Vin­tage lights out­shine com­pe­ti­tion

At a time when most light­ing com­pa­nies were chas­ing light-emit­ting diode (LED) light sources, Hoi P’loy started a new trend by in­tro­duc­ing ‘old-fashioned’ in­can­des­cent lights into the South African mar­ket.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY ENTREPRENEUR -


years ago, Ploy Phi­rom­nam woke up with the re­al­i­sa­tion that she dreaded work­ing as a fash­ion trader at a com­pany with a grim com­pany cul­ture. She quit her job with­out giv­ing much thought to what she was go­ing to do, sim­ply know­ing that she had to break free from the toxic en­vi­ron­ment. Then she and her hus­band, Guy van der Walt, started talk­ing about al­ter­na­tives.

The cou­ple re­alised that they shared a pas­sion for cer­tain old-fashioned val­ues, es­pe­cially when it came to the way in which peo­ple were treated. They de­cided that these val­ues would be the foun­da­tion of any new busi­ness they started. They also ex­plored ideas of “beau­ti­ful things” that were dif­fi­cult to source in South Africa. The re­sult was the birth of the vin­tage light­ing com­pany Hoi P’loy.

You are orig­i­nally from Thai­land. How did you end up in South Africa?

Guy fin­ished a three-month con­tract as a 3D an­i­ma­tor and de­cided to sur­prise his dad, who was trav­el­ling around Thai­land at the time. The plan was to re­turn af­ter two weeks, but Guy kept chang­ing his re­turn dates and fi­nally ended up stay­ing for nine months. Hoi P’loy was co-founded by wife and hus­band team,

When trav­el­ling over­seas we both en­joy con­nect­ing with peo­ple and cul­tures from the coun­try, as it cre­ates a much richer travel ex­pe­ri­ence. And that is how our paths crossed.

Af­ter nine months spent be­tween Bangkok and is­lands around Thai­land, Guy started feel­ing home­sick and went back to Cape Town. I went to visit him, but ended up stay­ing per­ma­nently.

What did you do af­ter set­tling in Cape Town?

In Thai­land, I im­ported and ex­ported lead­ing fash­ion brands, trav­el­ling pri­mar­ily be­tween Bangkok and Hong Kong. Af­ter set­tling in South Africa, I got a job at a trad­ing com­pany, but found it ex­tremely frus­trat­ing due to the cul­tural work dif­fer­ences. Where I come from, peo­ple are very driven and place a high pre­mium on ser­vice. In SA, peo­ple seemed much more lack­adaisi­cal. I could not cope with this.

Why did you de­cide to start a light­ing com­pany?

Hav­ing lived in ci­ties like Lon­don, Bangkok, Chicago, New York, Tokyo and Ghent Hoi P’loy ini­tially im­ported vin­tage in­can­des­cent lights but now also de­sign and man­u­fac­ture lo­cally. ex­posed Guy and me to a global re­vival of vin­tage prod­ucts. We made a list of beau­ti­ful things we strug­gled to or could not source lo­cally. A few prod­ucts were iden­ti­fied, but in­can­des­cent lights re­ally got our hearts rac­ing. We also thought of prod­ucts that could com­ple­ment the lights and de­cided on fabric ca­ble cords and light fit­tings.

Why Hoi P’loy?

and The name is a play on my name and the an­cient Greek ex­pres­sion hoi pol­loi mean­ing the many or the masses. Our idea was to cre­ate a vin­tage light­ing prod­uct that would be classy but still ac­ces­si­ble to many young peo­ple. Later, we dis­cov­ered that most of our friends thought it sug­gested the elite of so­ci­ety.

Was it smooth sail­ing from the start?

Af­ter two weeks of re­search on light­ing equip­ment and in­can­des­cent lights, I felt so over­whelmed that I didn’t know whether I was com­ing or go­ing. I lo­cated over­seas fac­to­ries that could sup­ply us with the prod­ucts I was look­ing for, but was to­tally un­pre­pared for the red tape sur­round­ing the im­port of these prod­ucts.

Ploy Phi­rom­nam Guy van der Walt.

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