There may be doom and gloom surrounding theSouth African textile and clothing manufacturing industry, but a pair of youngentrepreneurs are proving the pessimists wrong. Through their innovative onlinecompany, Springleap.com, Eric Edelstein and Eran Eyal are simultaneouslyboosting the South African textile industry, giving designers much-neededexposure and a passive income stream – and making money for themselves.
Springleap’s unique business model revolvesaround an interactive website that allows aspiring designers to submit theirdesigns for t-shirts. These are available to view on the website and Springleapregistered users vote for their favourite designs online each month. Thewinning designer receives a cash prize of over R7 000, one of each of the 24t-shirts designs of that month, limited edition posters of their work, varioussponsored prizes and Springleap prints a run of t-shirts with their design onthe front and their name on the back. In addition, they earn money each timeone of their t-shirts is sold, providing them with a recurring passive incomestream. “From the designer’s point of view, all of this gives them fantasticexposure, and, because the website is interactive, the public posts comments oneach of the designs, giving the artist direct feedback on what works and whatdoesn’t,” says Eyal.
Each month, the t-shirts of winners andrunners-up (24 new designs in total) are sold through partner stores that enjoyexclusivity on the designs for a 30-day period. “Each month, a new competitionstarts and any t-shirts that have not been sold are taken back by Spring-leapand then sold to approved vendors or directly through the website itself,”explains Eyal. The beauty of the model, he adds, is that Springleap is printingdesigns that the public has specifically indicated they like. “This means wehave a captive market that has voted for designs and is then able to go outdirectly and purchase them,” he says. Garment quality has played an importantrole in the success of the business and further increased the desirability ofthe t-shirts. “We only source the best South African cotton and yarn for thet-shirts, which means that we end up with a 100% South African export qualityproduct that has a unique local design on it and that people will want to buyand wear,” he explains. It also means that retail outlets that sell thet-shirts are able to move these local products off their shelves quickly.“We’re hoping all this proves that the local garment manufacturing industry issustainable and can compete with internationally imported items,” says Eyal.
He speaks from first-hand experience. Theidea for Springleap came about after Eyal and Edelstein opened up a chain offashion-and-coffee boutiques, known as E2, in Cape Town and Durban. “Some ofour stock was coming in from overseas but we battled to get good qualityt-shirts and many of the designs were not authentic. At the same time, we knewmany local artists who had some brilliant designs but of course were not ableto carry the cost of manufacturing a range of t-shirts themselves,” heexplains. Because the industry works on a consignment basis, a healthy cashflow, wide range of designs and deep print run is needed to create asustainable t-shirt manufacturing business. Eyal continues: “It’s clearly notviable for a struggling individual artist but we realised that we could createa platform that would allow us to access great designs, sell high qualityt-shirts that the public had said they wanted to buy, give exposure and incometo the artists and boost a flagging local garment industry. It’s a win-winsituation all round!” They knew that the key to the success ofthe venture would lie in being able to channel traffic through the website.Fortunately, Edelstein is an old hand at internet and search engineoptimisation (SEO) marketing. Eyal explains: “We got people’s online socialnetworks, Facebook and blogs involved. We also leveraged the database that we’dbuilt up through E2 as this was the market that would be interested in buyingthe t-shirts.”
The pair used some interesting guerrillamarketing tactics, as Eyal outlines: “Eric ran an online competition to findthe King of SEO and offered a prize to anyone who could knock Springleap to thetop of Google on a particular day at a particular time. People started writingabout Springleap on their blogs and some people even opened websites dedicatedentirely to what Springleap was all about.” Needless to say, word got around,designers started submitting designs and the public started voting. “In thefirst month the site was only up for half of the month and we had 67 designssubmitted. From there it’s just grown each month,” he says. The fact that the public buys and wears thet-shirts plays no small part in increasing Springleap’s exposure exponentiallyas well. This, coupled with the international exposure made possible by theinternet has led to some exciting opportunities. “We’ve been approached by aHollywood film company that’s interested in putting actors in our t-shirtson-set. Its early days still but it would be incredibly exciting if it cameoff,” says Eyal. Contact: +27 82 717 3802; +27 82 926 5747; www.springleap.com
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.
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:
- Livestock Wealth
- The Lazy Makoti
- Mimi Women
- AfriTorch Digital
- Akili Labs
- Native Décor
- Quality Solutions
- EM Guidance
- Kahvé Road
- HSE Matters
- VA Virtual Assistant
- Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
- BioTech Africa
- Brand LAIKI
- Plus Fab
- Lenoma Legal
- Benji + Moon
- Brett Naicker Wines
- Legal Legends
- The Power Woman Project
- Aviro Health
- AnaStellar Brands
- Data Innovator
- Oolala Collection Club
- Empty Trips
- Vula Mobile
- The Katy Valentine Collection
- Pimp my Book
- ART Technologies and ART Call Management
- The Sun Exchange
How 28-Year Old Entrepreneur Adam Fine Is Leveraging The Global Phenomenon Of Five-A-Side Football
Adam Fine of Fives Futbol discusses how he leverage a global phenomenon and the value of strategic partnerships in business.
- Player: Adam Fine
- Company: Fives Futbol
- Est: 2011
- Visit: www.fivesfutbol.co.za
Nothing about Adam Fine is by-the-book. The 28-year-old entrepreneur describes himself as a slightly big child. He’s the CEO of one of the most exciting start-ups in South Africa, having leveraged the global phenomenon of five-a-side football to start a business that has grown almost as fast as the game itself. Not bad for a venture that was launched with the princely sum of R85 000 — Fine’s life savings at the time.
He started it in 2011, with a strong focus on corporate social investment and making a positive social impact. It was by forming strategic partnerships that Adam really managed to grow Fives Futbol. He’s opened pitches in prime locations that serve both the school and corporate markets, while still being accessible for social impact interventions in local communities.
Pivoting at the right time is key to growth
In the last 18 months, Fives Futbol has trebled in size, and achieved some amazing milestones — it now employs 50 full-time staff, and 80 part-timers. It’s one of the factors that drives Adam, as many of his employees support up to eight family members. It’s now also represented in four provinces and 15 locations around the country. By September, there will be 18.
Quick growth means you have to be able to pivot quickly when things do not go according to plan, and mostly they don’t, Adam says. “If things are not working you should be able to ‘pivot’, to shift your focus. And do it fast. It’s not a sign that things have gone wrong by any means, on the contrary, it means you have the insight to recognise that there is a problem with the assumptions on which you have built your business model. The decision to pivot is a big one, and not something to be taken lightly. It requires you to take a hard look at your reallocation of resources, and to do it with an open mind.”
In Adam’s case, construction delays, councils taking their time to approve, or having to put money into rolling out sites as opposed to marketing, means the promotion of a new site will slow down, for example, because the business does not yet have a large marketing budget.
“When we run behind on the construction of a new site, R40 000 can suddenly become R100 000 — but here’s the thing: If a deal comes along that will probably harm your business in the short-term but enable significant long-term growth, sometimes you have to juggle what you have so you can make it work.”
The Lesson: Choose your investors carefully
Fine says he’s lucky to have a solid group of investors that he has cultivated over six years. “Their input is invaluable. They’ll say, ‘slow down’ or ‘have you thought of this?’, ‘have you factored in that?’ The ability to develop a good relationship with our investors has had a significant impact on the success of the company. Over and above money, they provide wisdom, guidance and connections.”
His relationship with his investors is key. While many entrepreneurs make it just about the money, Adam understood something else — he has a pretty cool brand with a great cause behind it. So, while investors are asked for money all the time, he was able to offer something more than just a business idea — alignment. He generated enthusiasm for the ‘why,’ behind the business. Like most of us, it makes investors happy to know that they are helping to make a positive difference.
And while it’s easy to bandy about the word ‘partnership’, Adam has worked hard to make that a reality. He set out to find like-minded people who are passionate about the business and the cause, which is why they are able to serve as great resources for advice and insight.
Related: Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business
“The best way to ensure that you and your investors have a valuable and lengthy partnership is to make sure that everyone is aligned on the vision.”
This includes Adam’s team. The internal culture of an organisation is vital to its strength and growth. “Without our team we don’t have a business for investors to support — our people are critical to our success. They’re the executors of the vision at the end of the day.”
The Lesson: The value of strategic partnerships
Much of the growth of Fives Futbol has been fuelled by finding the right sponsorship partners in key industries. To overcome the challenge of a limited marketing budget, Adam has secured sponsorships with big brands like Adidas, Total Sports, Debonairs, and Klipdrift, allowing Fives Futbol to use their access to communities as a marketing platform to derive income as well as scale. And it works both ways.
“Because we have a national footprint and a team of people, we run activations for our partners, which also provides us with an ancillary revenue stream,” he says. “Knowing how to join forces with other businesses has been a key factor in making the business successful. Our strategic partners have enabled the business to leverage their brand to give us more exposure. When it works well, a strategic partnership can be just what you need to speed up the growth of your business.”
Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses
The advent and advancement of the online marketplace has led these entrepreneurs to successfully build and grow their ecommerce empires.
South Africa’s ecommerce market is worth R10 billion per year. By 2021, the number of online shoppers is expected to have reached 24.79 million.
“Our recent research on SA shows people are browsing three hours or more on their mobile phones and 25% shop online. They trust local brands,” says Geraldine Mitchley, Visa senior director for digital solutions in sub-Sahara Africa.
These entrepreneurs have cashed in on ecommerce and launched successful online stores that have either established their dominance in the market, or are taking the e-tailing world by storm.
Here’s how these 15 ecommerce capitalists are making money using the Internet:
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