Out of the Or­di­nary

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Olive John­son Im­ages © Some­thing Dif­fer­ent

Thanks to a passion for cus­tom dé­cor, de­sign, and all things in­te­rior, as well as a love of giv­ing clients be­spoke, un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences, Kate Shep­herd has started an em­pire that just keeps grow­ing. Start­ing a busi­ness at the ten­der age of 18 was no easy feat, but Shep­herd’s de­ter­mi­na­tion, hard work, and un­wa­ver­ing be­lief in the niche ser­vice she had to of­fer re­sulted in her com­pany soar­ing to suc­cess. The num­bers speak for them­selves: From its in­cep­tion in 2005, Some­thing Dif­fer­ent has gone from a 9 m² space to a 1,200 m² space in Cape Town, and now has an on­line shop as well as branches in Lon­don and Jo­han­nes­burg in the pipe­line.

With an im­pres­sive list of clien­tele – rang­ing from South African celebs and top rugby and cricket play­ers, to cor­po­rates such as In­vestec, Chevron, and Al­lan Gray – Some­thing Dif­fer­ent has gone from a neg­a­tive turnover to be­ing a multi-mil­lion rand busi­ness.

It is safe to say there is no stop­ping the trail­blazer that is Shep­herd.

SLOW re­cently caught up with her to find out more.

SLOW: What was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind start­ing Some­thing Dif­fer­ent?

Kate Shep­herd (K.S): I had free­lanced for both South African and Lon­don busi­nesses on events, but re­ally un­der­stood the industry here in Cape Town. I worked for an­other com­pet­ing com­pany first and given them

many ideas, changes, and con­cepts that were shot down. I was told in no un­cer­tain terms that they did not want to grow the busi­ness – it was merely a life­style-sup­port­ing com­pany. So I took all my ideas and started Some­thing Dif­fer­ent.

SLOW: What were some of the chal­lenges you faced start­ing a busi­ness at 18-years-old?

K.S: My big­gest chal­lenge was hav­ing no real funds to start the busi­ness. Ev­ery­thing was man­aged on hard work with all prof­its go­ing back into the busi­ness. My ex-busi­ness part­ner, whom I started the busi­ness with, was also my great­est chal­lenge. Buy­ing him out af­ter three years was truly the hard­est and most dif­fi­cult time of my life. It was toxic and dam­ag­ing and noth­ing was easy. Be­ing young, this af­fected my con­fi­dence and I felt I could not achieve any­thing. For­tu­nately, I had in­cred­i­ble sup­port­ers around me who helped build me up af­ter this de­struc­tive time.

SLOW: What have been some of the chal­lenges you have faced as a woman in busi­ness, and how have you over­come them?

K.S: The industry is some­what sat­u­rated. Con­tin­u­ing to strive for great prod­ucts and ser­vice is key. As a woman, you are of­ten not taken very se­ri­ously. While be­ing a mother, Some­thing Dif­fer­ent has con­tin­ued to grow, and I have felt this is a per­sonal achieve­ment through busi­ness. Also, South African busi­ness is a very male-dom­i­nated field. When I started Some­thing Dif­fer­ent, there were few women in the tech­ni­cal industry, let alone busi­ness own­ers in the events industry. I am so glad to see this num­ber has risen, and I hope that South African women con­tinue to strive to be lead­ers and men­tors.

SLOW: Some­thing Dif­fer­ent has be­come a leader in its field and a multi-mil­lion rand busi­ness. What do you at­tribute to this mega suc­cess?

K.S: Cus­tom, cus­tom, cus­tom. Oh, and lis­ten­ing. I feel we adapt to the trends, to the sea­son, to the clien­tele. We are a cre­ative so­lu­tion for clients, and al­ways want our ideas to be the re­sult of our cre­at­ing what the mar­ket needs. We also pride our­selves on unique ideas. This opens us up to many copy­cats and com­pe­ti­tion, but we re­ally do like to think that we live, eat, and breathe our name.

SLOW: What have been some of your most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences in your ca­reer so far? Any events that you feel have shaped you as a busi­ness­woman?

K.S: There are so many. Ones that have truly shaped me as a busi­ness­woman would have to be when I was nom­i­nated and fi­nalised as En­tre­pre­neur of the Year for the RBAA [Re­gional Busi­ness Achiev­ers Awards]. Cel­e­brat­ing women and their achieve­ments in busi­ness is so vi­tal to grow­ing con­fi­dence in all women. It’s not easy to cre­ate an SME. In our industry any­one with a clip­board and phone is con­sid­ered a busi­ness owner, so this was a re­ally spe­cial time for me to be recog­nised and it made me feel like my hard work was be­ing no­ticed. Other ex­pe­ri­ences would be our con­stant growth. Year on year we have evolved and grown, al­ways in­creas­ing turnover and profit, staff, and stock. We are con­stantly evolv­ing and this feels like we are do­ing some­thing right.

SLOW: You re­cently launched your on­line store, Some­thing De­sired. Can you tell us a bit about this and what prompted you to, as you say, “share the love”?

K.S: We cus­tom de­sign and hand­craft ideas for most of our con­cept-based events. We make all our own fur­ni­ture, struc­tures, and prod­ucts – there is noth­ing brought in from China here. Some­thing De­sired is a re­sult of a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion into cre­at­ing th­ese for the pub­lic. We are not a cat­a­logue of prod­ucts to pick from – we want the on­line store to re­flect how we work in events. We want the mer­chan­dise to fit the client, the space, the colours, and the style, so it feels truly au­then­tic. The on­line cus­tom shop is a way clients can re­ally feel that they “own” the item, and that they were part of the de­sign.

SLOW: What can clients vis­it­ing the on­line store ex­pect from the ex­pe­ri­ence?

K.S: It will be a cu­rated guide. We will be able to cre­ate items that are not found in any shop, and pro­duce high-qual­ity fin­ishes for long-term use. Clients will get a ser­vice­based busi­ness that is cre­at­ing pieces of art, rather than a walk-in shop with “no love”, so to speak.

SLOW: What are some es­sen­tial de­sign pieces in your home that you sim­ply can­not live with­out?

K.S: We [Some­thing Dif­fer­ent] are all about com­fort. A very com­fort­able, yet stylish couch and/or daybed is key. We also love to en­ter­tain, so we’re all for unique out­door ar­eas, big loung­ing lux­ury, lots of drinks sta­tions, and plenty of dif­fer­ent cook­ing meth­ods like braais, slow cook­ers, pizza ovens – lots of al fresco din­ing op­tions.

SLOW: Any ex­cit­ing trends in 2018 you can share with read­ers?

K.S: Unique and au­then­tic de­signs – your own ideas, your own styles, and the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art and hand­crafted ex­pe­ri­ences. Ev­ery­one has seen ev­ery­thing and done it all now, so cre­at­ing unique en­coun­ters will set you apart.

SLOW: Lastly, what ad­vice do you have for bud­ding fe­male en­trepreneurs?

K.S: Don’t give up. Al­ways have grit. Do ev­ery­thing with grace. “Hard work” are two words thrown around quite eas­ily. Ev­ery­one be­lieves they work hard, but if you re­ally want some­thing you have to live it, eat it, sleep it, and breathe it. The re­wards are there, but noth­ing is just given to you. Noth­ing hap­pens for any­one who feels en­ti­tled. You have to push your­self and keep try­ing, even when you feel bro­ken. Bal­ance and restora­tion is also key – you have to make sure you are main­tain­ing what’s im­por­tant to you, as you can never get mo­ments back with fam­ily, friends, kids, or loved ones.

For more in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.some­thing-dif­fer­ent.co.za.

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