Gilly Ord, public relations veteran and entrepreneur, spotted a business opportunity with her husband and business partner, Sandy, while holidaying in Phuket – crushable, washable and fashionable sun hats. Endeavouring to become the first South Africa distributor of the unique UPF 50 plus hats, they launched Emthunzini Hats in 2009, filling a niche in the local market.
“I just knew that, with the right approach and business sass, the hats would be a hit. While most South Africans are aware of sun damage, they don’t do much about it. Our hats provide 98% protection against ultraviolet rays – important for a country that enjoys sunshine all year round,” says Gilly.
Sourced in Australia and manufactured in China, Emthunzini Hats are certified by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and are endorsed locally by the Cancer Association of South Africa. When choosing a name for the company, Gilly and Sandy wanted something with local relevance and meaning. “Emthunzini is the Zulu phrase for ‘a place in the shade’ and symbolises one’s pause in their journey to reflect, review progress and reconnect with one’s vision and goals,” she says.
Now distributed to some 350 retailers across Southern Africa, the business, which started as a home office, now has a warehouse in Montague Gardens. During their first exhibit at a local trade show, they were approached by 12 national retailers, all of whom are still loyal clients today.
“Social development is important to us, and we wanted to be able to give back to the community,” says Gilly. For two years Emthunzini Hats supported an organisation that works with children with Xeroderma Pigmentosa – a genetic disorder where skin is damaged by exposure to ultraviolet light. A percentage of hat sales is now donated to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), a South African volunteer organisation.
“Running a company is like rearing a child – I am both protective and proud of my business. While it takes a great deal of our time, we still find many occasions to enjoy a good life. Don’t be fooled by the nay-sayers – it is possible to create the perfect balance between work and play, you’ve just got to be smart in your approach.”
Pictured: Having been an avid sun worshipper, Gilly has learnt the harm the sun can do and now wears her favourite style, the Breton, on a daily basis.
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On behalf of Emthunzini Hats:
Co-founder: Gilly Ord