Valerie Pole’s inspiration for Beautiful Bracelets started off as a hobby making bracelets for friends, but it wasn’t long before the budding entrepreneur realised the idea could grow into something more.
Beautiful Bracelets was born when Pole entered 702 presenter Bruce Whitfield’s R1 000 Start-up Challenge. Chosen as a listener entry, Pole was given R1 000 and a challenge to turn a profit within six weeks.
First, she set up a free website through wozaonline.co.za and established a blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
She employed her first staff member in the first week and the second in week two, paying R10 per bracelet. Creating employment is one of her key drivers, and the more bracelets she sells, the more women she can employ.
Pole invested the full R1 000 in materials, and then personally visited retailers instead of phoning, convincing them to list the bracelets. Her extensive church network of 5 000 people was her initial target market, and she sold her first bracelet to a patient in a doctor’s waiting room.
“I told them to look at the website on their smartphone and by the time I came out of the doctor’s room they had made a purchase.” With no budget for online advertising, Pole leveraged her considerable Facebook network to drive awareness and taught herself to develop a Twitter following.
“The logistics side of the business needed some careful thought,” she says. “I didn’t want to charge too much but I had to ensure that the products were delivered.” For deliveries under R500 she charges a R30 delivery fee, subsidising the other R70. “Orders over R500 are free and this incentivises bigger orders.”