Q & A:

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY ENTREPRENEUR - edi­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

How long have you been op­er­at­ing and how did you make your first sale?

We opened about nine months ago on­line and we are cur­rently in talks with two large on­line re­tail­ers and two very elite brick-and-mor­tar stores based in New York. It’s all still very new and very ex­cit­ing. The re­sponse has been ex­tremely pos­i­tive State-side, so of course this is a very re­ward­ing and hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence. One of our first sales – and one I re­mem­ber most vividly – was ac­tu­ally to Chrissy Teigen – wife of singer John Leg­end. Her stylist brought her a few of our rings to wear to a red car­pet event and she fell in love with one of them and pur­chased it on the spot in Los An­ge­les.

How did you find your head de­signer?

For our first few col­lec­tions, I worked with Ida El­sje and Kim Boezaart, two of South Africa’s top jew­ellery tal­ents and both very es­tab­lished and re­spected in their own right. They both also know a lot about the tech­ni­cal side of man­u­fac­tur­ing jew­ellery, which is not al­ways easy, es­pe­cially if you are as per­fec­tion­is­tic as I am about crafts­man­ship and qual­ity. Ida and I have been on quite the jour­ney to­gether and although she is a world-class tal­ent, she is so open to my ideas and my vi­sion and al­ways al­lows me to have the fi­nal cre­ative say.

How did you get fund­ing to get started? To what ex­tent did your fa­ther put up the ini­tial funds?

I put in some of my own money and my fa­ther of course did lend a help­ing hand!

How do you de­fend your­self from pos­si­ble crit­i­cism that it is easy to start and sus­tain a busi­ness when fund­ing is not an is­sue?

To be hon­est, I don’t re­ally feel the need to de­fend my­self as I live by the maxim “live and let live”. But, to any­one who be­lieves that, all I can say is that it is one thing to have start-up money be made avail­able, but it’s a whole dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish tak­ing that money and mul­ti­ply­ing it by suc­cess­ful busi­ness prac­tices. There is a rea­son why the ma­jor­ity of new busi­nesses fail, re­gard­less of where the cash comes from.

What have been the big­gest dif­fi­cul­ties you’ve had to over­come in your busi­ness?

Some of our first de­signs were in­cred­i­bly com­pli­cated to man­u­fac­ture and, given our high ex­pec­ta­tions when it comes to lux­ury-level crafts­man­ship, we have had to go back to the draw­ing board a few times.

It has also not al­ways been easy launch­ing a South African brand in the US, with­out be­ing phys­i­cally present in the US for most of the time. Send­ing emails and mak­ing phone calls will never com­pare to meet­ing peo­ple faceto-face in New York City, where things can hap­pen very quickly. I there­fore try to visit New York at least once or twice a year.

Big­gest les­son learnt?

Learn­ing how to work with peo­ple and how to get the most out of them is an in­valu­able part of build­ing any busi­ness. Peo­ple skills are what I learn most from my fa­ther, much more so than spe­cific busi­ness lessons.

How tough is com­pe­ti­tion in your sec­tor, and what dif­fer­en­ti­ates your prod­uct from oth­ers?

The jew­ellery mar­ket is in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive and cut-throat. What has been a sav­ing grace for us, and helped to land us in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Glam­our US and Marie Claire US (and on the likes of Uma Thur­man, Kerry Wash­ing­ton and Amy Adams at red car­pet events) is that our prod­uct of­fer­ing is unique and dis­tinct, yet has a strong com­mer­cial ap­peal. It’s very im­por­tant to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and not sim­ply im­i­tate what ev­ery­one else is do­ing. Oth­er­wise, you will just fade into the mix.

The jew­ellery mar­ket is in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive and cut-throat.

Where is the jew­ellery cur­rently man­u­fac­tured?

In Cape Town and Los An­ge­les. We have tried and tested a few work­shops and I am very happy with the level of crafts­man­ship and ser­vice we are get­ting from these two work­shops. I pre­fer hav­ing ev­ery­thing made right here un­der my nose, for sim­ple qual­ity con­trol pur­poses.

How many peo­ple do you cur­rently em­ploy?

I have a PR team in the US, a sales team in the US, an op­er­a­tions man­ager in Cape Town and a work­shop based in Cape Town that I con­tract with. In ad­di­tion to that, I work with Ida on an ad-hoc ba­sis (when new de­signs are be­ing cre­ated and set up). Be­cause we are still a new and young busi­ness, I like to stay very in­volved and I am not too keen on del­e­gat­ing too much.

What is the best busi­ness ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived?

My fa­ther al­ways has a chuckle when peo­ple ask him what is the se­cret to suc­cess. He says there is no one se­cret, but with­out a cer­tain four-let­ter word (WORK) you can for­get about it. Peo­ple of­ten want short­cuts or hope to make a quick buck. That doesn’t ex­ist.

How do you stay mo­ti­vated?

My hus­band is quite good at keep­ing me sane when it all gets too much. Be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur with­out a busi­ness part­ner can get lonely and over­whelm­ing at times. Luck­ily, I mar­ried some­one with a lot of pa­tience and a solid busi­ness brain, so he is al­ways there to lis­ten and dis­pense ad­vice. I have one or two very close girl­friends whom I also lean on a lot for sup­port when I need it. I am very lucky

that way!

What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life bal­ance?

I have re­cently fallen in love with tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, a very sim­ple but very pow­er­ful and ef­fec­tive re­lax­ation tech­nique that has been re­ceiv­ing a huge amount of press. It re­quires a bit of dis­ci­pline (sit­ting still for 20 min­utes twice a day), but I find it makes a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence to my day and how I deal with the stresses of daily life. I try to ex­er­cise three times a week with my per­sonal trainer and I am quite mind­ful about what I eat.

What is your three-year goal for your com­pany?

We would love to be stocked by some of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial and iconic stores like Bergdorf Good­man, Neta-Porter and Har­rods, and – of course – con­tinue to see our jew­ellery grace the pages of in­ter­na­tional glossies and ac­ces­sorise the Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters. I would love to see Paka Paka be­come an in­ter­na­tional icon of South African con­tem­po­rary lux­ury.

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ABOVE: Paka Paka’s range in­cludes the Su­gar­bush Neck­lace (1), which sells for over R38 000. The Ishari Gold Neck­lace (2) is priced at R113 058.50, the Su­gar­bush Small-Leaf Bracelet (3) at R46 695, the Zaga Rock­n­roll Cock­tail Ring (4) at R76 905.25 and the Sa­van­nah Caro Cock­tail Ring (rose gold) (5) at R60 137.50.

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