This mother struggled to find the right diaper bag, today she supplies to over 100 Checkers stores | Businessinsider

2022-08-26 22:15:35 By : Ms. SolarBaba Tech

Local baby bag company Ree Collectives started supplying diaper bags to Shoprite Checkers a day before the hard lockdown in 2020. The company has since expanded its range with the retailer and supplies to more than 100 Checkers stores nationwide.

It all started in 2017 when founder Ree Geldenhuys was on holiday in the USA in 2017. Geldenhuys struggled to find a diaper bag for her three children, who were all under 18 months at the time.

“We needed a diaper bag. I couldn’t find one and ultimately we developed one, started selling it [at expos locally], and then I got a gap to go into Checkers,” Geldenhuys told Business Insider.

Upon her return to South Africa, the businesswoman designed and launched a baby bag with unique features such as large bottle pockets to accommodate wider bottle necks commonly used in South Africa.

She also ensured there were three ways to carry the bags – over the shoulder, on a stroller, and by hand. The bag also included a secret pocket to accommodate valuables.

“We thought it was over before it even began and luckily, it worked. The bags sold, and we got a reorder of three new styles.

“Checkers gave us the opportunity to grow the brand in the baby bags department. We’ve been speaking to them for a while now to do local products, and then we received the opportunity to [supply] a whole backpack luggage range at the beginning of the year,” she said.

The backpack range, ranging from R199.99, includes a variety of bags for toddlers, school kids, teens, and moms, and they have matching sets for both kids and parents.

In addition to growing in the luggage department, Geldenhuys was asked by Checkers to widen her offering in the baby department as demand for Ree Collective products soared.

The baby range, which will launch in select Checker stores, will be available from 22 August 2022. It will offer locally designed and manufactured items such as cotton blankets, pillowcases, bibs, cot fitted sheets, and change mats.

They come in adorable designs such as safari and rainbow dreams, and prices range from R59.00 to R249.99.

According to Geldenhuys, the designs are by a group of moms who come up with prints suitable for the brand - but that are equally trendy for the customer.  

“The product is so local we literally weave the fabric in KZN, and it gets printed there. We manufacture it locally, we package it, and we put it on the shelves. All our packaging is plastic free,” said Geldenhuys.  

To bring Ree Collectives to life, Geldenhuys recalls receiving help from her husband, family and friends and initially cashed out her savings worth R40,000 to import her first 60 bags to cater to the South African market. She first sold these at expos.  

“My first order for Checker was 800 diaper bags, and then our next order was 4,000. As we stand now in year three, we just did 6,300 local bags and 4,000 imported bags. I use my profits every year but, I have to invest everything every time.

“Friends and family assisted me with this round because funding is a big problem. But in my first year, I used to borrow money from my husband, and we went into overdraft every time with the banks, and then we’d pay it back, and so on,” said Geldenhuys.

The mother of three believes that her business boomed due to her interaction with moms who helped her understand their needs.

She added that had she still been selling at expos, her business probably would’ve shut down during the Covid-19 period. Geldenhuys added that Checkers truly was her saving grace.

“I’m just so thankful to these Checkers buyers for giving me the opportunity. They assisted me in developing the product, giving me more opportunity to go into these two departments,” said Geldenhuys.