainable all products are supplied in glass bottles, which are reused when returned to her.
As a ‘garage’ business Anele is responsible for all aspects of the day to day running. She formulates and tests all products, does the packaging, runs accounts as well as handles all logistics and social media marketing. Apart from her online store, Anele has a number of instore stockists around the country.
JUST DO YOUR BEST
In speaking of who inspires her Anele says that she loves listening to podcasts including those by Oprah and interior decorator Karin Bohn. She added that she is inspired by her partner who is also an entrepreneur. Anele commented, “However it’s the day-to-day people that are trying to just make things work, the people who just do their best who inspire me the most.”
A major challenge in her entrepreneurial journey is that she has not had any funding and has had to rely on her own resources. Other challenges included, “Surviving through Covid which was a major challenge especially as being a non-essential business I experienced shortages in packaging. The rand price and the economy are a constant challenge!”
However, she believes that her success has been based on her perseverance as well as being consistent. “It’s important to keep up the same pace no matter what ’waves’ you face,” said Anele.
FOLLOW THE DREAM
Looking to the future, Anele has set huge goals for herself. As she is really proud of her products and would like to showcase them in the UAE, Anele has obtained an export/ import licence. However, in order to follow her dream, she would have to increase the production of her products substantially.
Her advice to young people considering an entrepreneurial journey would be to ‘just start’. “You can learn as you go and figure things out. But you need to set goals for yourself. I am constantly pushing myself to achieve and set new goals at the beginning of each year and again every three months.”
In her free time, Anele makes sure to keep both her brain and her hands busy. She enjoys listening to podcasts and reading and loves to sew, knit as well as spends time at the gym and enjoys a regular 5km walk on the Durban promenade every Sunday.