Rowina’s Sassy Sunnies – class meets happiness

Boitumelo Maswabi
FASHIONISTA: Rowina

A lifelong obsession with fashion and stylish sunglasses saw Rona ‘Rowina’ Tshiamo launch the Rowina Accessories brand in 2016, cleverly leveraging both social media and lifestyle events to effectively expose her eponymous brand to a much wider market.

Rowina’s marketing strategy isn’t just about selling accessories.

“When you buy sunnies from Rowina, you’re investing in a lifestyle – class meets happiness,” she says.

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In this conversation with Voice Woman, the 42-year-old fashionista gushes about her eye-catching eyewear; how she sets herself apart from competitors, building and growing lasting relationships in the lifestyle industry while also giving back, as she recently raised funds for the Botswana Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted (BABPS).

Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s the story of Rowina Accessories?

My name is Rona ‘Rowina’ Tshiamo.

I was born and bred in Mogoditshane.

I’m now known as Rowina because of the brand itself, which was established in 2016.

Rowina is a lifestyle accessories brand which specializes in a variety of fashion accessories: sunglasses, swimwear, lipstick and we’re looking to venture into flip flops and body lotion and oils, so basically both apparel and beauty products.

Primarily, when we started, we were doing more of African fabrics, clutch bags, bangles and scarves.

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As we evolved and observed what the market demanded, we shifted our focus to sunglasses, sunglasses holders and bracelets.

I have a 9 to 5; I work for an ICT company as a Business Development Executive here in Gaborone and have been there for the longest time, that’s where my brand development and marketing skills emanate.

Where did the inspiration behind the Rowina Accessories come from?

It came from my love for sunglasses; always looking good, and also because I’m a rather shy person thus I tend to hide behind my glasses.

So, what boosts my confidence when talking to someone is knowing that I look presentable and beautiful, that’s when I thought to myself, why not try the selling sunglasses; they complete my style and protect my eyes as well.

I’ve lost count of the sunnies I own, from designer brands to plain ones.

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I believe fashion is not about high-end brands or labels but about making a statement, expressing who you are without saying much.

Your fashion has to speak for you.

I wear spectacles and work in front of the computer for extended periods of time, so this drove my passion to venture into the eyewear market.

I have teamed up with suppliers in China.

We work together to decide on designs and my eyewear range is sourced from the same place where the luxury brand, Dior, gets their designs.

Rowina sunglasses are easy to wear and light, offer UV protection; if you wear non-polarized sunglasses, you’d sometimes experience itchy or teary eyes.

UV protection also ensures clear vision.

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How do you set yourself apart?

I believe in partnerships, because one cannot be an expert at everything so collaborations ensure we tap into each other’s strengths.

What sets my brand apart is affordability and as well; I’m selling what I would wear so I am my own brand ambassador – as I engage with my clients, they get to experience how I put myself together through the events I organize or participate in — that’s what sets me apart.

Again, these are polarized sunglasses.

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I’m basically using my skills to push my brand; I have a Diploma in International Business Relations and Marketing, a Certificate in Crisis Management and another Diploma in Events Management.

Talk to me about the All Denim, Boots, Sneakers and Rowina Sunglasses event and your collaboration with Mo’s Open Table restaurant…

On the 6th of May, we did a fundraising event in partnership with Mo’s Open Table at the Fairscape Precinct.

I came up with an exciting and unique theme, the all denim sneakers and heels; a departure from the usual all-white or all-black themes.

Denim has been trending at the New York Fashion week and the recent African Fashion Week, everyone is donning denim and I thought why not bring the concept here?

The event brought business to his establishment while at the same time promoting my brand and raising funds.

So, my partnership with Mo’s was a win-win.

I donated 30 sunglasses to the Botswana Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted (BABPS) – a not-for-profit organisation that exists to address and represent the needs and interests of persons with visual impairment in Botswana.

Rowina’s Sassy Sunnies - class meets happiness
PROUD: Honoring our pledge to the Botswana Association Of The Blind And Partially Sighted BABPS

There are over 50 thousand blind people in our society and they need sunglasses.

In the past, since 2015, I have supported a number of charities, donated stationery to the less privileged preschoolers, and hampers for the blind society in Mochudi in 2021 after Covid protocols were eased, where I donated toiletries.

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Yours is quite an impressive strategy to market your brand, how has the reception been?

The reception has been amazing.

It’s nice to meet people who recognize me, or the brand, from Facebook.

You have various trendy designs; describe the sort of person you would love to see rocking your sunglasses?

My target market is people who can afford to buy these, are not shy to let their personality shine, anyone outgoing and with a good sense of fashion.

Which frame is your favourite?

I don’t have a favourite.

I wear whatever I feel suits my outfit of the day.

Bamboo, plastic and metal – this combination has been the hottest selling for a while.

It’s currently trending in the USA, as well as the alien chic.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the business so far?

Biggest challenge is people want to take on credit.

My sunnies are very affordable and it beats me why anyone would want to pay P200 over 2 months.

Some want to buy the ones I’m wearing and they might be out of stock.

What advice can you share?

Don’t wait for handouts, use the Internet, network, and ask questions.

Reach out to me and ask, let’s see how we can help each other.

Be open-minded to help others.

I’m not the only one selling sunglasses but you have to define your own market.

What can we expect from Rowina Accessories in the near future?

I’ll be at the upcoming Soul Sundays at the Grand Palm on July 3rd, as well as the Aquatic Lifestyle Cruise event in Kasane next week.

I approached the Kasane boat cruise guys and bought a stall since theirs is a lifestyle event.

I’m planning another event in Mogoditshane slated for September.

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