All eyes were on Switzerland, where FIFA announced the winning bid to host the World Cup. The IDC became involved in a start-up venture that had the drive and ingredients to be a success.
In 2004, the year South Africa won the right to host the FIFA World Cup, Rachmat Thomas, David Arendse and Ivan Meyer looked to their future.
The three entrepreneurs bought the manufacturing arm of their previous employer, Olympic Flair, and started Chic Shoes to produce ladies footwear. The business, although using older equipment, fast gained momentum in the market, winning a lucrative tender to supply the Department of Correctional Services with ladies court shoes. Other items fared reasonably well but the global recession affected sales of fashion shoes to independent retailers.
The members' dream was to secure a contract with one of the larger retailers that would ensure consistent and regular high-volume orders. In 2009, after designing and developing various leather pumps, Woolworths, one of South Africa's major retailers, picked up the product and worked closely with Chic Shoes to bring it into the stores. By mid-2012, the Chic Shoes ladies pump became the retailer's highest selling item. Assistance from the Industrial Development Corporation has played a significant role in the growth of Chic Shoes since its inception, and under its guidance the business has expanded extraordinarily.
As a result of the growing demand for its product, Chic Shoes is increasing its operations again, and creating 236 new jobs. The latest expansion will not only attract skilled shoemakers, but will also nurture young talent in the shoe manufacturing industry.
Chic Shoes' expansion has been so rapid that it is already looking to relocate to larger premises to keep up with the demand from Woolworths and create more space for its workers. Thomas says that the success has allowed the company to focus on creating more jobs rather than just saving jobs.
"We're incredibly grateful that the IDC, which has also worked closely with us and provided funding, has seen our potential for growth and supported our expansion plans," she says. Even though the Woolworths pumps division forms the bulk of its business, Chic Shoes also supplies a number of other products to smaller shoe outlets and various government departments under its Bella brand. It is also working with Woolworths to develop footwear for premium brands such as Studio W.