At just 33, businesswoman, fashionista, influencer and socialite, Charity Baaitse, leads a fairytale life; the kind you see in movies or read about in magazines.
She travels to the world’s busiest cities and rubs shoulders with stars so frequently she has lost count. In fact getting an interview with this busy high flyer is on its own fortuitous. Whenever business requires her to travel she grabs the opportunity.
But get it right, Baaitse isn’t just a pretty face, and the travelling and glitz and glamour isn’t just for fun but part of her business engagements.
What most people and her legion of fans are mostly not aware of is that, the soft spoken mother of two is a qualified accountant with a full Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Accounting from the University of Botswana.
Before venturing into entrepreneurship she worked full time in the corporate sector. She worked for Standard Chartered Bank as a compliance officer and later as an investment Banker at African Alliance. Coming from a highly academic family where one was expected to go to school get qualified and work their way up the corporate ladder, Baaitse says her parents expected a lot from her.
But as fate would have it, she grabbed the opportunity to venture fulltime into business and resigned from full time employment a few years later. She is instead making use of the skills and qualifications to grow her businesses. Currently she, together with her husband, runs a number of businesses where she doubles as the administrator and accountant.
Baaitse’s love for beauty and fashion influenced by her international travels and benchmarking made her the centre of attention for local fashion lovers and online followers. Instead of basking in the limelight, she saw this as a business opportunity and Material GirlZ was born. The clothing boutique, which is situated in Phakalane, is what she is popularly known for or even only known for by some (who are unaware of her rich and astute business profile). She says Material GirlZ was initially something she started on the side as a hobby but decided to grow it when its performance improved.
The shop was officially launched in July 2013 and has established itself as fashion hub not only for Botswana fashion lovers but even internationally. Baaitse’s massive presence on social media platforms such as Instagram has endeared her and her fashion line to most including fashion icons ad television personalities across the border.
“Social media has given me a market even outside the country. I have a footprint now in South Africa thanks to Instagram. I dress celebrities; I dress the character Harriet from popular South African soapie the Queen; I dress Mafikizolo and many other people that if it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t have been able to reach,” she said, adding that her followers now trust her eye and taste and it is all thanks to Instagram.
Her love for fashion is something that has always been in existence even before she established Material Girls. “I am a fashion lover; I have always been that girl from a young age,” she said.
Although she was at first modest and shy to proclaim herself an influencer, Baaitse ends up acknowledging that she has quite a following.
“I just don’t like putting it out there that I am an influencer, but I tend to influence people into certain things, especially what I wear and where I go,” she said.
This, she says, has benefitted her in the sense that as a fashion entrepreneur, she has a clothing brand and people respond positively to what she wears and are influenced to buy the brand. As a brand, she gets jobs and endorsements from businesses that want to be associated with her.
On Instagram – a powerful platform for creating visual content for any business – Baaitse has over 150 000 followers on her personal profile and more than 50 000 on a profile dedicated for Material GirlZ.
“I never set out to be that. I was just really being me, doing me and everything else just followed,” she said.
As she continues to spread her wings and explore opportunities especially across the border, her brand is also gaining popularity. Her highlight this year, she says, was getting an invite to the Paris Fashion Week; something she has tried for many years.
“That was a dream I had been pursuing for a long time. As you know it’s not even easy to get an invite to these fashion shows. It is for the elite and people who have big names in the fashion industry. Just being able to sit there and be part of it was a dream come true and what’s amazing is that I was able to show other black girls out there that it’s possible,” she said.
She had previously been rejected by PR agencies of all big brands that she had written to requesting to be invited. Her invite came from Chloe.
“I motivated my request by saying that I think I have young girls who look up to me and I need to show them that it is possible to sit front row and watch a show of that magnitude. We don’t have much to offer, of course. We can’t buy these big names sometimes let alone afford them but it’s possible,” she said.
She, however, bemoans the slow pace that the fashion industry seems to be growing in Botswana. In her view this might be because of the country’s population size which translates into only a small potion being in tune with the latest fashion trends. She also points out that there is also little to non-existent activities held locally that force fashion lovers to come out and play.
“People tend to be discouraged to spend on fashion because they usually don’t have places and events to dress up and go to,” she regrets, saying this is why the local fashion industry sales are continuously low.
Baaitse, however, is not by any chance discouraged. She has big plans for her brand; all motivated by her experiences this year. She plans to conquer Africa and beyond with her designs and take over as much as she can.
Through it all Baaitse says she gets all the support and motivation from her husband who always encourages her to reach the stars.
“My husband would never ask me to stay at home. My husband doesn’t want a housewife. My husband wants a woman who can help him think and push business and help him with ideas. A creative and intelligent wife and that’s what he got,” she declares.
To those who might think this is an easy feat, the fashion mogul has news for them: “It is not easy. You are not going to wake up and be big, it takes work, you are going to be rejected at times, and nothing comes easy. Expect the highs and the lows and the lows are really low,” she says.