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Shoes of Flavour: Carien Brewis

A young shoe producer survives the influx of Chinese goods by evolving with the market

Juliet Pitman

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Carien Brews of Shoes of Flavour

When strangers began stopping Carien Brewis in the street to ask her where she purchased her beaded sandals (and in some instances to ask her if they could swap their shoes with hers), the then 22-year-old started thinking business. “The shoes were from Indonesia but I started thinking that if I sold a pair for every time someone stopped to admire them, I’d be able to leave my job and support myself,” says the Cape Town-based entrepreneur.

This is exactly what she did. “I wasn’t enjoying being stuck behind a computer as a graphic designer and I really wanted to be doing something with my hands that contributed to society, so I left my job and started investigating what it would take to make a similar product locally,” she explains.

“Of course I could have simply imported them but it seemed ridiculous to do so when South Africans have such a rich beading heritage. And it was also very important to me from the beginning to create jobs for people,” she adds. After obtaining a list of shoe manufacturers from a raw materials supplier and visiting a host of different factories, it became clear that while making the shoes would be easy, the real challenge was going to lie in finding someone to do the beadwork.

“The shoes had to be beautifully beaded,” says Brewis, who made contact with a woman involved in various community projects in Cape Town’s townships. “She and my mom developed the unique beading technique required for the shoes which involved sewing beads onto fabric as opposed to the traditional bead-on-bead technique,” she explains. “Then we went into Khayelitsha with trestle tables and garden chairs which we set up in an old shebeen to train the beaders.”

At that time, Brewis says she simply wanted to determine if she could make a quality handmade product but she also admits to having had big dreams. “I don’t know why but right from the beginning I had this vision of supplying YDE – I could see the shoes on their shelves,” she says.

So, first sample batch in hand, she secured a meeting with Paul Simon, then-owner of YDE. “He loved the shoes and was so supportive of the idea of a hand-made South African product that created jobs for people. But he said there was a gap between the product I had brought him and the kind of quality that he would want to see on his shelves,” she relates.

Undeterred, Brewis went back to the drawing board to refine her product. “Initially we beaded onto an already-completed shoe but we changed this and started beading on the uppers first and then making up the shoe afterwards,” she explains. The fine-tuning paid off and Simon gave Brewis all the YDE stores. “Our first batch sold out in one weekend,” she recalls.

Shoes of Flavour supplied YDE for four years but as Chinese imports and embellished shoes started flooding the country, market conditions changed and YDE started stocking imported accessories and footwear. “Our shoes were no longer unique and we couldn’t compete with the Chinese on price or supply, so we had to reposition ourselves in the market. Instead of appealing to the mass fashion market, we changed tack and targeted consumers who would value a high quality, handmade, uniquely South African product,” she explains.

The company now supplies boutique stores across the country, including India Jane and Blackbeard & Dare.Looking back on the business journey she’s travelled, Brewis reflects on lessons learned: “In our first season I costed the product completely incorrectly so that while I could pay back my parents the R100, 000 loan they had given me, we didn’t make the kind of profit we should have.

I think it’s a common problem among people in craft industries but you learn pretty quickly as you go along.” About the future she says, “There’s a huge part of the South African market that we haven’t yet tapped into – we have the capacity to break into a much bigger market.” If the past six years are anything to go by, it’s a goal she’s more than capable of achieving.

Contact: +27 21 761 1997, www.shoesofflavour.com

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.

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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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