#10Q: From international brand to digital agency

Nick Dreyer is the co-founder and CEO of Veldskoen shoes, the SA brand, which launched as an agency, moving sales offshore, to survive lockdown.

Nick Dreyer is the co-founder and CEO of Veldskoen shoes, the homegrown South African brand, which moved fast under lockdown to launch as an agency, moving sales offshore, to survive lockdown. In the past three years, Veldskoen has become a digital brand, achieving success and fame internationally with their colourful brand extensions being worn by celebrities like Prince Harry and Ashton Kutcher. It only took a 10 minute brainstorm to transform Veldskoen into a digital agency called Dorp, in order to help other small and medium size South African brands tap into the Veldskoen expertise – and produce a new revenue stream while apparel could not be sold under SA’s hard lockdown. In March and April, the agency replaced 20% of footwear retail revenue. During lockdown they targeted new countries and reached out to South Africans in those countries, launching Veldskoen Italy at the height of the global pandemic. Post-Covid, the brand will be opening Veldskoen Israel, Portugal, Germany and Netherlands. The creative team also used the lockdown to speed up developments on new styles and ranges which were launched in September.

1. Describe your core business prior to lockdown; and now?

As a digital shoe brand called Veldskoen shoes, we operated largely as a multi distribution channel retailer based in South Africa. With the onset of Covid-19 it was clear that our traditional retail channels would suffer and that we should seek alternative revenue sources to keep the business going. We thus built and launch the DORP agency and started to focus on exports.

2. How do you go from being a shoe brand, overnight, to an agency?

We introduced the agency model into our business because it was a natural next step, brought on by the pandemic. As we moved into lockdown, we sat with our strategic partners and explored what unused resource, skills and services we could leverage inside the business. Providing agency services was obvious, as Veldskoen has acted as its own agency since inception. We have always managed our own content creation, digital ad spend and social community management. We had built and managed a successful online ecosystem and felt we could offer those services to the market

3. But you are a shoe brand – totally different model to an ad agency?

Yes, it is a completely different model, you need to learn that shoes and time are different commodities and that comes with a new set of operational best practices. Thankfully, our business partner Nic Latouf, is a seasoned agency leader and managed our pipeline to ensure we delivered  world class services.

4. Tell me about your agency brand strategy?

We approach brand creation and brand management in a simple way: we strive for simplicity. The digital world is noisy and it is competitive, so branding needs to be clear, easily articulated and stand out from the crowd. An easy mistake to make is to be too creative in an attempt to be different – often the simpler the better

5. What internal resources helped?

We have a founder in Latouf, who has experience in leading agencies; and our entire Veldskoen creative and content team. This is a talented team that have produced world class results for Veldskoen, and we apply all the same principles and learnings to new customers.

6. What qualities do you think you have to have for radical business transformation?

We are at heart storytellers and choose the digital world to do our storytelling. In order to provide quality digital services you need to be creative but also practical. We have lots of creativity in our business, but also the experience of building and running a successful e-commerce brand ourselves.

7. Your key learnings?

Our key learnings are that anything can happen so it’s important for a business to remain agile. Secondly, great partnerships matter. Our relationship with Iridium Business Solutions was critical to our ability to navigate through the painful Covid period.

8. How did you keep the Veldskoen brand top of mind when apparel couldn’t be sold?

We stayed very close to our customers and communicated with them. We built audiobooks for their kids, digital puzzles, and even sent recipes for banana bread. We tried to show them we cared about them, which we do. That has paid off tremendously because our efforts were authentic.

9. What has the lockdown done to your business in terms of profits and market share?

Of course revenue was hit as a result of the shutdowns. We have had to scale back our expenditure and plan for a tough year ahead. That said, we have done that, and we are on track in terms of our planning and feel confident that we will come out of this with some optimism around continued growth.

10. What advice would you give other business owners after going through this crisis?

My advice would be to surround yourself with high performance partners that understand your business. Plan well for each scenario including the worst, which is scary but needed. Then act swiftly and look ahead.


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