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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Mzansi’s People: How an online seller found her niche

Nel runs online store that sells unique, festival clothes with a ‘free-spirited vibe’.


Just over two years ago, Tanya Nel scrolled through Facebook, idly passing time in her mom’s car. Little did she know that casual moment would spark the idea that led to the creation of her online store, The Raggle Taggle Gypsy.

Specialising in festival clothing, Nel’s store has become a go-to destination for those seeking unique, affordable, and vibrant attire.

Her journey from working in the family business, travelling the world and to owning her store, is a testament to the power of seizing the right moment.

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“I started this business because I noticed a gap.

“I was browsing Facebook when I saw a post about festival clothing. It struck me that no one in South Africa was offering affordable, off-the-shelf festival clobber,” Nel said.

“There were custom options, but they were expensive and required precise measurements. I wanted to offer something that was flexible, one-size-fits-many, and easy to get your hands on.”

‘I’ve always considered myself a bit of a gypsy’

The Raggle Taggle Gypsy officially launched in 2022, and its curious name was inspired by The Waterboys’ song Raggle Taggle Gypsy.

“I’ve always considered myself a bit of a gypsy,” she said.

“After school, I moved every two years, from London to Cape Town to Port Elizabeth – always restless and eager for new experiences.

“The name felt perfect for my business, reflecting both my personal journey and the eclectic, free-spirited vibe of the clothing that’s become such a big part of my life.”

Finding her calling

A conversation with Nel is like a bolt of energy, inspiration and kindness all rolled into a single moment or seven.

She’s the kind of person who anyone will have a whale of a time watching a rugby match with, but equally as comfortable around a boardroom table and as demanding of admiration and respect.

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It’s not easy to put your finger on it, but Nel’s got positivity engraved on both sides of life’s coin. But before getting into feathers, bikini tops and sheer pants, Nel dabbled in various roles within her family’s business.

“I studied public relations and marketing.

“Whenever I was between jobs, I would help out in the family business, doing everything from reception to marketing. But I never felt like I was truly contributing to the universe in that position. I wanted to do something that felt meaningful.”

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With a bit of savings and a lot of grit, Nel set out on her own.

Initially, she experimented with making pallet wood decor, but it didn’t sell.

“I then moved on to jewellery, which gradually evolved into festival clothing. It was a natural progression, and each step felt like a part of the journey toward finding my niche,” she said.

Not an easy journey

Now, beyond the frequent moving and ants in the pants years, she said she feels far more settled.

It’s not an easy journey, being in business as a sole proprietor and on top of it, selling gear that’s rather seasonal. But that’s what she did.

The festival clothing market is highly seasonal.

“Our busiest times are from the beginning of December to just after Afrikaburn [in the Karoo] in May.

“May is generally the worst month because everything stops after Afrikaburn. To counter this, I incorporated makeup into the store’s offerings. It’s still festival-themed but helps carry us through the quieter months.”

Her biggest fear

She said cash flow was the scariest thing.

“You need money to stock up, but if you don’t have it, what do you do?

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“I’m a bit old school, so I always save extra cash. But at my age, it’s hard to take risks. My biggest fear is customer dissatisfaction. If someone says the product is crap, that terrifies me,” she said.

And while growing her business is a target, she does not want to balloon it out of control.

“I don’t want the business to grow to a point where I’m not writing the thank-you card myself or ensuring everything is perfect,” she said.

“It’s seasonal, so it’s manageable. I’ve tried developing my own stuff, but importing is more cost-effective. I do small stock runs to ensure uniqueness no one wants to see everyone wearing the same pink shirt with tassels at a festival.

“I want people to feel like they can be whoever they want to be. Whether they’re dancing at a festival or just enjoying a sunny day, my clothing is meant to bring joy and freedom.”

Balancing her business with personal life has been challenging, but Nel finds joy in the process.

“Running The Raggle Taggle Gypsy is a labour of love,” Nel shared. “There are days when it’s exhausting, but the positive feedback from customers makes it all worthwhile. Seeing photos of people enjoying their festival outfits is incredibly rewarding.”

While The Raggle Taggle Gypsy is doing well, Nel supplements her income with other work.

“I do marketing, social media, Google ads, and Google Analytics. If the business doubled, I could focus solely on it. That’s the goal. But for now, I’m working both.”

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