Supporting in the right way

My ankle has taken longer than I had expected to heal. In the back of my mind, I was hoping to be ready to run Two Oceans half marathon this coming weekend but that doesn’t look realistic now.

It’s been okay when I run shorter distances but standing in the starting pen, waiting for the race to start, and then hitting the road for 3 hours, carefully dodging 16 000 other runners doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. For the first time in almost 10 years, we’ll be giving Two Oceans a miss. *FOMO alert*

I’ve been doing my rehab exercises and taking extra care of my foot in general. I’m fully aware that an injury and pulmonary embolism doesn’t just heal overnight – the daily blood thinners remind me of the nasty ordeal.

One small way I’m giving back to my ankle is by wearing comfy, supportive shoes. I can’t believe the pairs of shoes in my cupboard that offer almost zero support! It’s ridiculous that women still buy such dreadful shoes!

But then, I happened to spot gorgeous sandals on Instagram and had to have them! They’re imported from Greece and kinda remind me of Birkenstocks (another one of my favorite brands).

I tracked down Maxie Moda & bought these two pairs. I couldn’t resist!

I bought both the black & tan pair. The black look fab with jeans. Photo credit: @khoslene_photography

These are my feet in the tan pair. Super comfy!

To be completely honest, I wasn’t just thinking about my ankle and a new pair of shoes. But since we’ve been running with our small business, CW-X, it’s become very important for me to support other entrepreneurs.

Just knowing how incredibly tough it is out there, to get your name established, to attract customers and make a sale. It’s hard work! So I’d rather buy from another small business and support their vision than buy yet another uncomfy sandal from Woolies with no support for my ankle.

I’m keen to look for other nuggets hidden across Jo’burg!

This is an unsponsored post and my own opinion. But I urge you to support your family & friends who are trying to grow their businesses.

We’re closing down

When KK read me the email, it truly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. For a couple of days, we both floated in a bubble of denial, hoping our contact in the US would reply to our list of frantic questions with a solution. It never came.

The news was not what we were expecting to hear. They have decided to restructure and stop the international distribution model. Basically, our supplier will not be supplying us with anymore stock and advised us to close down the CW-X SA business.

Gutted. Angry. Relief. Disbelief. Hurt.

The timing was bitter sweet. After spending so many months getting our business up & running, we had just engaged in negotiations with a few partners to start advertising in top notch media. After a great evening hosting a stand at the Valentine’s Day Night race at Harriers, we had made plans with a few other clubs to sell our goods. Business had picked up! The tingling excitement when my phone beeped signaling a new order had come in never grew old!

Now we are sitting with the dilemma of swapping our growth strategy for an exit strategy.

It’s the weirdest thing. I’ve ping-ponged between feelings of complete sadness to days when I look back and at how much KK and I were able to accomplish in the last couple of months.

There are no regrets.

The purchasing process, registering our company, opening up bank accounts, setting up the website, learning about the product, selling to customers, the late nights of prepping social media posts and running campaigns on Facebook & Instagram. Every day I felt more alive than ever!

KK and I learnt so much about ourselves and one another too. Want to know how strong your marriage is? Run a small business part-time with your spouse! We’ve grown tremendously during this journey together.

The pic is dark but it was a selfie we took the evening we had finally signed offer & loaded the car with stock. We were entrepreneurs!

The first delivery! After being held up at customs for 5 weeks, this was one of the highlights! Unpacking boxes of our very first order of stock!

The Sunday afternoons practicing setting up the banners and gazebo in our garden.

We can’t thank our family & friends enough for the support during the last couple of months. You have been part of the success and the fun. The excitement you showed, the stories you listened to, believing in our vision. It has meant so much!

Thanks especially to all our brand ambassadors and loyal CW-X fans: Dan, Kirsty, Gwynn, Timaya, Advocate Karen, Julia and Zara, Carl, Isabel, Jonty and Portia. It was a hell of a ride!

So where to from here? A huge clearance sale of the stock we purchased. Updating the site to reflect the sale prices and trying to get back as much of our investment as possible. The learnings continue and I suspect it’s preparing us for our next business venture.

As readers who follow my blog, you’re the first to hear the news before we send out official comms to our customer database. The good news is that you’re also the first to take advantage of the sale prices. Head over to the site to grab first dibs on the most amazing running clothes you will soon not be able to get locally before we shut down the site.

We reluctantly came. We nervously saw. OMW, we sold!

The choice of touch points or channels has always been quite a strong focus of most of my career. Where to target customers, on which channel, when and how. So when we launched our small business CW-X SA, I seriously thought that I would be able to lure customers to the website via a range of beautiful imagery on Instagram and engaging stories on Facebook.

Sales have been slow. 

We realized that the brand had dipped into very low awareness levels, the competitor environment was fierce and that unless we put money behind our social media posts, no one was really seeing our brand.

We decided to get our faces out there and approached Randburg Harriers Running Club asking if we could promote our goods at their Thursday evening time trial. I won’t lie, a social media collaborator and an engineer, face-to-face sales was not our strong point and we were dreading it.

The nerves ran high!

But here’s what we learnt:

  • Our brand needs to be seen in the real world. Once people saw the banners, it suddenly felt real.
  • Our faces need to be seen and recognized by fellow runners to make the connection between our brand and ourselves. Why? Because trust sells. Relationships sell. Networking sells.
  • And most of all, word-of-mouth is key! Once people realized its was us and they knew our faces and names behind the brand, they were really excited and started to tell other people.

Mini brand ambassadors were born.

I’m all for eCommerce but it doesn’t allow for much human connection. With the face-to-face interaction at time trial along side the track, it was easier to question and probe. We showed an interest in people and their stories.

It created a comfortable space for people to share their running injuries, their eating struggles and their choice of what running tights suited them more. People opened up to us about personal stories they would not necessarily do online.

After one evening, we’re no experts. But what an eye opener.

And here’s one more nugget. We fell out of our comfort zones and rolled straight into realizing that maybe, just maybe, we can do this thing called sales.

Teething problems of a new business

To say that we’ve had a few “teething problems” running CW-X SA, our small business, would be a massive understatement. The definition of teething problems is: “short term problems at the early stages of a project.”

The night we signed the contract & loaded KK’s car full of stock. We were officially the owners of our own business!

I bet if you asked any mother to describe her child’s teething, she would mention the drooling, the irritability, the niggles, the loss of appetite, the red gums, the chewing of fingers and toys. Yeah, sounds familiar to us.

The teeth cut so far have been for the following reasons:

  • Delays in getting our payment platform up and running. And I’m talking months, not weeks!
  • Our stock was delayed at customs and then audited by SARS. Fluke, I swear!
  • Commitment from buyers but the orders don’t come through. Everyone promises to go buy, but then … don’t.
  • Orders for stock we didn’t think people would be interested in. Funky colours are not as popular as we thought.
  • Running social media campaigns is tough! Providing fresh content 24/7 and having minimal engagement is frustrating.

The challenge is also running the business after hours while we have our day jobs. It has meant a lot of late nights and busy weekends. We accidentally missed a failed order on the site last week. Thank goodness for our site developer Liza who has been absolutely amazing!

Through the drool and niggles, there are some nuggets that we’ve picked up along the way:

  • The personal touch is important. While I’m all for online shopping, there’s something about speaking face-to-face with someone. I totally get how retail giants such as Amazon and even Yuppie Chef are toying with bricks and mortar. Don’t underestimate the value in hand deliveries.
  • Runners are all so different but yet all so alike. Sticking to what we know has worked for us. Trying to be all things to all people is impossible right now.

    I love these lava print tights! And everywhere I saw jacaranda trees, I would stop to take pics.

  • Knowing the stock makes all the difference. I have started running in different bras and running in various styles of running tights. It definitely helps knowing the product, but not only through the brochures, but from personal experience. I’ll tell you now (for free) that the racerback Xtra Support bra is not nearly as comfortable as the StabilyX Running bra.

    They say you shouldn’t try anything new when running a race, but I decided to try out the StabilyX Ventilator 3/4 tights for Kaapsehoop half marathon. This is me and my dad 300m from the finish line. We were hurting! But the tights felt amazing!

  • Finding the right brand ambassadors who love your product and believe in your vision has been so motivating! Thank you Kirsty & Dan!

    OCR & Trail running fanatic!

    Kirsty just had to try out a couple of handstands in her new Generator Revolution Trailprint tights. Gosh, they fit her like a glove!

The snag of spraining my ankle and KK traveling for work during December is yet another teething problem for us – something we need to work around. You start becoming incredibly solutions-focused and agile.

The running injuries come & hopefully will go. The projects at work should come to an end. But runners don’t stop running. And so the sales must go on!

Get to CW-X SA and find out why we’re committed to sticking through the teething problems!