Sihlesenkosi Majola, a former Durban law student has just sold his online art marketplace Wezart to Precious Moloi-Motsepe’s fashion company African Fashion International (AFI) for an undisclosed amount.
Majola made the announcement in a statement last Wednesday (29 January), saying AFI’s acquisition of his startup is part of a strategic plan by Moloi-Motsepe’s firm to become a digital hub for Africa’s creative industry.
According to him, he met Moloi-Motsepe while he was at a panelist at the WEF Forum in Cape Town in September last year.
“She (Moloi-Motsepe) told me she was looking for a platform that sells artworks and wanted to acquire it (Wezart),” said Majola, who has since moved from Durban to Johannesburg to work more closely with AFI.
Majola did not reveal the amount he sold his startup to Precious Moloi-Motsepe, however, he said the startup was generating about R200 000 in annual sales at the time of the acquisition and had five permanent employees, including himself.
At the time of the acquisition there were 200 artworks from 65 artists on the platform, he added.
AFI will formally introduce Wezart.co.za during AFI Fashion Week in Cape Town on 11 March through an auction that will be hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Sihlesenkosi Majola, a former law student at the University of Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal, founded the platform in 2016 as what he calls “a passion project”.
While he was studying law, he discovered his passion for computers after continually finding himself spending time in the university’s computer lab. A fellow university student at an entrepreneurship organisation at his university later asked him to help start Picadoo, a platform that linked hairstylists with customers.
Two more founders later joined, before the business shut in 2017 after the four founders split, affording Majola more time to spend on developing Wezart. He soon hired a developer, curator and marketing representative.
Today, Wezart platform is a win-win situation for the sellers — local artists — and the buyers, who are often locals themselves, many from the country’s rising black middle-class.
Majola points out that the country’s growing black middle class is fueling local art purchases, which he says have grown at 28% over the last decade, compared to just 10% globally.
Despite this growth, expensive art works and prohibitive gallery fees act as a barrier for many local artists and these new up and coming art buyers, he says.
On the one hand, artists often battle to get their works into galleries, which can typically take 40% on each sale an artist concludes. Wezart in comparison takes just 15%.
On the other side, art buyers often find gallery prices beyond their reach, often in the tens of thousands of rands. Art works on Wezart however sell for a far lower price — typically between R1500 and R6000.
Like this, Majola points out that his platform is helping the growing number of black middle-class buyers find better priced African art works.