Introduce yourself, what is the nature of your business?

My name is Romona Mahadeo and together with my daughter Kiara Mahadeo, we have built the Girltivity brand. Our mission is to inspire and empower girls aged 3 to12 through a monthly subscription ‘STEAMED UP’ box.

STEAMED UP’ stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, Design, Understanding and Practice.

The Girltivity Box includes a 24-page Girltivity Activity Book highlighting a fearless female role model’s unique story, with 5 to 10 hands-on ‘STEAMED UP’ activities. Also included is a creative play prop, a featured character trait that helped her succeed, practical tips for parents to nurture that trait, experiments, games, collectables, age appropriate gifts plus so much more.

Romona Mahadeo
Romona Mahadeo (right) and daughter Kiara Mahadeo (left) Girltivity co-founders

What inspired the launch of your business?

Girltivity is about teaching South African girls between the ages of 3 to 12 about important women in history who excelled in STEM fields. With the hope that we will encourage them to pursue opportunities in STEM-related fields.

I am a mother of 2 daughters so I know how important it is to introduce girls as early as possible to a “I can do it!” mindset.  We want children to have fun and be happy today and we are passionate about allowing them to develop into curious and critical thinking people tomorrow. Developing confident, fearless and unique superheroes.

How did you know there was a market for it?

When Kiara was 5 years old, she was curious about who the first South African female in space was. I told her there has been no South African female that has been to space. She excitedly replied, “We have to tell all the girls that they can do it. They can be the first in space.”

The more I researched female role models, women in STEM constantly popped up. I reviewed statistics about women and I was disappointed. I was determined to teach my daughters more about STEM while celebrating women who made the world better.

Girls have been changing the world for pretty much forever, history has seldom ever given girls the credit for some of the most incredible achievements made.

Even today:

  • From primary to high school girl’s self-esteem and confidence drops 3.5 times more than boys.
  • Women hold less than 23% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs.
  • Women hold only 15-25% of TOP decision-making positions.
  • Only 3% of female driven Start-ups are funded.

Research has shown that girls in a girls-only school were stronger, confident and more capable of becoming leaders. Seeing the key roles such as principal, head of departments and teachers were held by females, inspired the girls to succeed.

I searched for a product that taught kids about stem and female history in a fun kid friendly way. I could not find it. My daughter and I started compiling boxes for home use. We knew we must tell all the girls about the fun ‘STEAMED UP’ activities and fearless female role models.

I was passionate to challenge the mindset of our next generation. This is how we created the Girltivity ‘STEAMED UP’ box (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, Entrepreneurship, Design, Understanding and Practice)

How did you raise start-up capital?

Funding a start-up was challenging. As a family, we had to cut out luxuries and make many sacrifices to fund this passion project that led to the brand you see today. The Girltivity brand was too important. It is life changing.

Describe your business model and how you make money?

Our business is based on a subscription model. A subscription-based model charges a customer a recurring fee (typically monthly or yearly) to access a product or service. A subscription box is a recurring delivery of niche-oriented products, packaged as an experience and designed to offer additional value on top of the actual retail products contained in a box.

What challenges have you faced and how did it overcome them?

Fear was a big one for me. Helping a 7-year-old child to start a business was scary. At first, I was scared to be judged. I questioned if South Africa was even ready for a girl brand inspiring girls to be empowered. The more I worked on building the brand, the more inspired I was by the female role models and their stories that Girltivity was highlighting. I was passionate to tell the world. Girltivity was here and ready to change the leadership landscape of South Africa and globally for all girls.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Personally, it was making a 7-year-old child’s dream come true. To see Kiara gleam with joy and become speechless as an illustrator brought the characters from her imagination to life. It was the most amazing feeling that made jumping over every obstacle worthwhile. Getting the nod of approval from Kiara was huge as it confirmed we really did it!

It was a few hours of going live, we actually started selling our awesome boxes and was just so proud of what we achieved. The positive feedback from everyone was overwhelming. I had this oh so real moment when a group of mums at my daughters’ school approached me to congratulate me on our start-up. We were literally in tears and in awe of the impact that this brand can positively have on our children. I could just see the confident 20 something-year-olds that the little girls in our arms will one day become. I was blown away.

Which technology has made the biggest difference in your business?

I work with a small freelancing team of consultants, and it is important for us to all be on the same page and keep track of tasks. We recently started using a free tool called Asana, a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. It has been a great help in making sure my team and I stay on top of our deadlines and to do lists. 

What marketing strategy has proven profitable for your business?

Honestly, I believe the one thing that has saved the brand the most money was done at early inception of the brand. We chatted to a few marketing and research specialists from different cities and countries. Each specialist had a unique view of the brand. They helped us understand how our brand will be seen and perceived by our customers. We discussed the name of the brand, colour pallets, design of the box and wording. This was done even before going into production.

Our marketing strategy has always been to tell people our story. To impact, as many families as possible. To help them understand the importance of stem and creating female leaders from early on.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Thinking I can do everything by myself. I had to learn to trust a team with not just business but with my family. The brand is evolving at a rapid speed. The demand and reach are on a global platform. I actively teach Kiara to delegate. To use her time and creative energy wisely.

Please share your business website and social media links…

@Girltivity on Facebook and Instagram

Author Muzi Mohale

Welcome to where I showcase small beginnings to inspire the next entrepreneur in you. It's a journey worth tapping into, many life lessons get to be experienced, money made and money lost...You're welcome to share your entrepreneurship journey with my audience.

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