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Croft & Co: Grant Ravenscroft

A former restaurateur opens an exclusive retail store and taps into a lucrative market

Juliet Pitman

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Grant Ravesncroft of Croft & Co

Grant Ravenscroft is a self-confessed shopaholic. “I love buying exclusive goods,” says the Johannesburg entrepreneur. It’s a passion he’s recently turned into a thriving business with the launch of exclusive men’s (and more recently women’s) Croft & Co gift stores in the city’s upmarket suburb of Parkview.

Ravenscroft is better known in the area for his restaurant, Scusi’s, (something of an institution among locals) and this latest venture has taken him into unchartered waters. “It’s been an interesting journey,” he says, “and not without its challenges. But I believed in the concept from the start and even when some people told me it wouldn’t work, I knew that it could be successful.”

The original men’s Croft & Co store sells exclusive high-end goods, 50% of which are not available anywhere else in South Africa.“Our product ranges include Jack Spade, Vilebrequin, Art of Shaving as well as Mont Blanc, Dunhill and Ravenscroft Crystal, to name but a few,” says Ravenscroft.

In getting the product mix right he admits that he conducted very little market research; “I just included those products that I personally would like to buy,” he says. It’s a simple philosophy but one that has clearly worked; the store has become a destination for well-heeled shoppers looking not only for exclusive items, but also for an exclusive shopping experience.

“I think what works about the Croft & Co stores is that they give people the experience of luxury and exclusivity. People shop here because they want to feel spoiled, or because they want to spoil someone with a high-end gift, but it’s also about more than just the item they buy.

For example, they can buy a Mont Blanc pen at a stationery shop elsewhere in South Africa, but they don’t get the same shopping experience that they would coming into one of our stores where they are surrounded by a range of other exclusive goods. The store itself is a destination and people feel spoiled when they come to it – it’s not just what they can get there,” he explains.

Selecting the right products to stock might have been relatively simple, but getting the brands to agree to come into the store was anything but, as Ravenscroft relates. “A lot of these exclusive brands wouldn’t contemplate coming into a street-side store.

They have rules about where their brands can be placed and many of them dictate that it can only be in a shop in an upmarket mall, or at an airport, for example.”It took some tough negotiating to convince them that Croft & Co was the right store for their product, as he explains:“It’s something of a catch 22 situation because you need to get certain brands on board before others will follow suit.

In the early days before the store was even open I was selling people an idea and had to convince them that the store would be ideally suited to their brand. It took time to build up those supplier relationships.”Relationships – with suppliers and customers – have proved to be central to the success of the Croft & Co stores.

“I believe that all good business is built on relationships and at Croft & Co it’s especially important to build relationships with customers. Personalised service contributes a large part of the exclusive shopping experience,” says Ravenscroft, who will personally deliver items to customers if necessary.

“It also helps with word of mouth marketing, which drives all our new business,” he continues. “When we opened the men’s store, 80% of our customers were actually women, and we knew that if we were able to give them a personalised service, they would not only return to the store but they’d spread the word among their friends. Pretty soon, many of them were asking why we didn’t stock women’s products and this led to the launch of the women’s boutique,” he explains.

Relationships with what is a niche group of people have also helped Ravenscroft to grow the corporate gifting side of the business, which currently makes up 25% of turnover. “The people who are shopping at our stores – or receiving gifts from them – are often the same people who occupy top positions in business and when they wanted gifts that were differentor a cut above the rest, they started coming to us.

The corporate gifting side of things is going well but it’s also an area we’d like to grow,” he says.Looking to the future, Ravenscroft is cautious about expansion plans: “This is not a volume game and we don’t want –or need – to open 20 stores across the country.

We’d lose our exclusivity. So we’d like to consolidate the model and maybe open a store in Cape Town but at the moment, we’re pretty happy with what we’ve achieved. We’re one of a kind in South Africa and our success to date in what was a completely untested market is something of which we’re extremely proud.”

Contact: +27 11 646 3634; grant@croftandco.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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