START-UP COSTS: ‘Our financial costs were just under R100 000, but as entrepreneurs we always think of our start-up costs in terms of time, energy and resources, which we used a lot of!’
TURNOVER: ‘We’ve enjoyed great success with our line, with 486% growth in the past year. Covid-19 was definitely our springboard since everyone went onlineshopping, so we really invested in that.’
Long-time friends Liz Payne and Cally van Blerk spotted a gap in the women’s footwear market when they were unable to find a match for the high-quality gumboots that they had been wearing abroad.
What sparked the idea for your business?
Liz: Cally and I both lived and worked in the UK for some time and we loved the amazing gumboots that are available there. When we moved back to South Africa, the brands that we knew and loved were just outrageously expensive. That’s when we realised there was a need for some really stunning women’s gumboots offered at a South African price.
How did you get the business off the ground?
Cally: We started working on this project in 2018 and launched the product at the Splashy Fen music festival the next year. Festival-goers really spoke to our target market: a diverse range of women looking for something a bit more stylish than your average gardening gumboots – something functional yet fashionable. We’ve been at a number of markets in Durban, and there are some boutiques around the country that stock our boots.
Are the boots imported?
Liz: No! Our boots are all locally made, which we love. We’ve got a manufacturer right here in Durban. We considered going the international route since it’s fairly easy to just import from China, but it wasn’t part of our brand vision. We really wanted to support and grow the local economy, create jobs, and make it a truly South African product. So we searched for a local manufacturer. We found the right people and they’re amazing.
Any major setbacks along the way?
Cally: I think our biggest challenge was not being familiar with the industry; we’ve had to learn so much!
The footwear industry is quite challenging, especially if you’re developing a product from scratch. We learnt a lot from networking with people who have experience in the industry.
Which materials do you use?
Liz: Our manufacturer works with what they call a cradleto-grave recycling system. Our black gumboots are made from 100% recycled material. They take old pieces of PVC from the electrical, agricultural and medical industries, grind them into little granules, and melt those down to make our black gumboots. This year, we launched our first colour product: yellow gumboots with black soles. The yellow uppers are made of virgin PVC, which can be recycled at the end of the boots’ lifespan.
What does your office setup look like?
Cally: We had an office space before lockdown, but we both work from home now. Operational activity happens at my house and Liz works from her space, but we come together a lot.
How do you split the workload?
Liz: We’re a very good team. We both have our strengths and we’ve learnt truly to tap into that. I deal with inner soles, cotton bags and the little cloud studs on our boots. I handle the advertising and marketing side, and Cally takes care of the operations side.
Cally: I deal with social media and operational aspects, such as handling orders, packaging and sending out the boots for delivery, customer interaction, and dealing with stockists and the manufacturer.
What has been your greatest reward on this journey?
Cally: The benefit of working from home and being able to decide our own hours. We are able to put everything into our work in the morning and still be mom in the afternoon, which many people don’t have the privilege of doing.
Liz: A great achievement is that we recently started exporting Silver Lining Gumboots to New Zealand.
Any plans for the future?
Cally: Eventually having our own warehouse, with all production and operations taking place under one roof. We’d also like to grow our product range. At the moment we’ve got the gumboots, and we’ve introduced a yellow raincoat and clear umbrella. In the future, we want to add more colours and different styles, and just keep growing the business.
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