Today, Best launches in Europe. In July 2019, Best launched in South Africa, and I had serious doubts about its ability to really be something big; I don’t believe that this was because of the brand’s lack of potential but rather a reflection of my own self-doubt. Best’s philosophy has always been that our earrings aren’t necessary to be a certain way or achieve a particular look; we believe that you’ve already got everything you need to be your best, and it’s just a matter of celebrating and accentuating that. You could say this messaging came from my own internal dialogue trying to encourage myself that I have all the tools I need to be the best version of myself and, well, to make Best the best version of itself.
Before Best was even Best, I was sourcing suppliers and trying to find someone who could make the ideas I had in my head. Many companies wouldn’t even respond to a mail coming from a “@gmail.com” address without an official email signature. Finally, after months of back and forths and many “no” replies, I found a supplier in India who seemed to need me as much as I needed them. They made some samples, I iterated on those samples, and a few months later, Best’s first collection was born. The brand and website were designed by the one and only Daniel Ting Chong, and before I knew it, plus some hiccups along the way, I had somewhat of a business. (Caveat, the self-doubt was still mega at this point.) My boyfriend Daniel Fisher became my co-founder, and together we put all our hopes and dreams into Best.
Best launched, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. I had customers cheering us on and saying things like, “this looks like an international brand”. Sales ebbed and flowed with the natural ways of the market in South Africa. A really trying market with low disposable income, but with every sale, my confidence grew, and I really started to believe in what I had built. COVID hit, and e-commerce stores couldn’t operate in South Africa, and our manufacturers couldn’t operate in India. I then started the Best Blog with some of the country’s most talented female writers to try to bring traffic to the site and build a community irrespective of whether sales could be made.
Our suppliers in India at the same time were heavily affected because of COVID; things weren’t functioning as seamlessly as they should, lead times weren’t being adhered to, and quality wasn’t of a standard I felt proud of. I quickly then realised that your business is the sum total of your suppliers and we needed better suppliers. So we stopped manufacturing with them, and our stock sold out while I proceeded to hunt for the “ideal” supplier. During this time, we launched our silk scrunchies, which surprisingly flew and supplemented our revenue while simultaneously looking for someone else to manufacture our designs. We knew that a supplier that could deliver superior craftsmanship to ensure a product that would last, and one that looked after their employees and was ethical in every way from people to the environment, was non-negotiable (you won’t believe how many jewellery manufacturers out there are unethical). They needed to belong to the Responsible Jewellery Council, and they needed to be able to allow us to grow without any hindrance. When all of the above was met, I realized Best had the potential to be global. We found a supplier who made our designs in record time, out of entirely recycled materials, and within three months, we received perfect stock, which is now the SS22 collection. At this point, the sky felt like the limit. We knew we had a quality product with suppliers we could trust, so the question was: how do we get this product into a bigger market like Europe without physically being there?
Things moved quickly. At the beginning of 2021, we set a target to get Best global by the end of that year and started taking steps to get there. We set up a European company based in the Netherlands, took on a small seed investment from a European investor/advisor, and partnered with a fulfilment company to fulfil our orders across Europe. I flew out to Amsterdam on the 25 November with the hopes of closing up the final (and most important) touches over there in order to launch. However, my plane coincidentally was in the air when Europe enforced a travel ban on all South African flights immediately, meaning that when my flight landed in Amsterdam, I was detained in a quarantine area for 24 hours before catching a flight to come straight back home. I won’t go into too much detail about how emotional it all was. It was a tough knock to take. But what always astounds me about South Africans is our ability to be so resilient. We get thrown punches more than most and continue to build and move. Needless to say, our launch in Europe had to be postponed.
Things, of course, aren’t as linear as they sound here, within this story are moments of extreme uncertainty, setbacks, even existential moments. So, long story (not) short, here we are, March 2022, launching today in Europe into 13 countries, but only made possible by our tiny (but mighty!) team and every single person who has supported us, encouraged us, engaged with us, and allowed us the opportunity to believe in ourselves. You allowed me to believe in myself! All clichés aside, you helped put this small South African business of mine on the global map, and for that, I can’t thank you enough. You, reading this right now, are the reason we’re here! So thanks to you who have been on this journey with us, and welcome to anyone new, I am excited to have you here.
Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram. I’d love to connect with anyone who may be in a similar situation and offer some insights where possible, or even just to say hi!
Picture taken in Amsterdam over the Prinsengracht Canal.