Spotlight on upcoming South African entrepreneurs: Head Honcho’s Nick Kaoma
Nick Kaoma was born in Qwa Qwa, a rural town in the Free State. He went on to study a Bcomm Accounting but grew impatient at student life and spreadsheets. He envisioned a different future for himself; one where he could use his skills at business to become an entrepreneur and maker of his own destiny.
Now 33, Kaoma is the CEO of Head Honcho, one of the most successful local streetwear brands in the country, with distribution chains that extend to Nigeria and Zambia. The road to success for Kaoma is one that demonstrates the tenacity, willingness to learn and resourcefulness that is necessary for modern day entrepreneurs to cultivate a business while paving the way for future young talent.
Living the hustle
Before Head Honcho and after dropping out of his studies, Kaoma spent most of his time infiltrating the Cape Town fashion and style scene. He attended numerous events including the prestigious Cape Town Fashion Week and the Design Indaba, while networking with media and other designers.
Kaoma supported himself by being a waiter and later as a salesperson at Cape Media before joining Uhuru Communications. His blog writing had attracted their interest and, soon, he was writing features for their Student Choice Publication, leading to a promotion as editor.
Building a brand
After hard work and toil, Head Honcho was started as a lifestyle brand by Kaoma and business partner, Mzoxolo Gcwabe in 2008. Kaoma lamented the lack of representation of hip hop artists, their fans and those who were involved in street culture from big clothing brands. With this in mind, Head Honcho sought out to make themselves true collaborators with the public.
Head Honcho designs, manufactures and markets streetwear clothing that appeals to an urban market that comprises of trend-loving and boundary-pushing young South Africans.
Our mission as a brand is to blaze a new trail, pioneer new fashion techniques and discover new ways of interacting with young urban South Africans. Our objective is not only to produce attractive fashion, but also to ensure that the clothing is embedded with a core underlying message.
- Head Honcho ethos from headhoncho.co.za
By utilising brand ambassadors like hip hop artists, AKA, and Lulo Café and collaborating with Play Energy Drink and Miller’s, the duo were able to turn Head Honcho into a symbol of South African lifestyle and pop culture, becoming more than just a clothing brand.
They went on to become the first local brand to ever be stocked in Shesha and Sportscene throughout South Africa. The clincher came at the first ever South African Hip Hop Awards in 2012, where Head Honcho won six awards. The most notable was King of The Year for their marketing director, Tebello Motsoane, and the Hustler of the Year Award for Nick Kaoma.
Other accolades include Kaoma ranking fourth on the Forbes List of Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa 2014, and making the list of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2013.
Kaoma is a true example of achieving your business objectives by becoming the change you want to see. By working his way up through the often cutthroat fashion world and allying himself with top cultural and musical icons, Head Honcho is a reflection of what people want. Not one to stop there, Kaoma has his own branding and marketing firm called 6th Avenue, furthering his goal for a business empire.