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Single mother beats odds with young start-up

The Times
Published:Oct 18, 2007
Author: Zweli Mokgata

Vermaak survives thanks to the support of other women.

Launching a small business with no starting capital in a market crowded with 900 competitors sounds like a recipe for disaster.

More so, if you unexpectedly fall pregnant and your baby’s father “ choses not be a part of the process” while you are getting your new venture off the ground.

OUT OF THE BOX: Kim Vermaak from Belle Regalo Picture: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART

Kim Vermaak overcame all these obstacles to grow her one-woman business, Belle Regalo, into a company with R5-million annual sales during the past six years.

Belle Regalo supplies branded pens, folders, calculators, key rings, clothing, and other themed gifts for corporate functions.

Vermaak’s small business doesn’t manufacture these items , but uses the most reliable suppliers.

Her customers in turn are small businesses, such as event management , public relations and communications firms, that have come to trust Vermaak to supply high-quality branded gifts for their corporate clients on time.

Belle Regalo won the 2003 Nedbank/BWA regional start-up business of the year award, a remarkable feat by a single, unsupported parent. She survived thanks to support from other female entrepreneurs and, in turn, tries to help female start-up operators.

Vermaak said: “We actively select suppliers that provide income-earning potential to women through their projects.”

She said: “At the beginning I was the only employee, but the company then went on a growth strategy, and I now have a partner working with me.”

“We subcontract to several firms allowing each to specialise in its chosen area of expertise, thereby offering our clients the best service from industry specialists.”

“With every handmade box or beaded work that you purchase, you know that they will be purchased from a local non-profit organisation that trains women in the community to provide them with income-producing skills.”

In the early days of the business, R1000 worth of orders were a cause for huge excitement at the company, but orders eventually grew to over R250000 per transaction.

Vermaak said: “We grew in bite-sized portions and we had in-kind support from our network. For example, our first website was designed for free by a personal friend. ”