South Africa we are coming for you...

It’s been a difficult journey for small businesses recently, and here at Van Velze & Smith we have certainly felt the effects of it. However, it has undoubtably proven to me again that being out of your comfort zone is a great thing. It is the time when you are most creative; a time when you are the very best at problem solving; and a time that reminds me of why I moved to England: to be uncomfortable. To grow.

Growing our brand has never been an easy feat: we learn as we go, and we have to trust our initiatives. This is my first experience of running a business, and my mistakes have not been enjoyable by any means, but the lessons earnt for next time have been invaluable. Underestimating the time needed to acquire the raw materials for boot production meant that we had to cancel this year’s opening trade shows. In doing so it has made it tough to meet new people, for them to familiarise themselves with us, and to build a sense of trust with them. Once we’re over this initial wobble, we’ll be back strong. We want to use the rest of the year’s shows to expand, to allow people to get to know us, to trust us, and to become a more recognisable brand. Ultimately, when people see us, we want them to be reminded of the good times and the fond memories that they’ve created whilst wearing our boots.

From the outset, I was always going to bring Van Velze & Smith to South Africa. It is a passion of mine, and I can now say that it is happening: we are launching into South Africa this year. The boots have been shipped, they are on their way, and the flights have been booked. On 15th May we will be holding our soft launch, and on 17th May our rugby coaching clinic will be held at Pretoria Boys High School for our Boot 4 Boot campaign.

As a young buck, I had no other goal but to become a professional sportsman. I didn’t care if it was cricket, or rugby, I just knew that it was all I wanted to be. I was fortunate enough to attend Affies at age 14, which was a challenging, but rewarding, environment that fundamentally pushed me to play representative rugby. Then, at 19, I was offered my first professional contract, where I went on to have a successful career, spanning 14 years before taking a sabbatical to focus on VVS.

I’ve always been passionate about rugby, and appreciative of the opportunities it’s given me. The core values of the sport especially have always resonated with me: teamwork, camaraderie, and access for all – the pillars on which I have founded VVS. As such, when I created the brand, it was imperative that I use it to give back to the sport that has given me so much. This will be achieved through our seasonal development programme.

As you will know by now, South African children play rugby barefoot until age 13, at which point they go to high school and need their first pair of rugby boots. As a South African, I understand that not everyone has access to the boots that they need to participate in the game that I love. Thus, Boot 4 Boot will be the first campaign of our seasonal development programme. For this campaign, VVS has invited young and aspiring rugby players to a free coaching clinic, where we will also supply them with a pair of rugby boots each. We know that a single pair of boots might not change the world, but we firmly believe that it can make a small difference at a time where we could all do with a bit of good news and something to smile about. We are hoping to inspire those with the same aspirations as 13-year-old GJ, dreaming of a career as a professional sportsman.