Fairlady - - ENTREPRENEURS - www.alex­

Own­ers: Anel van der Merwe and Jen­nifer Attwood-Smith Start-up costs: The costs were min­i­mal, as we haven’t rented of­fice space (we work from home); we don’t have em­ploy­ees; and we didn’t pur­chase any ma­chin­ery. Our big­gest cost was the ini­tial print­ing fees of our first Your Weekly Edit plan­ner. Turnover: We’re still a start-up, so our turnover is con­stantly chang­ing as we grow and in­tro­duce prod­ucts.

Jen­nifer Attwood-Smith and Anel van der Merwe met a few years ago when their hus­bands stud­ied to­gether in Cape Town. They clicked in­stantly. Both cou­ples later moved to Joburg, with Anel even­tu­ally re­turn­ing to Cape Town.

The idea of start­ing Alexa Lily (the mid­dle names of Jen’s twin girls) be­gan brew­ing over a cup of cof­fee in 2016, when the friends dis­cussed the lack of per­sonal plan­ners on the mar­ket that met their re­quire­ments. They saw the need for some­thing more beau­ti­ful and in­spi­ra­tional, and took on the chal­lenge. De­spite the fact that nei­ther of them had a de­sign back­ground, their first 500 plan­ners sold out within six weeks.

‘I like func­tion­al­ity that adds value to your life,’ says Anel. ‘We didn’t want the nor­mal, ba­sic plan­ner. We wanted some­thing that was beau­ti­ful too, and wanted to com­bine both.’

‘We pride our­selves on pro­duc­ing stationery and life­style goods that en­cap­su­late who the mod­ern woman is,’ says Jen. ‘We be­lieve in sim­plic­ity, but prize qual­ity above all.’

Alexa Lily’s flag­ship prod­uct is the Your Weekly Edit, a plan­ner/ di­ary that helps you to make pur­pose­ful plans, set goals and mon­i­tor your life­style.

‘We hand-drew the lay­out, then I made ta­bles on Word ex­actly the way we drew them,’ Anel says. ‘We sent this to our de­signer to beau­tify and cre­ate a work­ing for­mat of our Weekly View for the plan­ner. For any prod­uct, we usu­ally dis­cuss with our de­signer what we’d like, then it goes to the print­ers and we get quotes and proofs. It sounds like a sim­ple process but there’s a lot of back and forth and brain­storm­ing be­fore you get a prod­uct.’

Alexa Lily also of­fers a range of com­ple­men­tary Edit books and a range of min­i­mal­ist, con­ve­niently por­ta­ble A5 and A6 books.

‘We’ve re­cently launched our Min­i­mal­ist Note­cards, to have on hand for any oc­ca­sion,’ says Jen. ‘Whether it’s to say “thank you” for a din­ner party or for a friend’s birth­day, we wanted to cre­ate an el­e­gant range of note­cards that also make a state­ment, with its touch of gold foil de­tail to give it sparkle.’

Anel and Jen print all of their prod­ucts lo­cally.

‘Start­ing a busi­ness in SA means that you be­lieve in the coun­try, which we do,’ says Anel. ‘We love liv­ing here and want to build our lives here, so I think it’s im­por­tant to help the com­mu­nity.’

Their first print-run sold out and, while a small se­lec­tion of their prod­ucts re­tail at Po­etry stores and the Zeitz MOCAA, the pair em­pha­sise that they’re an on­line busi­ness first and fore­most, and are look­ing for­ward to grow­ing in the on­line re­tail space.

‘Jen and I work so well to­gether,’ says Anel. ‘Even when there’s a prob­lem we laugh about it, be­cause what can else can you do? Then we move for­ward. A big chal­lenge for me has been mov­ing to Cape Town with Jen still in Joburg. It’s quite dif­fi­cult in terms of be­ing creative. Nei­ther of us had ever done any­thing in print or pub­lish­ing. Ev­ery­thing was new to us, from set­ting up the web­site to deal­ing with print­ers and sup­pli­ers, and print­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy. Now, we’re feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent.’

Anel’s hope for Alexa Lily is that it re­mains rel­e­vant. ‘We want to keep mak­ing prod­ucts that in­spire peo­ple. We’re go­ing to fo­cus our at­ten­tion on plan­ners and re­ally put all our ef­fort into cre­at­ing a prod­uct that is so func­tional that all South African women, and men, find it in­dis­pens­able!’ adds Jen.

‘Start­ing a busi­ness in SA means that you be­lieve in the coun­try, which we do. It’s im­por­tant to help the com­mu­nity.’

Jen­nifer (left) and Anel with their Your Bridal Edit and Ed­its Note­books.

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