Busi­ness Pro­file:

Turn­ing wood into a fash­ion state­ment

Finweek English Edition - - CONTENTS -

“We had no idea how to man­u­fac­ture wooden prod­ucts, we knew noth­ing about wood.”

sit­u­ated in the heart of Melville in Jo­han­nes­burg at 27 Boxes, a shop­ping mall con­structed from ship­ping con­tain­ers, WoodiZ boasts fash­ion­able eyewear, bow ties, back­packs, satchels, caps and cuff­links – all made out of wood.

The busi­ness was co-founded in mid-2013 by Damian and An­gela Go­liath, who wanted to take a much-loved in­ter­na­tional con­cept and adapt it for the lo­cal mar­ket. The duo started out as re­sellers for some­one who sold wooden eyewear in Cape Town.

Then the man­u­fac­turer of the ma­chine that is used to make the wooden frames of­fered to help them build their own ma­chine in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“That kicked off ideas to cre­ate new and ex­cit­ing ways of creat­ing fash­ion ac­ces­sories with el­e­ments of wood that haven’t been done be­fore,” says An­gela, who han­dles mar­ket­ing and brand­ing, as well as as­pects of the prod­uct devel­op­ment and the daily run­ning of the store. Damian works mainly be­hind the scenes to en­sure pro­duc­tion and op­er­a­tions run smoothly.

Get­ting started

“We had no idea how to man­u­fac­ture wooden prod­ucts, we knew noth­ing about wood. We just saw these prod­ucts and had a deep de­sire to want to be part of it and wanted to know how to [make them],” ex­plains An­gela. “When he of­fered [help with our own ma­chine], we saw it as a great op­por­tu­nity to have our own brand.”

They rented fac­tory space in Rand­burg to build a spe­cial ma­chine for the man­u­fac­tur­ing of wooden bow ties and eyewear frames.

But start­ing the busi­ness did not come cheap. They ap­proached fam­ily and friends for start-up cap­i­tal. An­gela’s fa­ther took out a R150 000 loan from the bank, which helped get the busi­ness off the ground. Their prod­ucts were sell­ing well at mar­kets and “peo­ple loved what we were do­ing, and [my fa­ther] could see the po­ten­tial”, she says.

Even though they man­u­fac­ture the wooden eyewear them­selves, the po­larised UV400 lenses are im­ported. They work with a lo­cal op­tometrist

“I’m happy we were re­jected [by most ma­jor re­tail­ers] be­cause the ones that were in­ter­ested would say, 100%‘We want a mark-up, but we don’t want to charge more than what you’re charg­ing re­tail.’ And we won­dered if it was worth it.”

who shapes these lenses so they fit into the wooden frames. WoodiZ also makes pre­scrip­tion glasses and sun­glasses for cus­tomers.

Their bow ties can be cus­tomised – cus­tomers can add clip-on fab­ric of their choice to the wooden bow tie frames.

At the end of 2015 they in­tro­duced watches with wooden faces, and in a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort added their own twist by get­ting a wrap scarf man­u­fac­turer Voilà Feel Beau­ti­ful to make wrap­around straps for the watches.

The brand’s back­packs and caps in­cor­po­rate tra­di­tional se­sh­weshwe fab­ric (a tra­di­tional Se­sotho printed fab­ric) and wood. WoodiZ prod­ucts come with a 12-month war­ranty, says An­gela.

Al­though their best cus­tomers are tourists, they do not limit their brand to a spe­cific tar­get mar­ket. “We re­ally can’t put our brand in a spe­cific box and say, ‘It’s for this or that sub­cul­ture’…we [are] ac­tu­ally not sur­prised by who walks through the doors of our shop any­more. We have any­one from white-col­lar 50-yearolds walk­ing in to pur­chase bow ties and cuff­links to 15-year-old girls com­ing through to pur­chase bags and watches,” says Go­liath.

Chal­lenges

One of the big­gest hur­dles they faced in the be­gin­ning was get­ting re­tail­ers to be­lieve in their un­known brand and sell their prod­ucts, says An­gela. “We had very lit­tle in­ter­est; we must have ap­proached over 100 re­tail out­lets but got very few bites.”

But they didn’t give up – they cre­ated an on­line store, beefed up their so­cial me­dia pres­ence and made stylists am­bas­sadors of their brand. They con­tin­ued sell­ing at var­i­ous mar­kets like Braam­fontein’s Neigh­bour­goods mar­ket on Satur­days. On Sun­days, they show­cased their goods at Arts on Main in Mabo­neng.

“Even­tu­ally a bril­liant op­por­tu­nity came when we were ap­proached to have a store in a new cen­tre for young de­sign­ers called 27 Boxes,” she says. “It’s crazy be­cause those same re­tail­ers are now con­tact­ing us.”

Like with many lo­cal busi­nesses, the de­pre­ci­a­tion of the rand has had a neg­a­tive im­pact on the start-up. “We’ve had to in­crease our prices be­cause the cost of im­port­ing po­larised lenses and the lenses them­selves has gone up quite a bit,” An­gela ex­plains.

Lessons

“I’m happy we were re­jected [by most ma­jor re­tail­ers] be­cause the ones that were in­ter­ested would say, ‘We want a 100% mark-up, but we don’t want to charge more than what you’re charg­ing re­tail.’ And we won­dered if it was worth it,” Go­liath re­calls.

She says the re­jec­tion worked in their favour in the end, be­cause, had they col­lab­o­rated with a big re­tailer, the busi­ness would have fallen apart.

The WoodiZ team are cur­rently work­ing on ob­tain­ing their im­port and ex­port li­cence be­cause peo­ple from the likes of Aus­tralia and France have shown in­ter­est in stock­ing their goods.

In fu­ture, they would like to open two ad­di­tional stores in other parts of the coun­try and even­tu­ally sell their prod­ucts overseas.

An­gela Go­liath

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.