Founder and owner of The Cotton Company, Madeleine Hugo, is unapolgetically occupying space in the design industry, and has built a formidable brand synonymous with style and comfort. Here, she lets us in on her her approach to business, design and overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Please talk us through your entrepreneurial journey?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur! I’ve had a couple of smaller businesses before…an olive business sourcing olive products from the Karoo, selling it at markets and to retailers. Following by with a vintage frame business which taught me about business and how to work (really) hard! It was when I was living in Turkey which inspired the idea of working with Turkish weavers and bringing their artisan products to South Africa. The rest, as they say, is history.
What's your approach to business and design?
I’m influenced by things I see around me, how people react to colour and design. The family of weavers I work with are very traditional, so it's having that balance between tradition and carefully choosing each design specifically for the South African aesthetic and that will resonate with the local market.
How is your business responding to the shift caused by the pandemic?
Every challenge brings out creativity and its exactly what we did. I have an amazing assistant that stepped up in this time and together we navigated through this uncertain times with better systems and ideas for what we want for the business, in the future. I feel very blessed that we have loyal customers that supported us, so we could pay our bills. And I’m surrounded by other women entrepreneurs that form part of our support team and handles our PR, website and accounts…they are the backbone of the business and women who I speak to weekly for advice and support.
What sort of challenges have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Logistics of getting the finished product to us are always a challenge. Imports can be frustrating, but my husband keeps me calm when the shipments are late, very late. I’ve learned to be patient and as we say in the office…”just go with the flow”.
What keeps you grounded both personally and professionally?
My husband and daughter. Nothing is more important than them. My husband is the realist and gets me to see the other side of things. My daughter is a teenager with the best sense of style and I always run new colours and designs past her to get the young, cool, stamp of approval.
Which women are on your radar at the moment?
Nicola from Simply Granola. That girl is so creative and works super hard in her business. But also she prioritises her family. She has a way with words and her customer service is the best.
What's your message to women in business this women's month?
You’ve got it girl!! Celebrate the small steps, take time for yourself, surround yourself with good, wise people. Smile and pop the bubbles, because you are deserve it.