The WEEF Story

  • By Devan Swanepoel

It was September 2013 and I was invited to represent my previous company at the Loerie Awards. The Loerie Awards is a pretty fancy event and I knew I had to pull out all the stops. As part of my outfit, I had brown leather shoes, a matching brown leather belt and watchstrap. I remember my outfit feeling a bit incomplete so I decided to add a matching brown leather tie.

I jumped online and couldn’t find a leather tie anywhere in Cape Town or South Africa for that matter. With the Loeries quickly approaching I decided to run down to Long Street and had a leather tie made by one of the leather craftsman on the street.

That evening at the Loeries, 21 September 2013, my leather tie got more attention than I thought and that’s where the idea of WEEF was first sparked.

Around that time Patrick decided to pack up his life in Austria and come down to Cape Town for a few months to intern at a design studio and because Cape Town has some of the world's best kiteboarding spots - Patrick loves his kiteboarding :-) I was finishing off at my previous company and worked part-time at the same design studio where I met Patrick late September early October 2013. You know in life when you meet people you effortlessly just connect with?

That was the situation with myself and Patrick. After forming a great friendship, Patrick returned back to his hometown Graz, Austria a few months later and I decided to go study a post-grad in marketing communications at AAA school of Advertising at the start of 2014.

During this time Patrick and I kept in contact and tried multiple manufacturing companies in and around Cape Town to help perfect our ‘leather tie’ idea… The big search for the perfect manufacturing partner went on for a few months and by the end of 2014, I got offered a job at an advertising agency in Cape Town and Patrick was also pretty busy with his master's degree during this time. Things got a little more difficult juggling a 9-5 and spending time on WEEF but we managed to make some progress between lunch breaks, after hours and weekends.

During the first quarter of 2015, Patrick returned to Cape Town for yet another few weeks as part of his Master degree in Graphic Design. During this time myself and Patrick took every second we had to sign off colours, designs and to choose the right manufacturing company to help us execute our ties. By mid-2015 I resigned from my agency job at the time to go on a personal 4-month adventure of ‘self-discovery’. During this time I completed the Camino de Santiago in Spain and as part of my travels I ended up staying with Patrick in Austria for about two weeks.

While I was in Austria myself and Patrick laid our cards on the table and fully committed to the idea of starting WEEF.

I arrived back in South Africa late 2015 and by January 2016 we managed to convince a European investor to invest in our idea and overnight we had the capital to start our exciting new business venture. Little did we know the journey ahead…

We knew that if we wanted our products as perfect as possible, we would have to make it ourselves. By making it ourselves there would always be quality control and we would be able to be in charge of timing and quantities – I remember going for leather sewing classes to learn the craft - It’s always easier teaching someone else how to do something if you know how it’s done.

Overnight we moved into our own office space in Parow Industria just outside of Cape Town, bought our own machines and found two skilled leather craftsmen to join our team. Starting a business is no easy task and one needs to wear multiple hats at once.

Systems were the first thing we had to get in place and then we went on to build solid relationships with our suppliers and staff – one of the most important and valuable assets WEEF believes in to date.

The systems included:

  • Office space
  • Machines
  • Staff
  • Prototypes
  • Registering a business
  • Import/export licensing
  • Bank accounts
  • CI
  • Packaging
  • Website
  • Brand Film
  • Photos
  • SM platforms
  • Launch strategy
  • Marketing
  • Retail strategy

WEEF took months before things started taking shape. During this time it’s very easy to lose focus of your goals because the end result seems so far away but we knew we had to keep each other accountable and didn’t want to let each other down.

I was responsible for all systems in South Africa and Patrick took responsibility of Europe. Myself and Patrick built WEEF remotely via South Africa and Europe using only iMessage and Skype in less than six months.

It takes years to design a ball, months to pump it up and once it's done, you kick it into the world and hope it bounces!

After about changing the launch date 5 times, we pressed the ‘live’ button on WEEF the 27th of September 2016 at 8:30 am. To us WEEF wasn’t only a brand we were launching, it was a dream and a platform to collaborate and inspire from. Looking back myself and Patrick couldn’t imagine the amount of fun, learning curves, opportunities and personal growth we would go through while starting WEEF.

That’s why we encourage young entrepreneurs to go out there and follow their dreams. If it fails, that’s fine, at least you would’ve learned from your mistakes and most importantly, you could tick the dream off ‘your list’.

We believe leather is such an amazingly versatile and timeless medium which we are absolutely obsessed with and the long-term goal is to eventually evolve WEEF into an ‘International leather lifestyle brand’.

And no we don’t have it all figured out, but man, the journey thus far has been absolutely amazing and we would do it all over again.

We thank you kindly.

Dévan & Patrick

WEEF product range

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