This is the first in what I hope will be a regular blog feature: Women to Watch. These will be blog posts about women in business – not the type of typical business-women who you picture putting on corporate suits and strutting their stuff alongside the men, but women who are forging their own path; doing things in their own unique way in their chosen field; dancing to the music only they might be hearing, and dressing in a way that their own inner fashion guru dictates! They’re making up the rules as they go along, not following any pre-ordained rule-book. They’re dedicated and devoted; hard-working and determined. They’re stating very loudly that they’re here to stay and that confidence and dignity are the banners which they proudly hold aloft!
These are the women we should be learning from … these are the Women to Watch!
JANINE BAUM OF LINGERIE & LEISURE
When you walk into Lingerie & Leisure in the Bryanston Shopping Centre, you might not be too sure of what it is you’re looking for, but rest assured, Janine Baum is 100% certain of what you need. That’s not only because she’s been involved in the business for most of her life, but because growing up in a family that’s always worked in retail, she’s been blessed with an innate sense of how to relate to people.
I was lucky enough to chat to Janine’s mom Adele Gillis who explained that Lingerie & Leisure was born over 30 years ago, in the very same shopping centre, right next door to where it thrives today. She and her husband have always been in retail, and originally owned a business dealing in dress fabrics in Florida before opening a bra shop in Bryanston, an area they’d always liked. From the age of 10, Janine always helped out in the store, and once she’d finished school and spent a year overseas, she came back home and helped in the shop temporarily. She never left! 20 years ago, Adele officially handed the shop over to Janine.
Soon after Janine took over, Lingerie & Leisure expanded its range from bra’s to swimwear and currently stocks some of the world’s most popular brands, including Seafolly (their biggest selling brand) and more recently, Ruby YaYa, two of Australia’s biggest selling ranges – all of which are mix and match: bikini tops and bottoms, tankinis, pants, tops, kaftans, bags. But when Janine first ventured into the swimwear pool (see what I did there ….?) there were only about 4 or 5 suppliers out there! Now there are about 40, mostly international, suppliers but unfortunately very few local ones.
Because of the mainly international lines that the store carries, I expected Janine to travel at least a couple of times a year to visit her overseas suppliers and do her ordering. However, she tells me this isn’t necessary as they visit South Africa. Some are even opening up their own branches here, but this is no threat at all as Lingerie & Leisure has customers who have been loyal ever since the store opened. Many now bring their children to shop here, and some even have grandchildren continuing the tradition!
During the time I spent in the shop it was extremely busy, which gave me time to look around, and observe what was going on around me between customers and staff. It was an eye-opener. This is a team that should be running workshops on customer service! They know where every item is. If a customer selects an item, they know instinctively what else to suggest – and I don’t just mean the matching items in the set! They’ve made it their business to learn their business!
So I asked Janine, after so many years in business, and clearly having learned so much about what works and what doesn’t, what her advice would be to those starting out, or thinking of going into business for themselves. She had this to say:
- Take risks. Don’t be scared to try out that big idea. Go big or go home!
- Believe wholly in your product. Invest BIG! Don’t just ‘dabble’.
- Be consistent … always.
- Remain in steady contact with clients all the time. Make regular follow-up calls. Don’t sit and wait for the phone to ring, or your inbox to ‘ping’!
- If at all possible, offer a delivery service as far and wide as you’re able to.
- Think of something different to offer. You want to stand out and be recognised.
- Love everything you sell.
- Don’t try and do the big stuff on your own. Get lawyers involved for the legal stuff and the small print. Always use good accountants.
- When hiring staff – go with your gut. Within a week of a trial run you’ll know if it’s the right person for the job: “the bad get worse, the good get better.”
- Mistakes will be made. Find a way to deal with them and move on. Janine says that when she’s left with items that don’t sell, or she realises that she’s bought stock that’s not proving to be so popular, she donates these to Rape Crisis Centres, Churches or Schools. There are always places in need of bra’s and underwear.
- Offer excellent training, and pay as well as you can. Never take your staff for granted! Janine’s staff members have been with her for years! The ones that no longer work there have either emigrated or … died!!
Lingerie & Leisure is a perfect example of a thriving, successful business model. You can visit their website at www.lingerieandleisure.co.za . Although Janine doesn’t offer an online ordering facility, you can browse through the different categories on the website and phone in for any orders you’d like to make. Orders can then be mailed to you.
There’s also an active Facebook page which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/landlshop/?fref=ts .
But of course the best option is to go and visit the shop in person. It’s located at Shop 33 in the Bryanston Shopping Centre, Cnr William Nicol Drive and Ballyclare Drive, Bryanston
Janine also has reps who sell for her, and also sees clients by appointment, herself. You can call the shop on (011) 706-7304 to get more information.