James Robertson – Founder, owner and MD of Big Blue Retail
Company name – Big Blue Retail
Bio – I am a South African mongrel, with bit of just about everything in my heritage.
I left school with only one main ambition, and that was to work for myself.
I wanted to be a farmer, but sadly did not inherit a farm. Equally sad, I did not come from a wealthy family, so during and after studying I had to work. As a waiter, a burger jerk, as a trainee for OK bazaars, as a medical rep, as a product manager, a business development manager and as a marketing manager. (as well as a forester, a dish-washer and a tent manufacturer.) In the ten odd years that I spent in corporate life, the main thing I learnt was that I did not wish to stay in corporate life. It did however allow international travel, and to learn solid business principles.
But I was lucky that I had started a side-line business together with my late business partner fairly early on in my corporate career.
It was this business that grew into Big Blue. We started over 30 years ago, without much knowledge of fashion or retail, but a great sense of what customers wanted. It was in the period of economic sanctions and isolation, and we were innovating fabrics and developing our own unique looks. Big Blue has been a bootstrapped business, and we have had a steady growth, from those dark days, through the dawn of the new South Africa, into the current retail environment.
Big Blue has grown from pop up stores to 22 retail outlets across the major centres of South Africa. We have a wholesale and distribution business where we supply to other retailers, gift and fashion product. More recently we started an online business.
We still stick with South African designers and produce garments in South Africa as far as possible. The greatest satisfaction that we get is from seeing South Africans at work.
For leisure I spend time on my farm (HA finally) and I read a lot.