Our featured Entrepreneur for November is Carita Adams, Durban designer, wife and mom to her 14 month old daughter, Nova Riley Adams. Carita comes from a bridal background and has been designing wedding dresses since 2005.
“I’ve loved designing clothes since I was young. When I was a kid, I would spend my holidays making dresses and outfits for my dolls.
Cherish by Carita Adams is a designer label of couture occasion wear for little girls. We have a collection of high-quality headbands made from the same fabrics and materials as my bridal wear. It was born out of my desire to dress my own daughter in unique, couture clothing that is one of a kind, yet exceptionally comfortable. As a designer, I get exposed to so many beautiful fabrics and materials, but I’ve never experienced anything more precious than having a little girl. The name of the brand is a tribute to moms who cherish their little girls more than anything in the world.
One afternoon I was working with some wedding gown ideas and had a bunch of fabric lying around. Nova was in the room with me, playing with some of the off-cuts. We were just having fun and I draped some tulle and ribbon bows around her and I started to get inspired. I put a few layers together and suddenly had that “a-ha” moment. I posted a pic of Nova’s first headband on Facebook and the response from moms was overwhelmingly positive. I knew then that it was something I had to pursue.
Since the decision to start the range, it’s been a wild, unhinged ride with no looking back. My husband and I both own our companies and we’re fueled by new challenges, so when we made the decision to run with this just 3 months ago, we knew that we were going to have to dive in whole-heartedly. We branded it and let our friends and family know that this was going forward and asked everyone to help spread the word. Here’s a fun fact – all of our headbands are named after our friend’s or family’s little girls.
It was around mid August this year that we made a very last minute decision to exhibit at MamaMagic Durban’s 2015 show, which we would only had 2 weeks to prepare for. Somehow we managed to pull it off and the show was a success. We had the social proof we needed to verify the product/market fit. Moms wanted our headbands for their little girls and were prepared to line up for them!
My husband, Wesley and I have endured a challenging year with starting our new company at the same time as having a newborn baby. Starting a new business, a new brand, as well as learning to become a mom all at the same time is a trial by fire! We started Cherish out of our own pockets. Getting business funding in such a short period with nothing more than an idea on the table isn’t a reality for most people. It can really be exhausting as well, days quickly become nights, momhood and work lapse and it’s normal to find yourself tired and worn out, with little steam left to keep you going. Staying motivated can be really tough when you’ve had no sleep.
We’re inspired by a lot of the beautiful, fantasy-like images that kids photographers are getting these days. Our aim is to capture the essence of that ethereal, dreamy allure into the designs of our products. Our couture headbands are handmade in South Africa, so we’re able to try new things regularly and we’re passionate about innovating. Moms love our products because they’re decadent and perfect for occasions or gifts. Our mission is to provide a range of high-quality products that are timeless, unique and precious, just like the memories you want to create with the little ones that will be wearing them.
We have big plans for the brand! Although it started out with just headbands, we are busy expanding into tutus, dresses, maternity gowns and Christening gowns. We’re working towards spreading our retailer network in South Africa, but something that’s in our sights is getting into the foreign market and representing our country globally as a quality couture label from South Africa.
Above: Carita busy adding the final touches to Kairo’s beautiful custom-made Christening gown, made from luxurious natural white silk, layers of corded and embroided beaded lace, adorned with satin ribbon, diamanté and pearl details.
If you don’t have much of a budget, networking doesn’t have to cost you any money and building relationships is the strongest asset your business will ever have.
Trust your instincts, but don’t get comfortable and hold on to ideas just because you’ve invested time and money into them. Regularly step back, re-assess and open yourself to honest criticism. There’s always a better way to do something.
Be humble and don’t take anything for granted, so be careful how you spend in the early days. Learn to appreciate the value of 1 cent.
There’s a lot you take for granted before you have a child. It’s a huge responsibility. If I could go and visit pre-mom Carita, I’d tell her to relax more and spend more time on herself. I’d probably take her a few bottles of wine with a note saying “enjoy it while it lasts”. Jokes aside, everything happens for a reason and the only path that led you to where you are right now is the accumulation of all of your past choices and experiences, both good and bad. It’s important not to regret anything, but rather to learn from the past.
To date, choosing to debut the collection at the MamaMagic show was our best marketing decision. We were in a venue with a high concentration of the exact people we wanted to reach, for a solid 3 days. Expos and trade shows allow you to go where other marketing doesn’t – face time with your end customer. The feedback and validation you can get is invaluable.
If you’d asked me a year ago which women inspire me, I would have given you the names of specific people who’s art, perseverance, wisdom or influence has inspired me, but now I draw most of my inspiration from moms who somehow manage to balance work and family life. One of the biggest obstacles a mom entrepreneur will face is trying to be the heart of a home as well as succeeding in business.
You can buy our products online at cherishbycarita.com and have them delivered to you. We also have a number of boutique stockists around the country where you can do all your kids shopping in one place! They have such lovely stores, you really have to go and see what they have to offer. Johannesburg shoppers can visit Kids Emporium Morningside who carries our range.”
Enter our Cherish by Carita Adams Competition here
Competition photographs by Sam Swiatek Photography