Name of company: TAKE CHARGE
Years in existence: Just launched
Position: Creator, founder, owner and MD
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I’ve done a little bit of everything in my adult life. After studying at Silwood Cordon Bleu Cooking School, Varsity College and Red and Yellow School, I started and ran a successful catering company for 3 years, dabbled in a New York City career, made and sold bespoke handbags, travelled the globe, managed all marketing, events and PR for two leading magazine houses (working on Seventeen, National Geographic Kids, Marie Claire, Cosmo, House and Leisure and O, The Oprah Magazine) and worked on private home interior décor. All of which led me to start Brandnew in 2009 – a full service creative, communications and events agency in Cape Town with clients such as the Springboks, Reebok and Oakley. On a recent trip to Australia I came across a charging purse which inspired me to develop the concept and offer it to the African continent.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
TAKE CHARGE is a luxury, genuine leather handbag and iPad collection designed and crafted in Cape Town, South Africa, with a purpose of extending your connection-to-the-world time through an in-built smartphone and tablet charger.
Equipped with a micro USB port and iPhone adapter, the clutch bags and purses are compatible with most smartphones, including all modern Samsungs, BlackBerry and iPhones, including the new iPhone 6. The tablet envelope comes standard with built-in powerbank with three connector heads, allowing you to charge your tablet, iPad (any generation and all sizes) or e-reader.
TAKE CHARGE allows you to fully charge your phone or tablet whilst on the go at least once before having to charge the battery-unit itself. The battery design has been placed in a secret slip-pocket inside the bag, keeping it safe, sound and out of the way of your handbag and iPad case must-haves.
The bags are currently sold exclusively online at www.take-charge.co.za, and come in a variety of fashionable, on-trend summer designs and colours.
How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?
Having been in the service industry for over eight years, I’ve kept my eye out for the right product to own, develop and launch, using our contacts, connections and reputation built in South Africa, for a while now. As luck would have it, on my last day on a 2013 trip to Sydney, Australia I came across a charging purse which inspired me to create the TAKE CHARGE concept and offer it to the African continent.
“With the rolling power cuts, never before has an external power source been so necessary”
We spent over eight months in research and development to get the product to where it is today, in between running my other 15-person-strong business, and launched on 21 November 2014. Since then we have had over 150 orders and counting.
What were some of the obstacles you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?
Sourcing local suppliers who can offer competitive pricing on low manufacturing quantities to start with; identifying the right power banks to use, dealing with difficult Chinese suppliers (and landing up with a local supplier again), turn-around times (behind every order placed lies a very excited customer who wants their TAKE CHARGE bag now, which is difficult when we manufacture on orders placed, and personalise each bag).
How many people does your company employ?
Three, excluding our local bag manufacturer in Woodstock, Cape Town.
What is your overall vision for your business?
To ensure that every South African has a fully charged phone at all times. With the rolling power cuts, never before has an external power source been so necessary.
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
Connections, a belief in what you are selling, mentors, confidence in your stance with suppliers and the ability to navigate your way around difficult systems and business practices, which you won’t know until you’re in the situation.
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
I have personally financed the business and will take a hit for the first 100 bags, after which I will start making back some of the capital invested.
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
– A unique product which answers a need and which people can relate to.
– Having run a successful business for six years now, I have more business acumen than most startups, which means I understand my way around this process.
– My connections and contacts in media, influencers and celebrities who are all endorsing and promoting the product.
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
It’s always been in my blood. My mom is an entrepreneur – she’s always had two businesses on the go at one time. I started my first business when I was 18, catering for exclusive dinner parties, 21st birthdays and corporates, cooking from my parent’s kitchen and earning more money than I knew how to spend; a great problem for a teenager.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Strong, assertive but fair.
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
– Get advice from people who have done it, and been through all the hard slog to get there.
– Develop your interest in the world and how it works. This is one of my strongest attributes when it comes to business. I have a fascination with why people act, react and decide the way that they do, which means that I play into that psychology when working on growing a brand.
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
Best: That as the boss, you get to make the decisions! Don’t let guilt, how things “should be done” or rules get you stuck or prescribe how your business runs. Go with your gut and become an expert in your field so that you know the complete lie of the land and how to navigate it.
Worst: The only way to be successful is to draw up a five-year business plan. I have never done this for any of my businesses, as I find them redundant with how fast everything is moving. We can’t anticipate what the next big trend, movement or fad will be other than to do international research and assume. So instead of drawing up a business plan, I create vision boards and write down:
Under these points I write down everything that comes to mind and I work towards those points subconsciously as well as consciously. It works incredibly well – it’s how Brandnew won the Springboks account.
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
I believe a positive, can-do attitude and an energy drives success more than anything.