Before I was Sarah – wife, Sarah – mom, Sarah – Myang, I was Sarah – Fashion Design student. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing ladies. Beautiful, creative, smart girls. Michelle is one of these talented women. I have always been a bit envious of her effortless style, and beautiful taste. Check out her Instagram feed to see what I mean.
She has been successfully designing for a well-known brand. But since becoming a mom, her focus has shifted. And her lifestyle brand, Ben Rabbit was born.
Michelle shares her life with her husband, her son, 3, and her daughter, 7 months. They live in beautiful Cape Town, where they love visiting the beach and pottering around their little garden.
Ben Rabbit is a small business, run by Michelle, with a little help from her husband. Having full-time jobs, they make time for Ben Rabbit after their kiddos have gone to bed.
Why the name Ben Rabbit?
“It was originally going to be Red Rabbits, which is a great song from ‘The Shins’, the name was already taken so we played around and ended up naming it Ben Rabbit, after our son’s second name Benjamin.”
I am always curious to find out what inspires and motivates other creative entrepreneurs on a daily basis. For Michelle, it is her kids.
“If only I could see the world through their eyes, from the games they play to how their imagination runs wild and how innocent they are. Our lives have been so curated to think in a certain way, to do things a certain way. I look at my boy and the amount of creativity that flows through him. He is so undefined by the ways of the world.”
Michelle says that as a creative in a corporate environment, one tends to lose touch with the magic, hands-on aspect of making and creating. This was one of the reasons for starting Ben Rabbit. She says she also struggled to find “cool and quirky products and clothes” while she was pregnant. So, she took the plunge, and started Ben Rabbit.
So, what sets them apart?
“I believe in a lifestyle of buying quality over quantity. I’m passionate about great design, quality products and attention to detail. I’d rather have 5 great products than 20 mediocre products. Ben Rabbit aims to bring all these elements across in our product offering. We also make a point to source only local materials and ingredients.”
One Woman show
Ben Rabbit is a one woman show, Michelle ropes in her husband to help with the illustrations, and she makes use of some local manufacturers. Although she says keeping production local is a definite challenge. She has had a few negative run ins with local factories, one which set her production back by 6 months. It is very hard for a small business to survive something like this. But survive they did, and through social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, this little gem of a range is growing slowly but surely. She says 2 of the most important lessons she has learned are: Trust your gut, it’s almost always right, and never put all your eggs in one basket.
Finding the perfect balance
I love Michelle’s recipe for balancing a fullime job, a young family and a newbie business:
“The golden rule is when I get home the kids come first. We play, we eat, we bath. Once they have fallen asleep that’s when Ben Rabbit comes alive. My husband also runs his own business, which helps, because we get to hang out and burn the midnight oil together. Our Bialeti is always ready to brew.”
Michelle says starting a business has been a big learning curb, but that the learning has kept her brain alive. She still celebrates every order. And gets super excited seeing someone wearing one of their designs or using one of their products.
For me that is why supporting local, or supporting small businesses is so important. You are directly, as a consumer, making an impact on the person involved in creating your purchase. I do a happy dance every time I get a new follower on the blog, or someone books for a sewing class. Even with Myang, when we get an online order, and I am dispatching it, it thrills me to my toes, that strangers are prepared to spend their hard-earned money on something I designed!
Michelle says fearing the growth of her business, and the challenges that come with that is something she faces all the time. But she is learning to conquer those fears, by starting to jump into the deep end.
Ben Rabbit is mainly found online, and only in a handful of brick and mortar stores, this is an area that Michelle wants to work on. The goal is to expand the brand, so that it can be found in retailers across South Africa. Michelle is also hoping to study further so that they can expand on their natural cosmetic range.
I am seeing big things in the future for this lovely lady and her beautiful brand.
You can see more of her gorgeous products, and shop for them too on their site, www.benrabbit.co.za