Meet SassyChic, an online store specialising in local designer fashion, and our featured small business of the week. Their product offering includes a range of chic, on-trend and contemporary women’s’ fashion items as well as select lingerie and beauty products.
The SassyChic Story
The company started in Roxanne Page’s living room in 2011, but has grown immensely since then and currently has four staff members. Page, co-founder and managing owner, remembers: ‘I was seeking a career change. Karen [co-founder and owner] was meant to start retiring but this is an entirely foreign concept to her, thus she was looking for a new entrepreneurial opportunity. [Laughs] This was just before some of the major South African online fashion retailers emerged and we were both shopping online and having items delivered to the Post Office from overseas. We loved online shopping. It was our ambition to bring some of the innovative online shopping elements from international e-tailers to boutique shopping for women in South Africa.’
‘We probably should have had a business plan, but truth be told we didn’t. Karen started sourcing lingerie from factory outlets (these items were small and easy to move) and we started selling to family and friends via parties and trunk shows. We finally had an online store running in February 2012. Our product offering had grown and shifted to fashion and a local emphasis. I was still employed at the time but by August in the same year the company needed a full-time employee to really get off the ground. I quit my job and started managing the website from home until July 2013 when I desperately needed storage space /office space and we moved into our current premises in Laser Park.’
SassyChic has overcome many challenges to get to where they are today. These include the usual small business hurdles like cash flow and capital, but they’ve also had to navigate more industry specific obstacles. Page explains that these include providing our customers with the best user experience but utilizing software that is affordable and available albeit sometimes limited or with little support. ‘Thankfully there are some great eCommerce plug-ins out there and I’ve found the most patient and dedicated web developer. The site is a constant work in progress but this we enjoy – we are always learning and striving to keep up with eCommerce developments.’
Another challenge has been convincing consumers to buy local and perhaps pay more in some instances. ‘This can prove difficult with the influx of fast fashion brands which are incredibly competitively priced,’ says Page. ‘I had zero fashion merchandising knowledge or experience starting out – there were times where this cost the company but consequently I’ve learnt a great deal and now trust my fashion instincts!’
As a small start-up with a smaller budget than large corporate e-tailers, SassyChic have had to be inventive with marketing their brand and building their business. Large companies inevitably have bigger product offerings and more resources to bring pricing down on overheads like logistics. ‘This can be tough – in 2016 people expect quality products, good customer service as well as FREE and fast delivery,’ commented Page. ‘We try to highlight the personalized shopping experience customers can expect from shopping online with us. There’s a SassyChic experience that customers have with us – deliveries should feel like presents and getting shopping assistance about clothes, fit and style should feel like you’re chatting to one of your girlfriends.’
Yet another difficulty is the scepticism around eCommerce in South Africa, despite this being a growing industry. A lot of this has to do with the element of security of shopping online and also purchasing clothing online. SassyChic tries to alleviate these worries with security certificates and supplying the links to their credible service providers in their footer menu as well as offering seamless FREE returns. But Page notes that some ladies will always prefer brick and mortar stores and that’s okay.
What make a good entrepreneur?
When asked what makes a good entrepreneur, Page responds: ‘A lot of people will say hard work and a willingness to work past the usual 8-5 working hours. This is true, but there’s a lot of people out there who work hard and overtime for companies that they don’t own or didn’t start. So I’d say a good entrepreneur has a good worth ethic but the kind of work ethic that involves resilience and an inherent drive. They can work hard without the immediate or external reward or recognition from a superior for instance – without incentives, bonus cheques or a letter of recognition from their boss for a job well done. Entrepreneurs are self-starters and basically their own cheerleaders. A good entrepreneur has the tenacity (perhaps sheer stubbornness!) to keep going after failure and is not discouraged by what other people have to say. And people do have a lot to say. It’s always said with the best of intentions but when you have your own business people will offer unsolicited advice and say well-meaning but ultimately negative things, especially if your business constitutes a new market or idea. A good entrepreneur listens, considers and then just gets on with it – whatever ‘it’ may be, knowing when to call it a day, starting a new venture or keeping at it. Entrepreneurs are adaptable which means they may change direction, but they keep going. They may be scared, but they take calculated risks anyway because entrepreneurs don’t stagnate. Lastly and perhaps most importantly I’d say a good entrepreneur really believes in their business. I know I do – SassyChic is my heart and soul, I truly believe in online retail, in SA fashion and I love what I do even on days I may hate it (very rarely!).’
Why support small business
Being such proponents for South African products, SassyChic supports a lot of small businesses. When asked why people should support small business, Page replied: ‘Why should people do anything? Because they want to. It’s up to me as a small business owner to provide a service, a product and create a brand that people want because it’s good, because it’s worth it.’
‘That being said, I think when people understand why small businesses are important for economic growth, creating jobs and supporting families they invariably want to do so because it has a direct and indirect effect on them, their quality of life, others’ quality of life and the status of the country in which they reside. Everyone wins! A small business success story is also an inspiration to others, so the more of them, the better. We need to inspire young people to have the courage to pursue ideas no matter who they are, and to instil a desire to build and contribute to society by creating jobs and uplifting others. It all starts with supporting local, small business.’
SassyChic was voted a Top 50 Website in South Africa and won Best Female Entrepreneur at the 2015 annual eCommerce Awards. For all the fashionistas out there – this is definitely a business worth supporting!
Small Business Friday is brought to you by the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) and Nedbank (Title Sponsor) and encourages all South Africans to interact and support small business everyday; especially every Friday and even more so on Small Business Friday, the first Friday of Spring every year. This grows local communities, drives job creation and ultimately builds the nation. With your support small business will be able to employ more, therefore reducing rates of unemployment and harvesting the entrepreneurial spirit.