#DIYwithOF is a series that follows creative individuals. We learn how they made their amazing projects happen. We have 24-year old Willem Boshoff next up in the series. He started a business called Burgundy Collective which makes premium leather goods. He’s based in Stellenbosch.
You started the Burgundy Collective because you wanted premium leather goods. How did this idea turn into a business? What process did you follow?
It just started by making a bag for myself, my friends and family liked it and also wanted some, so I made some more. I realised some potential and started selling at markets and it basically started to become a business after a while.
You have interesting career path because you’re a civil engineer. How do manage the Burgundy Collective? Is it a part time love or do you run it full time?
I started Burgundy Collective while I was in my final year, it was very challenging as it was a lot more exciting than going to class and doing projects, so I had to balance it very well. I then studied a post graduate degree for two more years; during that time I started to build Burgundy Collective on the side, but it has become full time since beginning of this year.
How do you deal with the perceptions of being an engineer in a creative space? Have you ever been judged because you are an engineer?
Not at all, people are usually amazed by it. They just want to know the story and if I use any of my engineering skills at Burgundy Collective, which I definitely do.
I’m sure the journey to create the Burgundy Collective wasn’t easy at times. Can you tell me a story about one challenge that you faced?
First of all, just balancing the time I initially wanted to put into the business with my studies. It became really tough, especially when there are deadlines from both sides. Then mainly to find constant suppliers and skilled workers to join the team. After the business took off a lot of things also had started to fall into place, like marketing (of which I did not know a thing) and customer services.
You live in Stellenbosch. In your vision, what does your ideal city look like?
To be honest Stellenbosch is not too far from my ideal city. I love the outdoors and mountains and the fact that I can leave the workshop at 5pm and be out running on the mountain at 5:30pm, is pretty amazing. What would be cool is a speed train to travel into Cape Town faster and avoid traffic.
Following on that question, what small steps could you do right now, or are doing, to make that future happen?
Haha, not sure if this is still relevant? But I do my part in boosting local employment and we support 7 different families by giving them the needed support beyond just the workplace.
This feature falls in our “Do It Yourself” series. We’re trying to get young people to see different ways of handling their futures. What advice would you give to young people about starting their own projects and/or businesses?
Follow your passion. It motivates you during the hard times, and there will definitely be many. From there you just need to work hard be and be willing to walk the extra miles needed to make things work. And lastly: “Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.”