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Chatting To The Owner Of Kids Emporium, Lauren De Swardt
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We got to chat to Lauren de Swardt, founder of Kids Emporium, the beloved children's boutique with franchises all over South Africa about how she started her business.
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Kids Emporium has become one of the biggest household names in the baby industry in SA. Can you tell us how the idea of the brand/store came about?

I left school with the intention of studying law. Then the realisation of spending seven years at university dawned on me, and before I knew it, I was boarding a flight to London where I spent two years working and travelling. I was so impressed by the service levels in the UK in comparison to South Africa that I swore whatever path I pursued, it would involve delivering phenomenal service. After my two-year working visa expired, I returned to Cape Town and fell pregnant. I went with my best friend to look for nursery decor, nappy bags and the like, and we were terribly disappointed by what we found. This spurred me on to do some research and I soon realised that there was a huge gap in the SA market for baby/child products and services. I started creating my own nursery furniture range and eventually developed Kids Emporium as a retail platform.

The baby industry is quite saturated, what makes Kids Emporium different?

Kids Emporium is a one-stop-shop experience, allowing parents to find everything they need for Baby. Although we are positioned as high-end, customers are pleasantly surprised that we are also affordable. Most importantly, Kids Emporium products are backed by a much-needed, good old-fashioned, red-carpet service. Having a baby is one of the biggest milestones in your life and it can be daunting. Our job is to hold your hand during this process and make sure you have everything you need to ensure your journey is as smooth as possible and also memorable.

With franchises all over South Africa, how do you keep up with each one to ensure your ethos and standards are upheld?

We have a very hands-on and dedicated team that believes in our brand, our franchisees and the products we sell. We have put strict procedures and policies in place to ensure the Kids Emporium standards are always met. We chat to our franchisees daily and have a number of platforms available allowing them to communicate with our team and each other.

Since establishing the store, what have been some of the challenges and thrills you have faced as a business owner?

Challenges and thrills are part and parcel of your day as an entrepreneur. One of my biggest challenges was trying to raise funding to build my business. I was turned down, time and time again, by a number of financial institutions. I was a young woman with a vision that very few could understand from a business perspective. If anything, this motivated me even more. Whenever I was told ‘you can’t’, my response was generally ‘watch me’. This never-give-up attitude pulled me through many difficult moments. I attempted to grow my business without funding, which ultimately taught me the value of every cent and I learnt to play smart quickly. One of the more recent challenges I faced was to ensure my franchisees and their staff are as enthused about our brand as I am

Do you stock any proudly South African products? 

At least 65% of our product ranges are locally manufactured. There is incredible design talent in South Africa, which we are extremely proud of. We try our utmost to support local mompreneurs and work with them to grow their concepts and develop their brands. Kids Emporium is extremely approachable and never turns away a meeting. We believe everyone deserves an opportunity to showcase their talents.

What’s your favourite product/s from Kids Emporium? And why?

It’s very difficult to pinpoint one particular product as there are too many to choose from. With that said, I started Kids Emporium over 14 years ago with luxury in mind. As I had my daughter, followed by my son five years later, I was really drawn to innovation and products that made parenting sense. Our essentials department has grown tremendously over the past 14 years and this category really excites me at the moment.

What would you rate as an essential mother and/or child must-have product/s from Kids Emporium?

There are a number of definite must-haves, however, I do believe every mother deserves a stylish but practical nappy bag. When it comes to Baby, a certified car seat is a definite. Parenting is not easy and we at Kids Emporium stock a world of products that offer solutions when things get tough.

You have an online store as well. Do you offer international shipping for customers outside SA?

This can be arranged.

Aside from Namibia, are there any prospects of Kids Emporium expanding to more countries in Africa or overseas?

Absolutely. Global expansion is definitely on the cards. We have plans to expand into Africa in the near future — Botswana, Kenya and Mauritius. We also intend tackling Europe and the USA. Watch this space.

Do you have any tips and tricks for budding entrepreneurs?

Persevere, believe and don’t waiver. If you are passionate and believe in your vision, you will ultimately succeed. Giving up is the easiest thing in the world and more entrepreneurs generally fail before succeeding. The key is to stay focused, hold onto your vision and learn from the challenges along the way.

Find more information about Kids Emporium visit them here.

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