I was a 28 year old Banker in South Africa, This will sound a bit unrealistic when I tell the story, but this is true. two weeks before my future wife and I got married, my wife Heidi was retrenched.
Oh yes, perfect timing. Well, that put a spanner in the works, it was May 2010 — Economy was in a wreck globally and especially in South Africa. I had a Banking job, so that was a blessing, but with the white minority finding it harder and harder to find work/create a career, I could not pursue the career that I needed especially with the strong laws of affirmative action etc. We took on extremely hard risk and went for the unexpected. My wife and I saw a future in online trade in South Africa (South Africa is a bit slow relative to the rest of the world), as it was just picking up in South Africa, so we started a venture that borrowed the excess décor that shops were struggling to sell. We then put all of the stock on show at either our house or at a friends house, prepared champagne and canapes and invited friends and their associates to this sale.
It Worked! My wife — Heidi, ended doing house show after house show with these goods, and selling lots of goods, the only thing was we were only making a 20% margin on the goods, so it wasn’t exactly the margin needed to do well.
However, we learnt some valuable bit of information from this. Out of all the items on sale, a range of hand painted ceramics, was selling exceptionally well. We researched who the artist was, and started giving this artist some new and fresh inspiring designs to work with — the range started to sell better and better. Shortly after, we employed this artist, set up a small porcelain factory, (50meters squared and 1 kiln) and started making pieces for this growing demand. We continued to test the products and on the 1st Nove 2010 I resigned from work, at this stage the business was still in its infant stages, and only supplying to 4 -5 Luxury Shops. My wife and I were taking the minimum salary we could like off, whilst we lived at my-in-laws cottage on their property. By October 2011, we were running out of money and needed a solution. Whilst this was all happening, my wife fell pregnant, this just added to the stress, and financial risk we were going through.
I made the decision that I would start to look for a job again. The economy was still frustratingly bad to an extent, but the soccer world cup of June-july 2010, seemed to keep some money in our economy. My previous company reemployed me, into my previous position. By December 14th 2011, at this stage, I remember driving to work, and the radio blurring “its the last day of work for most people, and the start of the summer holidays” oh yes, I was heading back to work. This was a turning point for me.
I started work that day, configured my computer and got straight into applying myself, thinking this was obviously my role that was set out for me in life. Fortunately enough, I got the job before foreclosure of the business and I was earning enough money, to support the business, so my wife had something to do. We had a big launch coming up at Sandton City Shopping Centre in Johannesburg on the 4th of December 2011, unfortunately the launch was not a great success, but we had a turnaround idea that hit us as hard as any idea ever. Now this is SO SO EXCITING!
We had just finished the launch on the 4th of December, it must of been at around 9pm in the evening, and we were walking through the mall, we stopped at an art shop, and peered down at these resin cows (30cm in length), sitting in the shop window in all different colors. Huge Idea, why don’t we make beautiful ceramic rhinos and paint these for Rhino Conservation, with a percentage going to a Rhino Foundation? A this stage, the tragedy of rhino poaching in South Africa was increasing daily, as was the demand for rhino horn.
We had no idea about sculpting, and or how to complete this project. We set out at tremendous speed, contacting and researching different people that could assist. Fortunately enough, we contacted someone that was able to assist, with our main constraint of a Budget of almost ZERO MONEY. He was able to assist with the sculpting work of these rhinos, and the mold making.
We wanted to get the project completed as a the national wholesale show for décor/collectibles was in March 2012. Somehow, we managed to get the products, even though they were not perfect ready, for the show. On the first day of the show, I phoned my wife at around at 12:00 am, she had taken down two-three smallish orders of 10 rhinos, by the end of the day it was up to 6 orders of approximately 10 rhinos per order. The following day, we received an order of 250 rhinos from a very large retailer. I got the news at work and told, some of my very close associates, that I had some very good news. Over the course of the next three weeks, I stayed calm, waiting for all our customers to pay their deposits, as the last deposit was paid — I knew exactly what to do. Resign from my work again, and make this a huge success. On the 1st of April 2012 — I resigned from my work again. I had been back for 3 months and was resigning again, I did not know what to say to the company, and in fact fibbed and told them I was leaving to go to another bank. Until the 3rd of April 2012, I had not told a single person about our Rhino idea. From that day onwards — we have been making rhinos in aid of rhino conservation — and we have managed to have enough cash flow to grow and develop all our different ranges. Business is still tough for an entrepreneur, and we are far from our vision, but it is well worth the hard work and effort involved.