#WIB – Q&A With Candy Androliakos Owner & Founder Of Leafline

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1. Can you please tell us more about your business?

Leafline is a manufacturer committed to providing sustainable, eco-friendly hygiene solutions. Our products stand out for their innovative use of natural fibre derived from pineapple plant leaves. Our product range includes a variety of eco-conscious options, including washable and reusable sanitary towels, adult- and children’s nappies, and bed- and chair protectors. 

2. When, why, and how did you start your business?

Leafline’s story is rooted in compassion and the desire to make a difference. In 2018, I was working at a retirement home where I encountered a resident struggling with the high costs of disposable products, particularly nappies. This sparked the idea for a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative. The inspiration struck when I saw a billboard promoting the use of pineapple fibre. Intrigued, I decided to explore this concept, leading to the creation of our unique product. Pineapple fibre proved to be not only a financially savvy solution, but also incredibly durable, lasting up to two years before needing replacement. 

Leafline’s journey has been one of dedication and innovation. In 2018, we initiated trials of our product with elderly residents, and that same year, we entered the GAP Green Award and proudly secured victory.  This recognition provided us with the opportunity to outsource the manufacturing process, marking a significant milestone. We then expanded our product line to include washable sanitary towels and a range of products for children. At the outset, we partnered with Enkhuthazweni Disabled Centre in Port Alfred to manufacture the products. 

In 2020, Leafline’s commitment to inclusivity and sustainability took a remarkable step forward. We entered the SA Breweries Foundation Disability Empowerment Awards and were fortunate to emerge victorious. This accomplishment empowered us to employ both abled and disabled adults directly, reflecting our dedication to providing equal opportunities and fostering a sense of belonging within our workforce. We were able to establish our own manufacturing facility, solidifying our commitment to producing our eco-friendly, cost-effective products in-house. 

3. What is your role in the business?

As the owner and founder of Leafline, I wear multiple hats. I am actively involved in managing the business, ensuring it operates efficiently and effectively. Additionally, I am passionate about training our dedicated staff, empowering them to maintain our high standards and commitment to excellence. 

4. Where, and what, did you study?

I pursued my studies in Physiatrics and Aesthetician work in Johannesburg. These areas of study have significantly contributed to my understanding of healthcare and aesthetics which has played a crucial role in the development of Leafline’s innovative and sustainable products.

5. How did you finance the business?

Leafline’s journey began with support from various sources. We initially received funding from the Innovation Hub, which helped us get off the ground. Subsequently, we were fortunate to secure funding from the SAB Foundation, which further fueled our growth and development. Today, Leafline is sustained primarily through our sales revenue, as our eco-conscious products have gained traction and popularity among environmentally- and cost-conscious consumers, as well as a major South African retailer where our products are currently available in select stores across the Eastern Cape Province, with possibilities and discussions for expansion elsewhere in South Africa.    

6. Describe your average day?

A typical day for me is quite busy as I’m deeply committed to both my work at Leafline and my involvement with the retirement home. It starts early, with me waking up at 4:30 am to plan the day ahead. I kick things off with a morning walk for my dogs, which helps clear my mind and set a positive tone for the day. I usually head to the factory around 07:00 am, where I am actively involved in overseeing operations and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Two days a week, I devote my afternoons to the retirement home where I provide care and support from 12:00 to 18:00. It is a meaningful part of my day, and I am dedicated to making a positive impact there. 

In the late afternoon or early evening, I close the factory and I often drop my staff before heading home.  Dinner and some well-deserved rest round out my day. This routine keeps me busy six days a week, but I find immense fulfillment in the work I do at Leafline, and in supporting the residents of the retirement home. 

7. How do you balance work and home life?

Balancing work and home life can be quite challenging when you’re deeply committed to a business like Leafline. To be honest, I don’t always achieve a perfect balance. However, I’ve recognised the importance of taking a step back to recharge.

One day a week, Sundays, I make sure to set aside for myself and my loved ones. It is my way of ensuring I have a moment to breathe, relax, and spend quality time with family and friends. It is a simple, yet effective strategy to maintain some semblance of work-life balance, even when work is a significant part of my daily life. 

8. What drives and inspires you?

Several sources of inspiration drive me in my journey with Leafline. First and foremost, challenges have always been a powerful motivator in my life. They push me to think creatively, adapt, and persevere, and this is where I find a great deal of inspiration. 

I am naturally hyper-active, which fuels my desire to constantly innovate and make a difference in the world of sustainable hygiene solutions. This boundless energy keeps me driven and determined.

Of course, my dedicated staff plays a significant role in inspiring me every day. Their commitment, hard work, and enthusiasm for our mission are incredibly motivating. Additionally, having a great mentor who assists me along the way has been a tremendous source of inspiration. Learning from his experiences and insights has been invaluable in guiding Leafline’s growth and success. 

9. Where, and when, do you have your best ideas?

My best ideas often come to me during moments of solitude and reflection. I have found that some of my most innovative and creative thoughts emerge when I take time for quiet contemplation. These moments can occur anywhere, whether it is during a walk with my dogs early in the morning as I plan my day, or late at night before I go to sleep. 

I believe in the combination of a calm environment and a clear mind is conducive to fresh and inspiring ideas. I have come to appreciate that inspiration can strike at any moment, and it is important to be open to these moments of creativity whenever and wherever they appear. 

10. Where and how do you market your business for sales leads?

Marketing Leafline has been a journey of trial and discovery. We have found success through a multifaceted approach. One of our most effective strategies has been establishing a strong online presence. We utilise a social media platform, a user-friendly website, and digital advertising to reach a broad audience interested in sustainable hygiene solutions.

We have forged valuable partnerships with a local SA retailer and distributors, which helps us connect with customers through physical points of sale. 

Additionally, participating in relevant industry events and expos has proven to be an excellent way to showcase our products and engage with potential customers. We prioritise direct engagement with our community. This includes word-of-mouth referrals, local events, and a presence at community gatherings.  We believe that building trust within our community is crucial for success, as people are more inclined to embrace eco-friendly and cost-effective products when they come recommended by friends and neighbours. Our marketing efforts therefore span both the digital and physical realms, allowing us to connect with a diverse and engaged customer base.

Leafline employs a multi-faceted marketing strategy to reach potential customers and generate sales leads. Our approach includes various channels and strategies to ensure a robust presence in the market.

Online Presence: In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is essential. We use our website and social media platforms to engage our audience, share valuable content, and connect with potential customers. 

Print and Online Media: We recognise the enduring impact of media support in the form of editorial coverage and take advantage of these opportunities whenever we are presented with them. This approach makes it possible for use to tap into a different demographic and establish credibility within our industry.   

Competitions and Trade Shows: Participating in competitions and trade shows is another key facet of our marketing strategy. Such events provide us with the opportunity to showcase our products, network with industry professionals, and engage with potential customers face-to-face. Building relationships in person is invaluable, and we take full advantage of these events to expand our network and generate leads. 

By utilising a diverse array of marketing channels, we are able to reach a wide audience and drive growth for our business. 

11. What is next for your business?

The future for Leafline holds exciting possibilities as we continue to innovate and grow. Our next steps involve several key initiatives that will shape our journey ahead.

Discovering more uses for pineapple leaf fibre. We are dedicated to exploring the full potential of pineapple leaf fibre. Beyond our current product offerings, we are committed to researching and developing new applications for this sustainable and versatile material. 

Producing our own fibre. While we have been sourcing pineapple leaf fibre from external suppliers, our vision includes establishing our own fibre production facilities. 

Employing more staff. As we expand our operations and take on these exciting new challenges, Leafline is dedicated to creating job opportunities and fostering growth within the communities in which we operate. We plan to employ more staff across various functions. Our commitment to sustainability and ethical practices extends to our workforce, ensuring that our team is at the core of our success. 

In summary, the next chapter of Leafline is characterised by innovation, self-sufficiency in raw material production, and a commitment to fostering employment and community development. 

12. What advise would you give female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?

For aspiring female entrepreneurs, my advice is twofold:

Keep Going! Starting a business can be a challenging journey. It is important to have the determination to keep moving forward, even when faced with obstacles  The road to entrepreneurial success is often paved with setbacks, but it’s essential to persevere. Don’t be discouraged by the inevitable bumps in the road, instead view them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Enjoy Your Passion and move With It. One of the most rewarding aspects of entrepreneurship is the ability to build a business around something you’re truly passionate about. Your business should align with your interests and values. When you’re passionate about what you do, work doesn’t feel like a chore, and your enthusiasm will shine through in your business. 

Don’t be afraid to adapt and evolve. The business world is dynamic, and it is important to be flexible and open to change. Embrace new opportunities and learn from your experiences. Eek out mentors and a supportive network of fellow entrepreneurs who can offer guidance and inspiration!

For more visit: https://leafline.co.za/

Contact:

candy@leafline.co.za

PHONE SUPPORT

Candy – 073 165 5632