1. Please share a little about yourself and what inspired you to create this brand?
I'm a self-taught (no fancy varsity degrees here) front-end developer and designer - I come from nerdery :-) This is how I met Scott - my work and life partner. He does the very complicated thinky things that happen behind the scenes. We'd always wanted to build something together because our skills are so complimentary. Enter Hello Pretty.

We first spoke about building a marketplace in 2009, and finally did so in 2012. I'm glad we didn't do it back then because the technology and the market simply weren't ready for it and it'd have flopped.   

I've been extremely fortunate to have been able to travel a fair bit. I love design in all it's forms, and I'm an insatiable shopper. I'm talking like 8 hours straight. So when I travel, I shop. I shop a lot (poor Scott). It's made me realise and appreciate the calibre of South African's designers. We're top-notch. I think South Africans themselves don't realise this and tend to lust after anything from "overseas".

I hope that with Hello Pretty I can help to change this perception of cool, and I also hope that I can help expose our high-quality independent brands to "overseas", so that they can covet what we make too. 

I get to scratch all of my itches at once :)

2. How would you describe your brand in a nutshell?
It is (we are?) friendly and approachable to our designers and our customers. We're active and involved in the community, and we make the effort to go support our designers whenever they invite us to their markets and events, and to meet people in person. And we're a small business, so we really "get" small business.

Of vital importance to all of the team members is our goal to provide the best service and support within the South African ecommerce space. My customer-service crushes are YuppieChef and Takealot.

3. What would you consider to be unique about your brand?
A lot of this ties back into the previous point. The way Hello Pretty supports our designers by attending their events and working so hard to market them, and our customer service. I realise I'm biased, but we have countless messages from both customers and designers thanking us for the speedy, helpful, friendly and personal responses we send to every email we get. We are nice to everyone and people appreciate that :)

We've also broken a lot of conventions with our site in spite of being advised against them.
  1. We don't clutter our site with flashing banners and tacky advertisements. It's as minimal as it can possibly be and you'll notice that it is eerily devoid of a million "share this" links and fed-in Facebook pages / Twitter streams.
  2. We've set the bar in terms of fair pricing - multiple competitors dropped their rates to match ours.
  3. Hello Pretty is very open. There are few other sites where the designer can link out to their social media and websites, and feature their logo, and put out a strong presence for their own brand. We also allow customers to contact the designers directly through our site.
4. How many stores/branches do you have and where are they located?
We're solely an online marketplace rather than a store (we just put a brilliant blog post by Menno Gazendam up on the topic ), so we don't have physical shops. Which is fine by us, since the internet is everywhere.

We have 850 designers selling using our platform, with in the region of 13 thousand products. Watch your back, Amazon!

5. What ‘piece of advice’ would you most like to share with people considering a start -up business?
Just go ahead and start. You'll never be ready so don't rob yourself by waiting to be ready before you start.

Know that it will take much longer than you think to get yourself to where you want to be. But that doesn't mean your business is a failure so don't give up. Keep marketing and keep figuring out where your weak spots are and repairing them.

6. The challenge as a business is to stay authentic and true to your brand, how do you achieve this?
By being highly critical of who it makes sense to take advice from. It helps to know very solidly what we believe.

7. What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
On contract jobs, and in working for companies, you're at the mercy of your client or employer. There are so many times where someone would want a particular thing done that I'd know for certain was either bad practise or a bad idea, but you still have to go ahead and do it. In Hello Pretty, we've gotten to do everything in the way that we believe to be best, based on our experience. That's been highly gratifying.

Also, the amount of flexibility that comes with the turf is awesome.

8. What has your journey so far taught you {about yourself or in general}? Has it changed your life in any way?
Hm. Well, corn-alert: the more time that goes by, the more apparent it's become that one's gut feel is seldom wrong.

I suppose it's changed my life in terms of routine, and I've gained a lot of experience through it. It's been great to have a laser-focused passion for the site and watch it grow - I was doing contracting before, and sometimes it would be a week of 2am-nights straight, and sometimes 6 weeks of bumming around. This is a very different groove.

A challenge for me has been creating balance. Since Scott and I live and work together, it's too easy to end up working 7 days straight without taking away-from-keyboard time together. Remarkably though, we haven't murdered one another and it's been really great working together. But we have to set ourselves reminders to have non-Hello-Pretty fun sometimes!

9. How does the future look as far as ‘dreams and visions’ for your brand?
It's rosy. I can't wait. We're growing at a heck of a lick, and have managed to retain our personal touch in everything we do, as well as the loyalty of both customers and designers. So it feels like success in terms of our dreams and visions. It gives everybody on the team the fuzzies.

What's been especially fulfilling has been to see small businesses grow as a direct result of what we do.

We're currently focused on some big site features and refinements to accelerate our growth so that we can do more of the same, but with greater intensity. We have more ideas than time, which is a great problem to have.

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