The reason that I say “our” journey and not “my” journey is because this journey has been my journey with my partner in crime, Trevor. And, if it weren’t for him, this journey would not be where it is or would probably not even be happening. He was there, from the start, supporting my dream of selling beautiful jewellery online and across South Africa.
Now, when I talk about my husband selling jewellery, it makes me giggle inside. He’s this very tall, big man with a large beard and if he had his way, would be wearing DC shoes, baggy jeans and an oversized t-shirt every day. I doubt that his dream job ever included selling statement earrings. I doubt he ever saw himself steaming designer clothing on a photoshoot, selling jewellery at markets or trying to keep his hands out of an Insta story as they look too “manly”. But he’s damn good at figuring things out, like how to create an online store, and has relatively excellent knowledge on AdWords and SEO. These are things that I wouldn’t even have a clue on, and I wouldn’t even know where to start with, without him. So, this is my team, and this is our journey.
I don’t quite know exactly how curAtiv started. I was in a really difficult situation at work, I was in the process of being retrenched from a horrible company and was battling to find another job. I’d been living and breathing jewellery for almost 10 years by then and decided that our market was really lacking beautiful, statement, yet affordable jewellery……… okay wait……… lets go back a few years first.
I’ve always worked for someone else. I worked damn hard and excelled in any job I did, but I always had this deep-down burning desire to do it for myself. Every day the thought crossed my mind, why am I working so hard for someone else, building their dream? But I never knew what or how to do that for myself. What was the right idea, what was the right company and what was the right purpose?
Up until now, I could never quite get 100% behind any of the companies I worked for. Don’t get me wrong, I was probably one of the hardest working and most success driven people in the company. In my first real job I worked until 11pm almost every single night and grew my departments drastically within a few years. I think at first, I was driven by my constant need to achieve and grow, but certainly not a desire to see the company grow, even though I was proud of that growth. You see, I think the problem was that I didn’t believe in the company’s purpose. They didn’t have a purpose beyond turnover and profit and it’s really hard to get completely behind that.
Starting curAtiv was a combination of things;
Firstly, a frustration of the last really terrible job I was in and their lack of wanting to change, innovate and basically even move into the 21st century.
Secondly, I always looked at “other ideas” when thinking about starting my own business, curAtiv happened when I realized that I was damn good at creating beautiful and unique jewellery and that I should hone onto this skill I had been building for 10 years. I just didn’t quite believe in myself until this moment.
Thirdly, when I mentioned the idea to Trev, he was completely onboard and said he could probably figure out how to build an online store for me.
Lastly, I’ve always wanted to create a company with purpose. A company where people love to come to work and where they are completely behind your goals and purpose. A company where it doesn’t feel like a job. A company that also strives to empower woman and really make a difference in this country.
So, I took all my savings and placed my first order, my Summer 2018 range. The range was a huge risk as it went against everything I had been taught as a buyer. It was all statement, risky, full of colour and out there.
Our first big break, and it was a big one, at least for me personally, happened when Doreen Southwood from MeMeMe boutique in Cape Town contacted me and asked if they could stock our jewellery in their store. I literally almost died! Doreen was my one of my idols when I studied fashion design 10 years ago and I knew her store very well. She’s been like a pillar stone in the fashion industry for so long when others have come and gone and she was absolutely amazing when I met her (although I think I barely said 2 words, I was in so much awe)
From there we have grown with a couple more boutiques signing on to stock our product, our online sales growing nicely and becoming regulars at a couple of the well-known markets in and around Cape Town. I am proud that our little company is making decent turnover, has grown a lot in the last year and we absolutely love our customers and the people who support the business, they all feel more like our family than anything else.
Thanks for sticking around to hear my story, from all of that, there’s a couple of lessons I learnt along the way that I would love to share with you.
These are the 5 things I’ve learnt so far from starting our own business
- Never believe in “NO”. People will turn you down and will put your ideas down. But a successful business is built on never giving up. If someone turns you down, just keep trying to find other ways to make your dream happen. I’ve had a lot of rejection in this business and there have been so many (soooooooooo many) moments where I just wanted to quit. There were lots of tears, but eventually I gave myself a pep talk, picked myself up and started over again. Trevor was also always there to remind me of the positives and how far we had come.
- Stop comparing yourself to your friends, family or other people. With social media these days, you only see the beautiful, successful, rosy side of peoples (and other businesses) lives, and it can be totally depressing if you are comparing this to your own business and life. Instead reflect on the positives and little successes you’ve achieved so far and celebrate them. Writing them down makes a huge difference. Every time I post a story or a picture on Instagram and it gets very little engagement (especially when I start comparing it to other people’s posts), I get super depressed and take it personally – I completely doubt what I am doing and have sometimes thought, “hmmm, maybe people really don’t like my jewellery and I should just shut my business down.”, but then I take a step back and reflect on the amazing moments. Moments when women see my jewellery for the first time and get totally excited, or the DM’s from delighted customers when they receive their parcel, and I remember that those are my defining moments, not the number of likes on a picture.
- Selling online in South Africa is hard. Selling jewellery online in South Africa is even harder. When we figure out how to make it easy, I will let you know, but one thing is for sure, it’s damn hard! You can’t run a new business purely online in South Africa (unless you have some Billionaire investor). Look at other avenues to sell your product until you have established yourself.
- A business is built by customers, and customers are people. Always treat your customers like they are the most important person in your business. Make them feel seen, heard and cared for. They will never forget it and most of the times will come back or recommend you.
- Know what you stand for – your purpose - and define exactly what you do. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Find your niche and stick to it. It may take a long to find the people who will love your business and your product, but it will be long lasting
A successful business takes a lot of work, time, blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice and effort. It’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but we’ve both learnt so much and it is truly one of the things that has created real happiness in our lives. We don’t know if we will ever consider ourselves successful, but we know we are getting there inch by inch.
Thank you for taking this journey with us. Honestly, we would not even be here without the support of our curAtiv Fam