Five Minutes With Lauren De Swardt, Owner Of Kids Emporium

We got to chat to Lauren De Swardt, founder of Kids Emporium, the loved kids’ boutique with franchises around the country, and this is what she had to say… Kids Emporium has become one of the biggest household names in the baby industry in SA. Can you tell us how the idea of the brand/store came […]

We got to chat to Lauren De Swardt, founder of Kids Emporium, the loved kids’ boutique with franchises around the country, and this is what she had to say…

Kids Emporium has become one of the biggest household names in the baby industry in SA. Can you tell us how the idea of the brand/store came about?

I left school with the intention of studying law. The idea of spending seven hours at university suddenly dawned on me, and before I knew it, I was boarding a flight to London where I spent two years working and travelling. I was completely impressed by the service levels in the UK in comparison to South Africa and I always swore that whatever path I pursued, it would be one where it is delivered through phenomenal service. After my two-year working visa expired, I returned to Cape Town and fell pregnant. Along with my best friend, I went out looking for nursery décor, nappy bags and the likes and was horrified by what we found in the South African market place. This spurred me to do some research and I soon realised that there was a huge gap for the products and services in the parenting market. I started by creating my own nursery furniture range and eventually developed Kids Emporium as a retail platform.

Since establishing the store, what have been some of the challenges and thrills you have faced as a business owner?

Challenges and thrills are part and parcel of a day as an entrepreneur. One of my biggest challenges was trying to raise funding to build my business. I was turned down, time and time again, by a number of financial institutions. I was a young woman with a vision that very few could understand from a business perspective. If anything, this spurred me on even more. Whenever I was told ‘you can’t’, my response was generally ‘watch me’. This ‘never give up’ attitude pulled me through many difficult moments. I then attempted to grow my business without funding, which ultimately taught me the value of every cent and I learned to play smart quickly. One of the more recent challenges I face is to ensure my franchisees and their staff are as enthused about our brand as I am.

With franchises across South Africa, how do you keep up with each and every one of them to ensure your ethos and standards are met?

We have a very hands-on and dedicated team who all believe in our brand, our franchisees and the products we sell. We have put strict procedures and policies in place to ensure the Kids Emporium standards are always met. We chat to our franchisees daily and have a number of platforms available allowing them to communicate with our team and each other.

Do you stock any proudly South African products? Tell us more.

At least 65% of our product ranges are locally manufactured. There is incredible design talent in South Africa, which we are extremely proud of. We try our utmost to support local mompreneurs and work with them to grow their concept and develop their brands. Kids Emporium is extremely approachable and never turns away a meeting. We believe everyone deserves an opportunity to showcase their talents and we try our best to work with them to grow their brands within Kids Emporium.

What’s your favourite product/s from Kids Emporium? And why?

It’s very difficult to pinpoint one particular product as there are really too many to choose from. With that said, I started Kids Emporium over 14 years ago with luxury in mind. As I had my daughter, followed by my son five years later, I was really drawn to innovation and products that made parenting sense. Our essentials department has grown tremendously over the past 14 years and this category really excites me at the moment.

What would you rate as an essential mother and/or child must-have product/s from Kids Emporium?

There are a number of definite must-haves, however, I do believe every mother deserves a stylish but practical nappy bag. When it comes to baby, a certified car seat is a definite which will hopefully connect to your travel system. As many parents will tell you, parenting is not easy. Kids Emporium stocks a world of products that offer solutions when times get tough.

Do you offer international shipping for customers outside SA?

This can be arranged for customers.

Aside from Namibia, are there any prospects of Kids Emporium expanding to more countries in Africa and/or overseas?

Absolutely. Global expansion is definitely on the cards. We have plans to expand into Africa, namely Botswana, Kenya and Mauritius in the near future. We also plan to tackle Europe and the USA. Watch this space.

The baby industry is quite saturated, would you like to share with our readers what makes Kids Emporium different?

Kids Emporium is a ‘one-stop shop’ experience, allowing expecting parents to find everything they need for baby. Although we are positioned to be high end, customers are pleasantly surprised to see the price tags of our products, making us premium but affordable. Most importantly, Kids Emporium products are backed by a much-needed, good old-fashioned, red-arpet service. Having a baby is the biggest milestone in one’s life and it can be daunting. Our job is to hold your hand during this process and make sure you have everything you need to ensure your parenting journey is both smooth sailing and memorable.

Do you have any tips and tricks for budding entrepreneurs?

Persevere, believe and don’t waiver. If you are passionate and believe in your vision, you will ultimately succeed. Giving up is the easiest thing in the world and more entrepreneurs generally fail before succeeding. The key is to stay focused, hold onto your vision and learn from the challenges along the way.

For more information about Kids Emporium, visit their website, follow their Twitter account, their Instagram acount, and like their Facebook page.