How would you like to wake up to the words “Hello there, handsome” or “Good morning gorgeous” every morning? Well, now you can guarantee an uplifting start to the day with his and her pillows bearing these messages thanks to Zana Products, a home decor brand run by Robyn Britz and her mother, Sue. Robyn, a Vega School graduate, and Sue, a printing and production entrepreneur, started the business in 2012, working from their garage in Table View.
“I had just finished my degree and at the time I was doing a lot of web design focused work. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into a corporate. I spoke to my mom who was already running her own digital printing business and that is how we kind of started,” she says.
The name “Zana” comes from an old family nickname that was given to Sue by her Greek uncle and just stuck. They liked the name because it has an African ring to it, says Sue.
Drawing from each other’s strengths, the duo’s enterprise has grown and they now work from a studio in Woodstock. Their unique designs have gained them a following in South Africa and abroad. Sue handles all the ordering, finance and production, while Robyn is in charge of design and social media.
“What we originally wanted to do was to bring trends to SA that we saw on (online bookmarking tool) Pinterest that were not here yet. Things like design trends used to take up to two years to get to SA, but it’s becoming a bit faster now than when we started,”
“Using bold patterns such as the chevron and the cross is what really put us on the map. Now we have included our own designs and patterns that people love,” says Robyn
The Zana team’s studio in the Salt Circle Building is a hum of activity with the production team constantly cutting and sewing.
“Starting small was the right way for us because we had no funding. We started out in a very organic way and didn’t feel like we were getting ourselves into debt.
“We moved to Woodstock only when we could afford to move out, and the rent is not too high here,” says Sue.
“We started with orders from friends and family. We are not the best when it comes to marketing ourselves or cold calling. To this day, some people don’t really know what we do,” says Robyn.
“We focused our energy more on social media and online, and worked really hard on our Instagram account. Now we have people from overseas coming in after seeing us online. It just shows the power of social media,” she says.
The online shop offers a range of textile goods such as throw cushions, table and homeware, accessories and furniture, and ships them to clients across the world.
“We are not really a retail or a walk-inshop. We try to show as much as we can in the studio, but we are mainly geared towards online.
The beauty of having an online shop is that the amount of things we have is not determined by the amount of space that we have. We can produce hundreds of options depending on what the customer wants,” Robyn explains.
“Our colour palettes are fresh, which is unusual in the SA market but which is popular worldwide. Robyn is very good with trends and understanding what people are looking for,” says Sue.
A mother-daughter relationship is complex enough as is, and the Britzes admit that they wouldn’t encourage any such duo to enter a business partnership.
“I wouldn’t recommend all mothers and daughters work together, but we make it work. It would have been a bit daunting going into business by myself. People always have these ideas of who you should go into business with, such as friends or colleagues and not many people recommend family, but I feel that we have found our groove ,” says Robyn.
“I know her strings and she knows mine and we kind of leave each other alone. I respect Robyn’s style sense and business acumen. She is quite sharp with business decisions,” says Sue.
The two are generally inspired by anything from their surroundings, their travels and current design trends.
“I think Woodstock is an incredIble place to be, and for inspiration. “There is a lot of cool stuff happening around here.
“(Also) I recently visited Tokyo and I came back with a lot of new ideas,” says Robyn.
Their banners and tote bags – with quirky, edgy sayings – are their best
“People love to give our products as wedding gifts or buy them for themselves if they want something with a little personality for their homes. Our customers range from 18- to about 45-years old, and are made up of women, men and teenagers who love our bags.
“What sets us apart from other similar brands is that we are made in South Africa and we are online. There is still a big gap between people who produce things and those who sell online.
“Our style and story also makes us unique. We are a small mother and daughter team that started a business, we are not a big brand,” adds Robyn.
●Sue and Robyn will be running a series of screenprinting workshops. Visit
zanaproducts.co.za or their Instagram page Zana Products for details.
This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on July 13 2015.