Michelle D is a 37 year old TV Personality, Model, “Boss Babe” as she likes to call herself, and all-round coffee lover! As someone who has graced our screens on reality TV show, The Bachelor SA, Michelle's first passion is Marketing and e-commerce which is evident when it comes to her successful online boutique store, Macaroon Collection.
This dynamic lady grew up on stage and behind the camera - from TV presenting jobs, to modelling, Michelle was born to be in the spotlight. In 2012, Michelle decided to take her love of shopping and her obsession with handbags and turn it into a business.
Macaroon Collection brings the best of South African designer jewellery, handbags and travel bags to those who seek to make a statement. They are especially proud to be the store of choice when buying premium leather bags.
“We strive to support our local entrepreneurs and designers by stocking locally produced ranges, thus making our store a complete collection of home grown products - and we promise to bring our clients so many more exciting ranges. Macaroon Collection is all about finding that singular item which is an indulgent expression of a person’s personality,” says Michelle.
The Pretoria-based businesswoman sat down with The Pretoria Post in an exclusive one-on-one interview as we get to know the mindset, the challenges, and the success story behind the brand.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company, Macaroon Collection?
After graduating from TUKS with a BCom degree, I started my career as a wedding planner (not as glamourous as the movie we most add). As the owner of Silver Lining Coordination, I planned and coordinated over 150 weddings and is proud to have a few awards to my name for my time spent in the industry. In 2009, with the decision to complete my honours in Marketing, I decided to slowly move over into corporate events and marketing and for the five years that followed I experienced the world of big corporate events, TV shows and much more.
In 2012, with the need to get back into the world of pretty things, I decided to take my obsession with handbags and turn it into a business. Macaroon Collection started as a small business selling bags on Facebook and at “handbag parties”. Within a year the concept grew into a fully-fledged online store and in April 2014 it was decided to open a beautiful retail outlet in Pretoria.
With the completion of my Master’s degree in 2015, where the focus was emphasised on the online shopping experience, it was the aim that I would take Macaroon Collection to the next level with online shopping. And this goal was achieved when Macaroon Collection was nominated as one of the Top 50 e-commerce sites in South Africa at the 2015 e-Commerce award as well as various nominations in 2017 for the Price-check Tech Awards.
As the owner of a Macaroon Collection, what does it mean to you to be a vital part of the brands growth and success as a whole, on a daily basis?
Often when I chat to people who are interested in starting an eCommerce store – they really do believe I sit around all day drinking coffee waiting for online shoppers to place orders. While I may not have a physical store that I have to “go to work at” every day, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes of an eCommerce (and more specifically a fashion) store than one would imagine.
Marketing is my field of expertise so a large part of my role within Macaroon Collection is the strategy for the marekting. There is a lot of planning that goes into how the website looks, what is featured for the month, what emails we will be sendt out, influencers we collaborate with, and what we share with our communities on social media.
Then there is the trend forecasting and buying for the seasons ahead. While everyone is living (and shopping) for Winter – I am planning and shopping for Summer.
All in all it is all about planning ahead and thinking forward.
"I can actually say that I have owned my business for 10 years...
That is a major achievement."
What drew you to the world of ‘leather goods’ and ideally, to the idea of opening up your company?
So at Varsity I was always the girl with the accessories and weird bags. I had a bag made out of a pair of denim short and another bag made out of Fanta tins. I was the girl who was always “dressed up” for class – no shorts and sneakers for me. It was fashion all day every day. One day – after a few years in the corporate marketing world – I decided to buy a few bags and sell them to my friend on Facebook. I sold more than I had so I had to buy more. And Macaroon Collection was born. Slowly over the years bags became bags and scarves …. Then I added accessories and then shoes and then ……. A full collection as it is online today.
I cannot say that they idea was to “open up my own company’ – it was more a natural progress of something I was building.
What was your journey to becoming a businessowner like?
Listen – starting and running a business is not for the fainthearted. The journey is one of many highs but just as many lows. I have made bad business decisions that have cost me a lot of money – I have made good business decisions that resulted in a massive growth and change for the company. And then I have gone through periods where it is nothing good or bad just the day to day run of the mill stuff. I think the biggest lesson I have learnt as an entrepreneur is to have Grace – not only for yourself but for the business you are building as well. Every day will not be easy – but if you show up and just put in the work, the results in the end will be worth it.
What do you lend the success of your brand to?
As I have mentioned, there have been tough times I have had to endure with the business. There have been many time where I could have given up – 2014 there was a massive bump, 2016 another (thanks to the Rand weakening against the dollar and a recession), 2020 lockdown was another wobble and now in 2022 we are sitting with massive price increases in transport (due to the fuel costs worldwide) which is creating a host of other challenges. If I was not as determined to make my business work – I could have thrown in the towel so many time. BUT – instead of giving up, with each challenge I found a way to pivot and change myself and / or the business to adapt to the circumstances ahead and just preserved through.
As a businesswoman, where do you draw daily inspiration from?
That is one of the toughest things to do. To wake up every day and find inspiration EVERY DAY is not easy. I try not to focus too much on inspiration for Macaroon Collection only – I believe that if life inspires me it will naturally spill over into my business.
A few years ago a read a beautiful book called “One Thousand Gifts”. The essence of the story was to find the beauty in the small things in life and to be thankful for that. That is when I started to draw my inspiration from life – the small things. If I am up early and I notice the sunrise, I take a moment to soak it in. If I am walking Juno (my dog) late at night, I look up and notice the full moon. If I have coffee with a friend I appreciate the time and laughter. If I get to travel I appreciate the beautiful country we call home. And then, I pray a lot. It is amazing what inspiration comes to you when you just spend time reflecting.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur and businesswoman?
I have always been a little bit of an over achiever. So the challenges that drive me to find solution and then see the plan working and eventually succeeding is what motivates me.
And then of course, knowing that I am building something.
Every day I build just a little more towards what I aspire Macaroon Collection to be one day. Looking back, at how I started Macaroon Collection to where I am today – it is leaps and bounds and THAT is so rewarding.
With more woman starting their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs in our country, what advice would you give them when facing hardships and challenges?
Never give up – if it was easy everyone would do it. So persevere and know that with commitment and resilience you will succeed
Find a community – starting a business is a lonely one and many of your friends will not understand the challenge you face. Find a group of women who you can soundboard off. I have that – amazing business women who I can call for advice and who call me for the same. While we each have our own businesses – we have kind of formed a “board of directors” who are there for each other to offer advice.
Be clear about what your GOALS are – if you do not have clearly define goals then you are basically like a blow up pool lilo floating out at sea - directionless and about to sink. With clearly defined goals you will know what you are working towards and you will be more of a boat with sails and oars to help you get to where you are going.
Since 2012, Macaroon Collection has proudly been the store of choice when buying premium leather handbags, travel bags and fashion items. How have you managed to maintain a successful brand that rings true to your ethos?
Simply put – if I will not buy and item for myself or as a gift for a friend – I am not going to sell it to my customers. That ethos has ensured I stay true to my mission statement.
Who are you when the clock strikes 17h00 and your business doors close and your “boss-hat” comes off?
As an entrepreneur the “boss-hat” never comes off. It’s a personality thing – I am always Michelle D the #bosslady.
BUT – I am who I am, be it during business hours or when the clock strikes 16h00 (yes I finish at 16h00 not 17h00). What you see is what you get with me. I have a wicked sense of humour and will always have fun (even if it is being utter ridiculous and not taking myself too seriously). BUT when it is time to get serious and work, we work – still having fun but the work gets done. I love spending time in my kitchen cooking or baking, or just chatting away with a friend over a cup of coffee. My dining room table is a place my friend know they are always welcome. I enjoy getting out for long walk, a jog or even a hike …. And if I can Juno (my doxie) is always two steps ahead of me. Travel is not a luxury for me – it is a necessity, even if it is just for a long weekend. I live the motto – WORK HARD, PLAY HARD.
What’s the best piece of ‘business’ advice you have ever received?
"Trust your intuition" – that feeling in your stomach…. Listen to it. Every time I have made a bad decision I have gone against that gut feeling. So now I listen to that advise and if something just does not sit right with me I do not pursue it (in business and in life).
What are the 3 most important must-haves for the perfect business recipe?
Passion – the YOU in your nosiness is the most important part. If YOU don’t love your business it wont work.
A trustworthy network of suppliers
A good accountant
How do you find the perfect balance between work, personal life and all the daily admin and duties?
When I find the perfect balance I will let you know. 😊 There are time when I work way too much – and I know it. Add to the mix the fact that I work from home, it is very easy to just “quickly” check your emails on a Sunday morning. Or just “quickly” do that blog at 9pm at night. I find balance not necessarily in routine and sticking to a 9 to 5 work day. There are days I have to work 14 hours. There are weekends I need to put in the time. But with a little bit of discipline – you learn to balance out. If I have worked 14 hours for 3 days in a week – then I do not feel guilty at all if I take a Friday off and start my weekend a little sooner.
Looking back, what has been one of the greatest highlights in your career to date and why?
The greatest highlight has to be the day Macaroon Collection turned 10 years old. 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years (https://www.investopedia.com/). I can actually say that I have owned my business for 10 years …. That is a major achievement. And I am super proud of that.
How do you deal with the stresses of daily life?
Stress is apart of being an adult – so I find it important to be balanced. It sounds cliché but it is true. It really comes downs to the basics:
Sleep – I don’t believe the nonsense of “as you get older you sleep less”. I still sleep 8-9 hours a night. And I know that if I get a few nights of less than that I do not perform as well as I normally do
Exercise – I try to at least get 5 days of some form of exercise in. And I actually find that when I am more stress I tend to crave the exercise more.
Mental Health Check – If there is one thing that lockdown normalised was talking about Mental health issues. Stress can really mess with your head, and there is nothing wrong with admitting you need to talk with someone. I have a life coach that I see on a regular basis and I make sure that my mind is kept health as well".
"Most importantly – I try to live in the here and now. Celebrate life with friends and always try to maintain that all important work-life balance."
With so much of business having gone technological, how do you remain unique and on top of trends?
One thing to keep in mind is that everything that is unique now will one day become “not so unique”. If you think about it, when fax machines arrived on the scene, you were “oh so important” if you had one and could send and receive a fax. When the internet became available to households, a business who had a website was unique and ahead of the rest. Then came social media – and if you did not have a Facebook page you were behind the rest.
In today’s world – most Gen Z’s have no idea what a fax machine looks like, internet is on our phones and we browse websites in the palm of our hand and Facebook is the first thing business create when starting up. Times change, technologies change and you have to keep up.
To remain unique you need to offer what technology cannot – THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
Describe your perfect customer?
LOL – the perfect customer would be someone who buys online weekly, never returns anything and tells all their friends to buy from Macaroon Collection as well.
Honestly, as much as an online store removes a large part of the human interaction element of shopping, it does not remove it completely. You still work with people – and people are all different. I do not think there is actually something like the perfect customer. However, I can tell you that the customers I enjoy working with the most are the ones who are respectful and show appreciation. Those customers shine a little light on your day.
What is your top must-have accessory for 2022?
For those of you who don’t know what a twilly is:
The twilly is a long and narrow scarf. It can be incredibly versatile. People use it as a hair accessory, neck scarf, bag charm, and more. Small, but colourful, a twilly can easily work with any outfit. Whether you’re in the office during the day with a twilly around your neck, or going out for dinner with the same twilly around your wrist, you’ll always look the part.
I am totally obsessed with these and will be rocking them this summer. We have also just added them to our ROON collection on Macaroon Collection - https://macarooncollection.co.za/collections/twilly-scarves
With Summer on the way, what should every woman invest in - fashion-wise?
Well I would say Sunscreen 😊 but in terms of fashion …. Every woman needs a clutch-sling bag. The perfect bag that you can sling over when you need to have your hands free while at a market, at a festival or taking a walk along the beach. BUT …. The sling must be removable so that when you go out in the evening your bag becomes a clutch bag. Practice and classy all in one. My go to bag for this is the Jeanie XL leather bag we sell on our store.
In her spare time Michelle enjoys running, gardening, cooking and quality time with the loved ones in her life.
Pop by the showroom in Pretoria and have a coffee with Michelle - she would love to get to know you.