Spotlight on SA boutique Equilibrio & their eCommerce journey
SA Boutique Equilibrio is a South African fashion blog and online women’s store designed for women who are too busy to browse the internet for hours to find out what to wear and where to buy it. Payflex speaks to one of their founders Michelle Doyle to find out more about how their brand was born, their journey into eCommerce and what they’ve learnt.
Can you tell us a bit more about Equilibrio and how you began?
Equilibrio was established in June 2017. Myself and the other co-founder Jill Moolenschot are best friends and soulmates. We travel the globe together (when it’s not lockdown), train for insane athletic events together and both have a nerdy curiosity for information. Both qualified chartered accountants, my path branched into investor relations, marketing and media, while Jill was Finance Director of a number of major corporations. Somewhere along the way, we both reached a point where we’d had enough of the rat race and were teetering on the brink of burnout. We individually decided to resign from our jobs without a plan and were lucky enough to be able to take some time off.
In May 2017, I contracted tick bite fever after a cycle race and while sick (and bored) in bed started designing and building Equilibrio. I taught myself how to build a website on YouTube and landed up building the site in 3 days. I had been tinkering with the theme of “a balanced life” for a while and realised that there were many women out there that felt the same. Which is why we decided on the name Equilibrio, which means balance in Spanish. The site was launched on 1 June 2017 as a women’s blog.
Can you tell us a bit more about Equilibrio’s evolution?
Equilibrio initially started as a women’s blog focussing on fashion & beauty, health & fitness and in-between-topics. Within 6 months, we were awarded South Africa’s best fashion blog. A year after the blog was started, Equilibrio launched a small online women’s store selling local fashion. This was again completely uncharted territory for us. We started selling small accessories like scarves and slowly built up from there.
What makes Equilibrio different in a crowded marketplace?
We are a purely South African fashion store, featuring clothing from a host of talented South African designers that you won’t find in a mall. Every item in the Equilibrio online shop is hand-picked and curated by us. We try on every product we stock to verify the item’s comfort and fit. We spend time meeting with local designers, seeing their studios, finding new brands and trying on clothes! Our goal from the outset was to do something good while building a business. The local fashion industry is a very small industry, and we want to support small businesses. Every time you buy an item on Equilibrio, you can rest assured you are supporting a small business and helping fellow South African make a living.
Another thing that makes us unique is that our business model is completely sustainable. We don’t hold stock at all. Most designers either hold stock or items are made to order, meaning no warehousing and no shipping of clothing.
Who is your typical audience?
Women between the ages of 32 to 55. A lot of these women are financially independent, and make their own decisions. They don’t necessarily follow the crowd in terms of fashion, and rather want to buy staples that they will wear for many seasons.
How has COVID-19 impacted Equilibrio?
South Africans were not big online shoppers until the COVID-19 crisis hit. People still wanted to touch, feel and see items. The crisis changed everything. From a pure business perspective, this has been very beneficial for Equilibrio. Our website is attracting an entirely new audience who had never shopped online before for clothes and never been to our site. Now that they’ve tried it, they realize it’s not as intimidating as they thought. If you order something and it’s the wrong size you are not stuck with it. A big trend we’ve noticed since the start of the pandemic is that people want to support local, which is fantastic.
What are your future plans for Equilibrio?
Our vision is to create a hub of African fashion that the world can buy. Essentially, we want to be the Net a Porter of Africa. We want our platform to give small businesses across South Africa – and ultimately the rest of the continent – exposure to a global market. We also want to continue to promote our core messaging. Our goal is to be an eCommerce business with a conscience. We don’t only focus on a sustainable model but we give back by supporting local South African small businesses.
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