A friendship founded upon a mutual love of fabric, fashion and wanderlust is a friendship that is destined to succeed. Nobody understands this better than childhood friends turned business partners, Andrea and Sarah. From their inherent creativity to their social media savvy, these local ladies are prime examples of entrepreneurial excellence.
When Andrea and her family relocated from Johannesburg to the Midlands, they had no idea that a single shift in geography would result in a lifelong friendship. As bright-eyed ten year old girls, Andrea and Sarah bonded over pre-teen fashion trends and sunflower hats at the prestigious Howick Prep School. As the years passed, their friendship flourished and the dynamic duo went on to study together at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. After that, the world was their oyster, and their shared love of travel truly came to the forefront when they moved to London together. “We both love travelling and exploring new places and cultures. We shared a flat together for a while in London, and later lived across the street from each other, which was wonderful for an after work cup of tea or glass of wine!”, Andrea says.
Sarah is equipped with a whopping ten years of experience in the South African and UK banking industries, while Andrea enjoys a successful background in graphic design and digital marketing. By combining their individual talents with their shared goal of creating an artisanal lifestyle range, the dynamic duo joined forces to launch their very own business.
“When one of my closest friends began planning her wedding, we were presented with the perfect opportunity to travel to India! A girls’ trip was organised and I immediately fell in love with the exquisite hand printed and embroidered textiles. A few months later, Andrea came to visit me and we chatted about the potential of starting a business, whereby we would import fabric from India. Initially, I chatted to Andrea to get some guidance on the cost and process involved in setting up an e-commerce platform, but as we bounced ideas around, we realised how complementary our skills were and how exciting it would be to start the business together. Three months later, we set off to India with a notebook full of possible suppliers in order to source beautiful fabrics and décor items”, Sarah explains.
And thus, their business was born! The name Andsara is a portmanteau, formed by merging the first names of both owners. “We realised that Andsara was the right fit for us because our business is as much about two friends with a shared vision as it is about the beautiful products we stock”, Andrea explains. It seems that the risky move of mixing friendship with business proved to be rather rewarding as Sarah says: “Being friends and business partners has so many advantages. We are able to openly and honestly bounce ideas and motivate each other when problems arise, as they inevitably do in a start-up business. Our complementary skill sets mean that we are able to confidently take on a business that is all about creativity, but also requires managing multiple relationships and small details. I have always loved fabrics and can spend hours in a warehouse sifting through piles of material. So when the opportunity arose to start a business that combined my love of textiles and love of travel, I knew that I had to make it work. The fact that I get to do it with one of my oldest friends makes it even more special!”
Andsara’s stunning range of hand block printed and hand-stitched items, all of which are made authentically in India, include cushion covers, bed and table linen, sleepwear and beautiful handpicked brass items. “All our fabrics are hand block printed in India by local artisans. The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles has been passed on from generation to generation in Rajasthan for over 500 years. Our products embody tradition, craftsmanship, timeless design, environmental consciousness, ethical production and storytelling through our travels and engagement with the people who make them. We are starting to look at the potential of supplying our products to select retailers on a wholesale basis, so that customers can see and touch the fabrics and fall in love with the perfect imperfection that is hand block printing. A small selection of our current range is available locally at the Ruby Orchard in Howick”, Sarah continues.
Each item within the artisanal lifestyle range is indicative of Andrea and Sarah’s respective décor tastes. “Our vision is to curate a collection of artisanal home textiles for a customer base who appreciates quality, tradition and something a little out of the ordinary. The fact that we don’t always have the same preferences when it comes to design, colour and details actually works very much in our favour; it allows us to put together a very considered selection and cater for wider tastes. We are beginning to explore the early stages of custom designs with our suppliers and we can’t wait for our next shipment to arrive with some new colours to add to the current offering!”, Andrea explains.
For a business to thrive, designated roles and clear communication is an absolute must. “We’ve always believed that the combination of our skills and experiences are an asset to us, and our roles within the business have been based around each of our strengths. Sarah’s corporate experience with international trade has equipped her to deal directly with our suppliers and shipping agents to get our products to SA, and she manages a lot of the other organisational and structural aspects of the business too. My contribution is more along the lines of building the brand, design and online marketing and sales. As a designer, my creative abilities have helped us bring our ideas and inspiration to life. When it comes to choosing and curating prints (the really fun part, but also the hardest!) we work together to make sure that we have a good balance in terms of our offerings”, Andrea continues.
Although Sarah and her family now live in Mauritius, Andrea and her family planted roots in the Midlands upon their return from the UK. “Being based in the Midlands was a matter of practicality – we’ve been very lucky with how things have fallen into place in that respect. Andrea lives in Howick and fortunately has space at her home to store our stock. Each order is packaged and dispatched from the Midlands, with the help of a trusty local courier service”, Sarah explains.
From denim hats and a fashionable young friendship at Howick Prep, to adventures across the globe and a business idea that brought them back to the heart of the Midlands, Andsara is truly a full circle phenomenon.