Chic Shoes, a small family owned business, has witnessed growth significant enough to require a move to new, larger premises. Friday, August 22 saw the official opening of their new factory in Cape Town. This monumental shift in infrastructure was spearheaded through an enterprise development partnership with Woolworths, and made possible through funding from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

As a small South African manufacturer operating in a tough market, Chic Shoes is an example of how small businesses can leverage partnerships with large corporates and financiers to stimulate growth.

Small enterprises have been globally recognised for their ability to create jobs at a grassroots level.  Chic Shoes is no different.  The business currently employs 300 staff members, of which 40% are youth, and 200 are women.  This is three times the number of employees they started the business with in 2010.  The growth is ongoing. By the end of 2015, an additional 100 staff will have been employed by the business.

Rachmat Thomas, one of the founders of Chic Shoes, says, “We started on our journey with Woolworths in 2010 when we joined their Enterprise Development Programme.  Since then, our monthly orders from Woolworths have increased by 580% since their original once-off trial order.”

The manufacturer, which specialises in women’s leather footwear, is now a key supplier of Woolworths’ leather pumps. They also contribute to the retailer’s comfort range.

“Our partnership with Woolworths meant that we simply could not keep up with orders in our old facility.  Our new facility which, is 4,000m², will basically mean that we’d be able to double our capacity.  As a result, we will be able to manufacture approximately 5,000 pairs of shoes a day,” Thomas said.

Thateng Shimange, Buying Group Head of Womenswear and Women’s Footwear and Accessories at Woolworths says, “We are thrilled to see Chic Shoes moving into premises that will allow them to create even more of the world-class product that is sought after by our customers.”

“As a design-led company, we are proud of our association with Chic Shoes.  While it has been inspiring to see the growth of their business, the quality of their merchandise makes good business sense in all respects.”