Footwear distributor reveals his green soul

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Andrew Jenman grew up with a strong interest in environmental matters, sparked by his mother Barbara, who started a recycling depot in the Hout Bay museum in the early 1980s and worked for many years for the Fairest Cape, winning an award from the government for her pioneering efforts.

Now Jenman, who majored in environmental sciences in university, is striving to promote green awareness among the public in a totally different way – by distributing footwear that has a green “foot-print” through his company Reviva Technology. He believes that while few South Africans currently consider green issues when buying products, it will be just a matter of time before we start appreciating that by purchasing environmentally-friendly items we can make a difference to our carbon emissions, and understanding what this really means in terms of global warming.

“Although people are conscious of global warming and schools are now education young people about it, it takes a while for new information to make a difference in the marketplace,” says Jenman, who believes that green issues will become a huge decision-maker for consumers’ overtime. He says he has already seen a big heap of interest in environmentally friendly products in the American market. “I attended two footwear trade shows in the states last year, and between the first held in February and the second in August, saw many top brands introducing green styles into their portfolios, indicating a new level of awareness in the market.”

He is convinced that the green market will develop further in South Africa and putting his money where his mouth is, has brought the Terrasoles brand into the country, launching it nationally in March 2009. These footwear products, the first international green footwear brand available in South Africa, consist of 50 percent recycled materials and are made of organic cotton and contain soy-based dye. Jenman believes that environmental consciousness will become entrenched in our thinking as health awareness has in recent years through education and media exposure.

His business philosophy is to focus on products that meet emerging trends, but also make him feel good about marketing them. He has managed to do this successfully with Fitflop, the first range he introduced in South Africa and around which he has built his business. Fitflop was invented by US personal trainer Marcia Kilgore, and engineered by Dr David Cook, a podiatric biomechanist. “The midsoles of the shoes act like a ‘wobble board’, destabilising the foot and forcing the muscles in the thighs, hamstrings, calf and glutes to work harder than usual toning those areas,” Jenman says. The brand is a favourite overseas.

Fitflop fans include international celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Biel, who have been spotted wearing them. Last year Oprah Winfrey also pronounced the Walkstar, one of the favourite products in the range, one of her favourite things for summer. Jenmans involvement with Fitflop came about through a relationship he developed with Coast2Coast, a private equity company, which is now his business partner in Reviva Technology.

After reading about the products in the Cape Times, the directors of Coast2Coast approached Jenman about the possibility of importing and distributing Fitflop in South Africa. After he presented them with a business plan, Reviva Technology was born. In establishing Reviva Technology, Jenman has had many new challenges to face. Negotiating with the overseas suppliers to bring Fitflop to South Africa wasn’t easy, with many other distributors vying for the product, and he also had much to learn in areas such as shipping.

But he knew that fitflop was the product he had been searching for, and believed that he could build a business around a good product and the right resources. Although maybe bringing new products to market during an economic downturn, and working to change consumer mindsets is presenting further challenges, Jenman has already achieved a measure of success, selling about 38 000 pairs of Fitflops since launching the product in South Africa some 18 months ago.

His vision is to work only with products that he can believe in, and to focus on the two areas in which he feels comfortable working; health and wellness, and sustainable energy and green products.

He believes that from a business perspective these areas are important, and best of all, he feels good about making a difference.

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