Georgia Eccles Schoeman, 37, lives in Franschhoek with her daughter and parents.
Old job: Art agent
New job: Founder and co-owner of a menswear shop, Peacock Blue, and Indian Summer, which sells gorgeous local and international fashion, swimwear and accessories.
I grew up in Cambridge where I studied History of Art at Oxford Brooks University. My mother and I both grew up in the retail trade, and my memories of my childhood are peppered with various experiences in and around the five shops my mom owned in London over the years. I was also lucky to travel around Asia before going to university, living in Bali for six months, and visiting Thailand and Vietnam. After graduating and before becoming an art agent, I joined my mom in her interiors and gift shop, Indian Summer in Fulham, helping out with merchandising and window displays.
In 2002, after spending six months in the shop, I moved to Cape Town with my South African boyfriend, Donovan, and spent the next two years organising exhibitions, attending art fairs and exporting South African art to London. While the demand for South African art in London was great, the rand slowly strengthened, making margins tighter, and the travelling between London and Cape Town eventually got to me. In 2004 I decided to open my own version of Indian Summer in Claremont, stocking kaftans, Indian furniture, jewellery, Kashmir shawls and art.
What happened next?
My opening event was a near disaster with all my stock arriving at the same time as my guests! I remember opening boxes while people were eating canapés and sipping champagne, but luckily no one seemed to mind and I never looked back. The business grew steadily and, by 2006, I was looking to open a second shop. When an opportunity arose in Franschhoek, I called my mom in London and invited her to become an investor. We opened Indian Summer in Franschhoek that same year, and, before long, my parents downsized and bought a home here.
Where we are now…
Our focus has always been on being able to buy the kind of stock that has international appeal and will be a hit with locals and tourists alike. We slowly phased out the interiors, replacing them with a sophisticated selection of European designer wear and Eastern accessories to complement our SA fashion ranges from Desray, Sally Moinet and Misfit.
While we both share the buying trips, I focus mainly on the paperwork, staff and merchandising while my mother manages the inventory and orders.We source our international ranges from London, Italy, France, India and Thailand. Because of the seasonal variances between Europe and South Africa, we find that we’re able to buy the end of European fashion ranges for a relatively good price to offset the 45% import duty.
Retail isn’t for the faint-hearted – it takes passion, energy, focus and an ability to adapt to the changing forces within the market.
My mom and I spend a tremendous amount of time together. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and always play to the strengths. Indian Summer has brought us closer together, and will no doubt continue to encourage us to find the balance between work, family, self and community.
We’ve launched our national and international Indian Summer website which allows our customers to order online, and provides free delivery to anywhere in South Africa.
Best move: Moving to Franschhoek.
Worst move: Opening a small swimwear shop in a secondary location in Franschhoek.
Top tip: While there is no formula for success, remember that retail is detail. Play to your strengths and stay true to the essence of what makes your business unique.
Visit www.indiansummer.co.za or call Georgia on 083 463 0392