Merchant Spotlight: Equilibrio

Merchant Spotlight: Equilibrio

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, why Payflex has worked so well for them commercially, 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.

Let’s talk about the evolution of Equilibrio so far.

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.

Tell us a bit more about your journey into the SA eCommerce space

We took the approach of blogging first and then slowly starting an online presence which worked well for us as we already had an in-built audience.When you build trust, and engage with people, they feel like they know you already. We wanted our store to be completely sustainable, so getting the logistics right was tricky, which is why we wanted to start small and not do too much too soon. This obviously took time and we had only fully ironed out our system  from 2019 onwards. We now know the model works well and are growing very nicely.

Why did you bring Payflex onboard?

We decided to bring Payflex onboard during lockdown and it has been a really good move for us. We’re receiving traffic via Payflex’ store directory from people who would otherwise never have known about us. These are tough times and we wanted to give people the opportunity to stretch their wallets a bit further by buying a garment they love now and paying it off in installments without the stress of incurring further debt.

How has COVID-19 impacted your store?

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.