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.