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Green entrepreneur refused to give up on her dream

Nov 15 2016 18:08
Carin Smith

Cape Town - Robyn Smith is a "green entrepreneur. She is the founder of Faithful to Nature, a niche e-commerce site, stocking over 11 000 organic and natural products. Fin24 asked Robyn more about her journey as entrepreneur:

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a free range soul, someone who loves to create and adventure. I have a very strong ethical compass that is one of the core drivers of my decision making.

Without trying to be one, I often find myself in the rebel role, questioning the way things are done and eager to innovate and improve on current systems.

I am fiercely determined and highly motivated to continue to feel inspired in the work that I produce. I live in Kommetjie with my husband and son, spending as much time outdoors as possible.

How and why did you become an entrepreneur?

I am not very good at following the rules and love a challenge. The more blank the canvas, the happier I am. I loved my time working as an innovation consultant before becoming my own boss, but I wanted to be in a position where I could single-handedly focus on making the world a better place.

Tell us a bit about your business

Faithful to Nature is South Africa’s largest green online shop with the vision of becoming "Africa’s Green Amazon". We were one of the first companies worldwide to create and implement a very strict ingredient policy that determines which products we sell and which ones not.

This policy is our DNA, and is designed to empower our customers on their journey towards ethical consumption and a healthier and greener life.
We offer over 11 000 carefully selected products in the food, beauty, lifestyle, cleaning, home, garden and pet categories - whether you are looking for a top quality cruelty free lipstick, gluten-free flour or a certified organic body wash for your baby, we have you covered.

What challenges did you have on your journey as entrepreneur?

Cash flow is and has been a constant challenge. As a business, we have always enjoyed very high growth but like many e-commerce businesses, profitability and stock management is a constant tightrope to navigate.

The courier market in South Africa was very uncompetitive when we first launched back in 2006 and this required constant innovation to be able to provide the service we wanted to our customers.

The natural and organic industry was very “cottage-level” when we started and while this provided great opportunities it has also required a lot of flexibility and patience in terms of dealing with our suppliers and partners.

What advice do you have for other (would-be) entrepreneurs?

As the business has grown, I have found it fairly lonely at times to be working without business partners and would highly recommend entrepreneur networks to anyone considering going alone.

Although it is very 101, I also cannot recommend strongly enough keeping a dynamic business plan that you revise and work on every quarter. It is so important that you are always very clear about what makes your value proposition unique.

Your business will only ever be as strong as the people you hire. Having a strong set of values and a good idea of the culture that you are trying to create will help you immeasurably to spot the right people quickly and to recognise the wrong people even faster.

Tell us about your successes

Not giving up on my dream is the single reason that I now enjoy the success that I do.

There were many times during the past 10 years that the viability of the business was being questioned by my nearest and dearest and the stress of operating without any kind of cash flow net was at times intolerable. But I never threw in the towel in and I really believe looking back that this is one of the most critical factors in businesses that do and don’t make it.

I believe that there is always a solution if one can find enough ways to look at a problem and I applied this consistently to my business.

Apart from this, the greatest success at Faithful to Nature has to be our amazing customer retention rates. We are a very customer-centric business and really understand the lifetime value of each and every customer and it brings me great joy to read the consistent volumes of customer feedback we receive every month.

We now carry one of the largest inventories of authentic natural and organic products in the country, if not the world and the fact that we never compromise on our strict ingredient policy has stood us in great stead.

We’ve been nominated and have won a fair amount of awards over the years but believe that the accolades that matter most, is the loyalty that our customers show us. It creates a firm and very exciting bedrock from which to grow.

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entrepreneurs  |  environment  |  small business
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