Gerry Young and Chris Powell celebrate all things floral with their fresh and trendy Rosehip range
story katrine anker-nilssen pictures milo photography
Gerry and Chris met 17 years ago at a party. “Chris persuaded his date to get my number,” laughs Gerry. “All of a sudden I had an instant family with three teenagers; Sarah (now 35), Emma (now 32) and Matthew (now 29).”
Gerry was running the Wetherlys marketing department when she met Chris. But soon after their son Nicholas (now 12) was born, she decided to go on her own. “I started supplying Wetherlys with certain products,” says Gerry. As Rosehip grew, Gerry and Chris bought a screen printer and started printing in their garage – something they still do for certain customers. “About five years ago we decided to start digital printing and manufacturing. It began with a stand at the SARCDA Trade Exhibitions, when we had four umbrellas and a range of screen-printed table linen. Our wholesale customer base went from three to 97. We didn’t know what had hit us,” smiles Gerry.
Discovering digital printing certainly took the business to new heights. “This move gave Gerry the licence to do her beautiful floral work,” says Chris. “I have always been a very passionate gardener. The botanical designs were just an opportunity to take what I love to the next step and print on fabric,” adds Gerry. With Chris’s extensive experience in marketing and export, things fell into place. “Gerry does the design work and I do everything else,” he laughs.
Starting out at markets they sold bags, followed by umbrellas and raincoats. “I started manufacturing with a chap from Richards Bay, and one day we got a call from this retailer who had been let down by his supplier in India and needed 1 200 cushions in 10 days. Some were embroidered, others were printed. I still have no idea how we managed, but we got the order to them on time, and my manufacturer was able to buy himself a car,” says Gerry.
“Getting accepted into the KAMERS/Makers shows was terribly exciting as all the products are locally manufactured and they have thousands of applications for each show. Having such a fabulous response to our product gave us the confidence to keep going,” says Gerry.
There’s an agent in the US who has been amazing at getting their products into shops over there. “We pride ourselves in being 100% local and creating employment as we expand,” says Chris. “Rosehip is the two of us and a whole team of talented seamstresses,” adds Gerry. “We strongly believe that the answers to South Africa’s problems lie in job creation, and although we are hoping to increase our sales offshore, we will always manufacture here.”
Two years ago Rosehip did a wholesale show in the UK – the Spring Fair in Birmingham. “We had fantastic response to our products and their quality,” says Gerry. This year Rosehip has been invited to take stands at another two UK retail shows, the RHS Chatsworth House Flower Show and the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival – sister events to the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. “We are particularly excited about this, as everyone walking through the gates are interested in flora and fauna. Gardening is practically a national sport in the UK,” says Gerry. “Being in that environment is both exciting and terrifying,” she laughs, “but it’s an honour to be selected when up against such world-class competition.”
Rosehip is all about botanical prints. “We only use our own designs, which we print on to various different fabrics. We print and manufacture raincoats and umbrellas, bags and purses, aprons and tea towels, hats and towels. We have recently added a range of pyjamas and dressing gowns too,” says Gerry. “For me it is all about the new – new products, new designs – and seeing the concepts turn into things that people use and love is very gratifying.”
“Look after your suppliers, and they will look after you. Build relationships with them, as without your suppliers you don’t have a business. And remember that every customer is valuable, no matter how small,” says Gerry.
Rosehip is available at Baggy House in uMdloti, Willow in Windermere, Unison in Mt Edgecombe, Two Acres in Assagay and from Gerry and Chris’s Kloof home – by appointment on 083 250 4486