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JBSA Fashion Consulting: Jocelyne Philippe

A French entrepreneur makes good in South Africa with the launch of an imported European fashion brand.

Juliet Pitman

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Jocelyne Philipp of JBSA Fashion Consulting

Importing and distributing an overseas product might sound like an easy way to get started as an entrepreneur, but there are many who have tried and failed, and who will attest to the challenge involved in making it happen.

There’s the marketing of an unknown product to consider and relationship-building with both producers and retailers, not to mention the minefield that is importing. But in spite of these challenges, there are those who get it right, like Jocelyne Philippe, exclusive importer of the Bensimon fashion label to South Africa.

Drawing on past experience

Donning the Bensimon clothing label she’s brought to our shores, Philippe is the picture of cool, casual French chic. But beneath the style and sophistication lies a hard-nosed businesswoman with a wealth of fashion industry experience who’s determined to make a success of the brand in South Africa.

After working in various positions for major brands like Levi Europe, Billabong Europe, Polo, Ralph Lauren Paris and Lee Cooper Paris, Philippe took the leap into starting her own business when she opened a Bensimon boutique in Biarritz in her native France.

“Although the Bensimon brand is well known in France and Europe there was nothing like it in Biarritz, which is an up-market weekend destination on the west coast of France – much like Knysna. I saw a gap for the brand and approached Bensimon to secure the rights to open a shop there,” she explains.

Securing local market rights

When her husband was relocated and she moved with her family to South Africa, Philippe sourced a top-end manager to continue to run the French store, which she still owns. But it wasn’t long before she started looking at the South African market with a similar eye for opportunity and realised that Bensimon would fill a gap here as much as it has done in Europe.

She explains: “Bensimon is a ready-to-wear lifestyle range of stylish clothing and accessories that is based on casual comfort and an easy, understated style. The range is known for the quality of the natural fabrics it uses, which include silks, linen, wool and bamboo material.

It targets everyone from children right up to 60 year-olds so it has enormous scope. The prices reflect the quality, but they are not outrageous.” With a strong conviction that the South African market would be receptive to such a brand, Philippe set to work conducting market research and putting together a business plan, strategy, figures and a proposal to take to Bensimon in Paris.

Excited about the opportunity that South Africa presented and confident in Philippe’s proven ability to make their brand work, the company awarded her exclusive importing rights.

Gearing up, getting out there

This is when the work really began in earnest. While Bensimon might be well established in Europe, local boutique retailers (Philippe’s first route to market) had to be sold on the idea of stocking it. This meant an exhaustive round of cold calling and relationship-building – in the middle of a recession, arguably not the best time to be punting an up-market fashion label.

But there were things working in her favour, as Philippe explains, “Fortunately, there is a story to be told about the brand, which was started 25 years ago by the Parisian Bensimon family. This, together with its success in Europe, made selling the idea easier.

And because the brand is new, boutiques felt that stocking it would give them a differentiator,” she says. In a relatively short space of time, Philippe went from zero to 20 retail outlets in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Drawing on importing experience gained while working for a Belgian garden and outdoor company when she first arrived in South Africa, Philippe contracted a local importing and logistics company to manage the many challenges of importing. “There is so much red tape and you have to get someone who knows exactly what they are doing,” she advises.

Building awareness, looking ahead

She also hired High Pitch Media to build awareness of the brand in the South African market. “In a short space of time, they’ve gained Bensimon exposure in local fashion publications such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Marie Claire,” she says. Retailers report that sales are picking up and the brand is gaining traction.

“My next step is to open a boutique for the brand, and to take on a business partner with local fashion industry experience,” says Philippe. It’s early days and Bensimon might be a brand you haven’t heard of yet, but Philippe is working furiously to change that.

“I think I got into the market at the right time. There is increasing international interest in the South African market and we’ve established a foothold for Bensimon before the flood of other brands arrives. There’s still much to be done but the future’s looking good,” she says.

JBSA Fashion Consulting
Player: Jocelyne Philippe
Est: 2008
Contact: +27 11 513 3000
www.bensimon.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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