September Profile – Claire Hauser, Blankets & Weaves

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September Profile – Claire Hauser, Blankets & Weaves

claire-hauser

 

 

This month we chat to Claire Hauser. After having spent more than a decade in various positions within Digital (including Business Director at Acceleration, Lecturer at UCT and more recently as e-commerce Manager at HomeChoice), she finally decided to take a year off to travel and enjoy life. Starting her own business has always been a dream and so when the time came, Blankets and Weaves was born – from a pure love of blankets and our rich South African culture. Now anyone can browse, learn about and buy the perfect blanket right from the comfort of their phone/tablet/computer.

 

 

How did you get involved in the world of blankets and weaves?

I had always wanted to have my own business and an e-commerce business made sense given my background. They always say match your passion with your business and I’ll admit that I really love blankets! But my passion for blankets has grown into an appreciation of the cultural significance of blankets in South Africa. In many of our local cultures, blankets are used to celebrate and mark almost every major life milestone. I wanted to service this market but also help to more broadly share the beauty of our blanket culture in South Africa and internationally. And without being too serious, I just wanted to start a revolution of snuggliness ?

What were the biggest challenges in getting the website up and running?

If I’m honest I will say that there were very few challenges. Maybe my career in digital marketing and e-commerce gave me a head start but really, the tools available online make it really, really easy for anyone to get started! And where I didn’t know something, I made myself a cup of tea, read support docs, forums, got in touch with support and just figured it out. You just have to allow yourself the space and be patient. I suppose what maybe took the most time, was choosing the right tools and that meant having a very clear vision of the layout and functionality that I wanted. The hard work of starting a business only began once the site was finished!

The blankets are beautiful! Are they locally produced?

Thank you! I love them :) They are all very proudly South African.

Which marketing channels do you use for generating brand awareness and online sales?

I am a big believer in a combined marketing strategy of both offline and online. So even though we are an online store, we still send out flyers, participate in markets and work hard on a PR programme. This is all about building some awareness and is a slower game. Of course social media and AdWords have been critical on the digital side for our daily bread and butter. Affiliate marketing was also a key strategy I wanted up and running as soon as possible as I think it can have a significant contribution.

How do you work with Social Media?

Social media is an important part of the strategy for both sales and building relationships. But it is easy to get caught up in it because it is fun! I am pretty strict about “doing things that move the needle”. So I often choose between a Facebook post and rather working on a PR story or organising a flyer drop. Especially as a new business – you have to do things that “make the phone ring!”

How do you keep the content & images on the site up to date and relevant?

I try to be topical – looking at events such as Mandela Day, Women’s Day and Heritage Day to create meaningful and relevant content or promotions. I use Canva for all the design work and I will happily shout from the hilltops how incredible this design tool is. It allows me to very easily create images every day. If you are a new business and outsource all your design work, you’ll run into issues with cash flow and delays in waiting for turnaround times. You have to get your hands dirty and do it yourself. Canva is a free tool that I couldn’t run my business without.

What is your experience of performance-based affiliate marketing?

It is going great so far. It has only been running 1 month and I’m very happy with the progress. I really believe it can be one of the major arms of the marketing strategy.

What types of publishers/affiliate marketers do you like to work with?

I like to work with affiliates that like to make money :)

What are the major developments/changes you expect to see within the e-commerce space in SA the next 5 years?

I’m not really a fan of the “5 year” question in the space of ecommerce. Generally a decision you make now, in our game, only has legs for about 2 years!

The e-commerce space in SA has definitely gone through the mill in the last few years. We went through a huge amount of major mergers and acquisitions, with the outcome being that a lot of great little sites got swallowed up. And now the two big guns have joined forces. I’m still not sure if that is for the greater good of the e-commerce economy in SA. I think we’re getting through the teenage years though now and hopefully we’ll see some excitement in terms of new arrivals of sites, services, payment methods, click and collect depots. But a lot of the real growth challenges lie in the general state of our economy. E-Commerce in SA will only truly make a giant leap when millions more South Africans have better accessibility and banking. Until then we have to be creative in finding ways to make our products and services available to a larger audience. I suppose that’s the fun part!

Your vision for Blankets and Weaves?

I want Blankets and Weaves to be a “go to” for people looking for beautiful blankets, whether they are using them for practical purposes, for unique pieces of décor and gifts or just to snuggle under. I will be expanding the range of blankets as well as adding in other product lines.

And your favourite blanket is?

SO hard to say! I’d probably say the Nguni blankets which reflect the beauty of the animals as well as their story of providing and sustaining life; they are hardy, fertile animals and have been the currency for lobola negotiations for generations. They make a very special wedding present :)

To find out more visit: https://www.canva.com/

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