When did you realise the beauty industry was for you and why Crabtree & Evelyn?
I have always viewed my career as a retailer and not necessarily apart of the beauty industry, although in terms of the brand itself, I fell in love with it from a very young age [at] 11. I often travelled to the UK to visit relatives and I had an aunt who lived just off High Street, Kensington who used to take me to different stores. She took me to the very first original Crabtree & Evelyn shop and I fell in love from the minute I saw it. It had two blue doors and it was quite a windy shop – like a treasure trove fairyland filled with delicious treats and smells. I would always buy one little thing, so I really got to know the products like that. In terms of retail, growing up between Durban and Bryanston, I would put up a table outside the house and sell everything to anyone who would walk past so I think I’ve always been a bit of a shop keeper.
What inspired you to bring Crabtree & Evelyn to SA?
The inspiration: After school I took a gap year to travel, came back and did a Bcom marketing, didn’t know what I wanted to do. I found myself on a graduate programme as a risk management broker at Price Forbes (now Alexander Forbes) in corporate at 22 and was really unhappy although I stuck it out and learnt quite a lot through that. Whenever I visited the UK I would always specifically go to that shop. Travelling again at 25 I was standing in a shop and had an epiphany. I had that vision, a flash of inspiration and I just went, “OK, I know what I want to do.”
The start-up journey: I contacted Crabtree & Evelyn… at that stage (1995-1996) they were not interested, they were nervous and didn’t want to invest in a market they didn’t understand. I had no money, no experience although I knew there was a gap; there was no international brand in this country at that time in a standalone store at all across the board.
The breakthrough: My idea was to start in Cape Town because I could see the Waterfront was expanding and at the time it was a bigger platform. I did a lot of research, marketing plans, a business plan and finally after all my persistence I got through to a chap who came out to see the Waterfront, fell in love with it and made it possible for me to open the store… I always feel that the greatest achievement was we were actually the first international brand as a standalone store at the time in the country in 1996.