Women’s Month Series – Chantal Louw
I’m so sad that this is my last #FavouriteFemales post for Women’s Month. But I must say, I really enjoyed this series and LOVED the answers that I’ve gotten from my interviewees, so a big thank you to the amazing women who have contributed.
Chantal Louw co-owned, together with Thessa Bos, the first shop I ever stocked my jewellery in, so we go waaaay back. I also worked part-time in their store, The Fringe Arts (now Kin), while I was building my brand – this exposure to the in’s and out’s of running a business and to other Cape Town creatives has been invaluable on my business journey.
You’ve moved from co-owning one of Cape Town’s first local design collectives to working in tech, can you tell us more about this transition?
Prior to my art history degree, running a gallery and co-founding the first pop-up then permanent South African design collective eight years ago, I was in tech. My return to the tech space is because I feel we have moved into an exciting time with VR/AR and AI. It is not so much that my focus has shifted from art and retail to tech, but that tech will become a part of everything from the clothes we wear to the way we navigate the world. Design and art is as important to this, as knowing and working with technology is. It is an amalgamation of all that I have focused on for my career.
Do you find that you face similar challenges now to when you were starting your own business?
I am in the process of co-founding my second company, work as a freelancer in UX research and testing, and head up Pint of Science SA and CityAI Cape Town. My roles have been within start-ups and new ventures, so I have always been at the start of the endeavours I have worked within or cofounded. I can say that the challenges are, at the core, always the same – how do we ensure success?
What is your one piece of advice for small business owners?
Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start. To know this, one must have ones finger on a few pulses; figures (all figures from revenue to footfall), pop culture and politics. All of this impacts your business. Businesses exist within complex societal, political and economic realms. Always seek to know more and understand deeply.
How do you feel about being a female in South Africa and more specifically, a female business owner in South Africa?
Raised by a single mum, I can attest to the fact that there has never been a better time to be a woman in business, but we still have a long way to go in terms of wealth distribution and opportunities, as well as society and work culture. We are all evolving, learning new ways to speak about what we want and who we want to be. I am excited for the day that we stop gendering roles, shift to equal pay and equal paternity leave.
What are you most proud of in your business?
Within Kin, there are too many things to list just one! From opening the first South African design pop-up then permanent space, to the exhibitions we hosted and curated to being part of the conceptualisation of the Watershed, to witnessing designers grow in strength and have their brands exhibited internationally. It has been an honour to small play a part in all of this and to continue flying the flag through the online store and every moment I can .
More recently, becoming the SA lead for Pint of Science and ambassador for CityAI, and joining forces with Micheline Frantz to create AIHO. Working with companies and organisations that continually grow and evolve like Polymorph, Cape Town International Animation Festival, &Innovation and #cocreateSA.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in the development of yourself and of your business?
People. Without the designers, store managers and angels, clients, ambassadors and advisors none of my journey would have happened. Technologically, Google Docs was hugely helpful. Now I use everything from Slack to Taiga. The tools are much more helpful, but nothing beats a pen to paper to-do list and some post-it notes.
Which strong females have a major influence in your life and work?
I was raised by warrior women. My grandmother worked into her 70’s and my mother raised us to be entrepreneurs and inspires me to go further and learn more. I am exceedingly fortunate to have worked with wise women like my co-founders; for KIN, Thessa Bos, and AIHO, Micheline Frantz.
What rituals do you use to stay motivated and focused?
I do yoga every morning and dream of being a yoga teacher on top of all the other stuff I do. Eat healthy and get enough sleep. Travel frequently. Get a lot of hugs. Spend time with people who love you. Have a few circles of women to feed your soul and hold you .
There is an art in being soft and strong as a woman. How do you find a balance between the two?
I am not great at balance and I recently heard about the idea of living a life based on chemistry. Add a little of this and a little until one finds the right mixture. I live my life like that. I do not think it is about finding the balance between soft and strong, it is about doing what is right for you, always. Always.
When do you feel the best version of yourself?
When I am listening to others, when I am out walking, when I am with people I love, when I have Eddie with me, when I am laughing, when I am on a yoga mat
What do you think the world needs more of?
Accountability, especially in a country where whiteness and white fragility is pandered to. Let’s start stepping up .
Anything else you’d like to add?
The recent movements like #metoo have opened up a space of wounds and a space of dialogue. Let’s keep going. Stay courageous and whole hearted.
For more interview from our #FavouriteFemales series, click here.