The air is heavy with the pleasant smell of new shoes, as a team of 16 craftsmen slowly and studiously safari boots.
With each pair, to produce two weeks, from the beginning to the end, you can never Courteney Boot Company of drugs accused of things.
Instead, the company, one of the world’s most exclusive shoes brands, currently the only 18 pairs of hand-made boots and shoes daily.
Established in the year 1991 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Courteney continues to be a rare business success story in a country to fight its economy greatly in the last 20 years.
With exotic game leathers such as alligator, Buffalo, crocodile, Hippo and ostrich skin, his boots remain much in demand around the world.
The company was founded by husband and wife team John and Gale rice.
John, the manufacture of shoes in the United Kingdom began in 1953, when, at the age of 15 years he began working for the British Shoe company Clarks. His career then took him to South Africa before coming to Zimbabwe.
The couple ran the business together for 21 years, until John died in the year of 2012. Since then, Gale has led the company on their own.
Look back at the early days of Courteney says that she and John developed a new way of promoting the business.
“At the very beginning, we have made boots for all the well-known safari operator in Zimbabwe and South Africa free of charge, and delivered most of them myself,” says Gale.
“The safari should the operator wear the boots while they promoted themselves in the Bush, with their foreign customers, and us – word-of-mouth.”
The tourists would buy and then take to the shops in Zimbabwe and South Africa have their own pair of Courteney boots home with them at the end of your holiday. In return, they would recommend to their friends, who’d orders from overseas.
Zimbabwe’s large commercial farmers, in General, the people know in Zimbabwe, which is also an enthusiastic buyer of the boots.
Storm adds: “We had three major customers – the hunter, the farmer, and the tourist.”
The company grew strongly until the economic and political meltdown that began in Zimbabwe in the year 2000 saw the company lose most of their customers. First, many of the white farmers leave the country, and then the arrivals of tourists fell sharply.
In order to survive Gale focused on the increase of exports, increased from 50% to 85% of the total turnover.
“From the beginning we have always thought to try, our boots, our niche market says to the world,” she said.
“And it’s just as well that we have a strategy. Since the year 2000 in Zimbabwe has deteriorated, almost on the verge of collapse.
“At some point, it was export or die.”
With global retailers including the gun companies such as John Rigby and Westley Richards, Gale says that 70% of sales are now via the internet, with 20% of the amount over Courteney’s own website.
Each pair of $145-492 (Â£105-355) boots and shoes are made to be in the company’s small workshop, and Gale says that the company is never an increase in the production of over 30 couples per day, so the quality control. “I follow absolutely, that’s the strategy,” she says.
“I would say there are several factors that our Export success, but by far the most important is the concentration on the best, most comfortable and durable boot is possible.
“Most of our attention is always on the product.”
Which explains the fact that everything is made to order, she adds: “We are the manufacturer, not the dealer.
“We can’t capital to hold the stock, and especially not to any style, in any leather, in all colors bind.”
, Fungai Tarirah, portfolio manager at South Africa-investment-Fund Rudiarius Capital Management says that the Central question of every Zimbabwean society has to overcome, is the fact that the country is landlocked.
“A whole lot of challenges, the Zimbabwean exporters to the fact that the country is a landlocked state, so that, if your customers are halfway around the world to deliver essentially of, the goods, the two-legs.
“Sometimes tripled or quadrupled the amount of paperwork that has to cope with – but also the delivery times.”
Fortunately, Mr Tarirah adds that at the same time, the internet has already been a “game changer” for the exporters from countries such as Zimbabwe.
“It is now much easier for the manufacturer to, in a” just-in-time ” fashion, in contrast to the build-up of stocks may or may not be, over the next three, six or nine months.
To reach “it allows you to you to larger, more distant markets that you have not accessed in the rule could.”
Courteney Boot Company
Gale says that “without a doubt, our secret to a successful exporter attitude.”
She adds: “shipping overseas need seamlessly a lot of communication and patience and attention to detail.”
While domestic sales are slowly climbing back, as the former President, Robert Mugabe, has already appeared in the November, Gale says, it is still not easy, a business in Zimbabwe.
“Life is very hard here, but we choose to focus on the positive and keep our heads down. We know what we have to do.”