While we can’t deny the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on people’s health and livelihoods, it’s also had a positive impact on driving ecommerce and innovation in South Africa and abroad. In a previous case study, we showcased how a couple successfully launched an online store in March 2020 during hard lockdown to secure their livelihoods and to help other small businesses who faced uncertainty. What follows here is the story of another home-grown startup that came out of the pandemic.
Zahraa Suleman is a young physiotherapist who is fulfilling her two passions in life, working with patients by day to complete her community service, and with fabric by night to stock her online store, Scrubd.
Helping others, particularly in the field of neurological rehabilitation and paediatrics, has always been Zahraa’s dream as she enjoys assisting people and seeing the positive results of her efforts. When the opportunity presented itself to launch her own online store in February 2021 and turn her love of sewing into an official side-hustle, she was excited at the prospect of helping healthcare workers by offering them unique, durable and affordable medical scrubs.
“Using my mother’s sewing machine, I learnt how to sew during the first lockdown and experimented with different fabrics, styles and clothing items. I love sewing and designing scrubs because of its space for creativity and expressing your own unique style while staying cool and comfortable,” said Zahraa.
Turning a hobby into a business
While the COVID-19 pandemic definitely fast-tracked Zahraa’s business idea, Scrubd was born from a vision she had years before when as a student she wished for unique and affordable scrubs that allowed her to express herself and treat her patients comfortably.
“In university, one of our main complaints as physiotherapy students was that our scrubs would often rip down the seam while treating a patient. Most, if not all of our scrubs felt restrictive and didn’t allow us to really express our individuality because we had to wear blue ones,” said Zahraa.
“I decided to search for more unique scrubs that I could wear after I graduated. I started searching for scrubs with different patterns, colours and textures. However, the scrubs were either not affordable, not unique or didn’t fit well. This is when I decided to make my own scrubs and Scrubd was born,” continued Zahraa.
With a medical background, Zahraa had no experience in running a business or didn’t even know anyone else who had started their own business. She overcame this obstacle by researching what was needed to start a new business, including setting up an ecommerce website and payment gateway, and creating a brand and vision that could communicate her story.
When it came to selecting a payment gateway, PayFast was Zahraa’s first choice because of how easy it was to set up. “PayFast makes the merchant setup process simple, it’s quick to sign up online and it only takes a few days to get verified,” said Zahraa.
“PayFast is the number one payment solution in South Africa and it shows; so far my experience using the online payment solution has been great. I still remember the very first sale going through and then contacting the client to ask them how the experience was. All around it’s pretty slick and exactly how a good payment process should be,” continued Zahraa.
Locally sourced products and materials
One of the main objectives of Scrubd is to provide affordable and unique scrubs to all healthcare workers in South Africa and beyond. All of the materials Zahraa uses have been handpicked and locally sourced to assist with local business growth and to ensure good quality, durability, flattering fit and ease of movement at affordable prices. “Not to mention, the styles and patterns make you look and feel good while at the frontline,” said Zahraa.
“Scrubs form a large and understated role in a healthcare worker’s day, especially now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. I noticed an increasing need for healthcare workers to express themselves and bring some joy to the long and arduous hospital shifts; this is why I’m continuously updating my online store with various designs,” continued Zahraa.
The Scrubd offering is continuously growing, and they now offer scrub sets, scrub caps, embroidery and even disposable face masks – all with nationwide delivery.
“As Scrubd is committed to providing affordable and unique items, there are also plans to collaborate more with other local sellers so that we can expand our range and provide our customers with a truly tailored, proudly South African experience,” said Zahraa.
Onwards and Upwards
When Zahraa started Scrubd, she was initially only selling scrub tops to close friends and other healthcare workers who had seen her scrub designs on other healthcare professionals. Now she’s selling her products online to a national market.
“At Scrubd there will always be room for uniqueness, affordability and inclusivity. We want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported Scrubd so far, including PayFast who contributed to making the payment process on the Scrubd website so easy,” said Zahraa.
“My advice to other people starting an online store is don’t be afraid to start. It sounds simple but it worked for me! Starting a business can be daunting, but learning as you go means you develop skills that you will use for the rest of your life,” concluded Zahraa.
PayFast has helped thousands of people like Zahraa turn their passion into a successful side hustle. To find out how PayFast can help you get paid online, visit www.payfast.co.za.