Medical Doctor, Entrepreneur and Designer: A Thursdate with Dr. Felicia Tshite-Molamu - The Dream Doctor
"If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice...and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, you can be as great as you want to be."
- Vince Lombardi
Our Thursdate for this week is a woman who embodies all the above qualities and many more. Dr. Felicia Tshite-Molamu (also known as the Dream Doctor) is more than a dreamer; she is a great example of what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur - passion, hard work, sacrifice, determination, risk-taking and facing challenges head on. This is her journey to entrepreneurship:
What do you do?
I used to introduce myself as a Doctor but now I introduce myself as an entrepreneur. I am upcoming, industrialist and I happen to have a medical background. Best of all, I am the CEO and Founding Designer of Dream Doctor Collection.
Dream Doctor Collection
Dream Doctor Collection is a fashion design and manufacturing lab that makes scrubs for medical practitioners. I started all my designs from just passion – I wanted to look inspired, different and fashionable at work. Initially I did it for myself and now I am doing it for everyone else in my line of work. At the moment, we design and manufacture our garments but a small scale because we’re a start-up company.
What makes Dream Doctor Collection different?
The current scrubs on the market are the same old designs that have existed for centuries, but they are now more colourful. They are laid-back, easy to wear and unisex. Most ladies don't feel feminine in them. They are designed for everyone in the hospital, from the patient to the Doctor. Someone like me, who is fuelled by a proper image, needs more than a comfortable boyish look. I created what I needed, which is a feminine and fashionable yet comfortable and professional look. It was interesting to discover that there are more "me's" at work. Doctor Collection scrubs different because they’re; fashionable, well-fitted, come in different styles and colours. We also pay careful attention to comfort and detail, for instance, we frequently make use of pockets and sleeves detail. We also allow our clients to customise their scrubs.
I started with 12 styles for my first collection because that’s the normal size of a collection but my passion for creating new styles and designs has lead up to me having 50 styles. I had to stop myself from creating more styles for this collection. My clients can choose from the 50 styles in the collection and customise them by choosing their own colour combinations. They usually get very excited because each medical practitioner has a different design style.
We have three product lines:
- Scrubs, formerly known as Silver: made for medical students in theatre, trauma, ICU and on call.
- Health wear, formerly known as Gold: made for medical practitioners in private rooms, outpatient departments, ward rounds and clinic days.
- Corporate health wear, formerly known as Platinum: made for the medical practitioners who are specialists, the divas of medicine.
My other differentiator is branding; my scrubs are not just scrubs, they are a trademarked brand and they’re my baby so I want to make sure that they’re worn with style and pride. That’s why my branding is visible on the outside of the scrubs. Dream Doctor Collection is an aspirational brand that adds value; we’re pro quality and we want our clients to feel special. There will always be competition in any market; there will be people who try to do what you do but they cannot duplicate or copy ‘your brand’.
Starting your own business
The answer to why you should start your own business usually comes in stages but there’s always a defining moment. When I connect the dots, my defining moment was in 2013 when I got my registrar post to do my Masters in Head and Neck Surgery. “I felt like, I can’t go into theatre everyday looking like this, these scrubs are not inspiring for me”. I wanted to look good every day. People generally have things that make them tick and for me it’s how I look. It doesn’t matter whether it is a watch, clothing, lipstick or hair – I want to look at myself and like what I see. Back then I’d walk into the hospital looking good then when it came time to go to the theatre I’d have to put on scrubs that made me feels like running away. I didn’t want to run away so I decided to run my own business.
Love at first style
The initial process of creating my first scrubs was interesting because I don’t have a fashion or design background. But what I do remember is that “growing up my mother was stylish and she loved dressing me up in clothes from boutiques” and my love for looking good kicked in from there.
The first time I walked into a fabric shop to buy myself fabric ‘it was love at first sight, it was so exciting’. Instead of spending an hour, I ended up spending the whole day at the shop. I was one of the last people to leave. I was walking around with a big smile, touching things and visualising what I could do with the different fabric. I had never done that before.
From sketch to fashion
After buying the fabrics, I looked for inspiration from the things that I love and I started sketching my first design. I was inspired by everything around me, from old outfits to my favourite outfits. Thereafter, I took my sketch to a tailor and I ended up having to pay more than I expected because of the details on my design. Although I was used to paying the normal R250 for traditional scrubs, I didn’t mind paying a bit more for the type of scrubs I wanted. After some tweaking, my first design came to life, then the second and third followed. My colleagues then started noticing and asking me for orders but at the time I wasn’t ready to share my designs.
Medicine meets business
After wearing my own designs a few more times, I got obsessed with seeing how people react to my different outfits. I got a lot of interest from colleagues but I initially stalled. After some careful thought, I decided to put the Wits business degree that I acquired after my community service to good use. Apart from my one month in corporate medicine, I had no business experience. Merging business and fashion was a good project for me.
Eventually, I decided to start my own business however I was about to write my speciality primary exams so I had to juggle a new business, work, family and studying. I remember how I stayed up most of those nights with my medical books on one side and my business project on the other. I did that for 3 months and I passed my primaries in March 2014, passing was a sign that I was meant to do both speciality medicine and my own business.
I then went on get a full time Tailor, completed all my 12 designs and started my website. I was officially open for business. When I needed someone to model Dream Doctor Collection, I wanted it to be a Doctor but I hated being in front of the camera. After some though, I decided who better to represent the brand than me. Every time I’d meet up with colleagues I was like a walking billboard for my business. Every time they’d ask me where I got such fashionable scrubs I’d give them my business card. In May 2014 when my business finally took off, it was like the beginning of my life. Shortly after my business received some media coverage.
Difficult decisions: medicine vs. business
I love medicine, it is more than a career, it is a calling but I felt like I was loving entrepreneurship more. I am an Entrepreneur, a Doctor, a wife and a mother so my responsibilities were increasing with time. I had to make one of the most difficult decisions; I took a leap of faith and decided to prioritise my business a lot more.
Late in May this year, I made a decision to leave my job in Cape Town and I moved back to Midrand to give my family more time as a mother and I guess my business a chance.
I love being an entrepreneur
What I love most about being an entrepreneur is ‘freedom, freedom and more freedom’. If freedom was bottled and sold, I would buy it. Being an entrepreneur allows me the freedom to be me. I don’t have to report to anyone that I can’t make it to work and at the same time the drive to grow is more when you are running your business.
Entrepreneurship and time
As an entrepreneur, you have more than 24 hours and your business has unlimited access to your time. You are always happy to wake up at any given time and work. I don’t mind waking up at 2am to work on my brand. In fact, I always have my sketch book by my bedside and I wake up at odd hours to work on my business. The knowledge that you’re investing in your very own legacy and empire, which you can leave behind for your children is fulfilling. You can never have such fulfilment as when you create your own business. You fall in love with what you do - no one has to push you to do anything.
What are your current challenges?
I personally don’t like stress so I deal with potential stressors rather quickly. That being said, one of my challenges is sourcing the fabric that we want in the colours that we want. As a start-up company, we cannot buy in large quantities like the big boys in the industry so at times we’re limited by availability of certain colours of fabrics. We want to give our clients exactly what they want, from colour to style so colour and fabric shortages sometimes come in the way of that and we’re working on closing that gap.
My plan is to make my products proudly South African, from start to finish. Ideally, I would like to use only fabric that is made in South Africa or better yet manufacture my own fabric.
Advice to other entrepreneurs
Leaving a stable career can never be easy, you will always wonder whether you will make it or not. Have a story, learn from it and be brave enough start. Mind your own business, enjoy your own space and the quiet moments - quite moments can inspire you to greatness. Also, self-introspection is key, you need to know what you want and when you find it you will feel instant peace. When people echo negativity or words like ‘impossible’, ignore them. There are times that require you to switch off your head and just follow your heart. Be willing to collaborate and share your vision with others; there’s more than enough for every entrepreneur.
Want to get down to business? Want your business to operate on your terms? At Storehouse, we’re all about making your business easy to start and grow. Send us your details and we'll help you find the right office, workshop, showroom, studio, storage and parking space for your business.