Jenni Button shares her top business tips

Jenni Button is a luxury South African brand that started around  the time I started life (I’m 33)…the woman who initially started the brand, Jenni Button, herself is no longer affiliated with the store but her name is still synonymous with quality, glamour and style. Since 1999 she has been running the Philosophy design house and could not be happier with the direction of her brand.

It was not always smooth sailing for Jenni Button, with her 34 year journey including highlights like countless awards and magazine features and  low points like losing 22 million in order to keep her authenticity.

The Port Elizabeth born and bred designer (NMB BRAG MOMENT) started her shop with a fine art degree, a background in advertising and a small loan from her dad.

She rented a small space in Cape Town and opened shop with only 40 monochrome handmade items and white canvas sneakers she got from a supplier at a steal, “Ackermans had turned them away and I took the products  in”.

Her business boomed! I’m talking an 8 page layout in Fairlady magazine in her first few months. The incredibly humble design super star –  who I caught delicately  chewing on her hair as she waited to make her way to the podium,at the Mohair SA sponsored talk last week – credits a lot of her success to “being in the right place at the right time”but her tenacity, and never give up attitude tell a different story.

During her talk, she relayed a memory about  a changing  point in her life, when she gave up the Jenni Button brand and decided to try something new.Moving to New York, she had secured an interview with Vera Wang (yes THE Vera Wang). She wanted to work for her hero, but was turned away because Vera had read about Jenni’s  own successes and suggested she do her own thing instead, “There is room for all of us”, she remembers Vera telling her. Soon after that Philosophy was born.

The crowd was hanging on to Jenni’s every word as she relayed her tips for starting a small business:

Jenni Button business tips:

  • Be organised

Creatives are often not too focused on the smaller details, like time management and financial records, Jenni suggests you train yourself up and start off right.

  • Get legal advice

Jenni says she learn’t this the hard way and now urges people to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to business.

  • start from the bottom

If you want to learn from the experts, sometimes you need to humble yourself and ask for internships (even if unpaid) the most important thing is getting your foot in the door.

  • lead by example

When you have people working under you it is important to pull your weight and not be afraid to still get your hands dirty.

  • Think outside the box

There are many people with similar dreams, make sure your brand, your product, stands out



5 thoughts on “Jenni Button shares her top business tips

  1. Ferowza says:

    She sounds like an amazing person!! I remember looking for Eid clothes and being stoked that my mom took me into the Jenni Button store (I think at the Waterfront), like whaaaat? But I couldn’t find anything suitable for Eid – something a teenager could reuse so that mom’s money didn’t go to something I seldom wore. But the brand was always synonymous with style and class.

    • Eleanor Douglas-Meyers says:

      I know! Her business wear always made me think “you made it girl” but then I never ended up in careers which required ‘business attire’ she was saying we need to move away from quantity to quality and I totally feel that

  2. Michelle Brown says:

    Eleanor…thank you for joining us at the Jenni Button workshop, at Mohair SA…and for your fabulous post!!!

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