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Catherine Ronaasen was in her final year of studying textile design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology when she saw the industry she wanted to break into fold because of imports. The young woman, who had been awarded the second prize in the 1998 Textile Federation Young Designer Awards, decided to base her career around adding value to other designers, producers and small businesses to help them get their products to the market.
Ronaasen had grown up in Cape Town, attending Pinelands High School before deciding to become a certified textile designer. After graduating in 1999, she began working as a sales assistant for Nocturnal Affair, a gifting and home wear store on the V&A Waterfront.
In the next seven years, she worked her way up the ranks to the head office, where she was responsible for sourcing, production and visual merchandising for the brand’s five branches, as well as coordinating wholesale sales to guesthouses.
In 2005, she began working for Streetwires Artist Collective, fulfilling her ambition of working with and promoting artists. Ronaasen was the sales and marketing manager for the company, which sells African wire and bead craft art. While there, she twice secured government funding to travel to Europe promote the art at a trade show and to meet customers.
“I’m proud of my achievements at Streetwires,” she said. “I created much income through new regular orders for previously unemployed beaders and wire-artists.”
In 2010, Ronaasen began working for Springleap, an online platform that analyses and reports popular trends in design.
Fox&Dash started in 2014 as an extension of Spingleap. The website sources original designs from artists and translates them into printed products.
“[I want to] provide meaningful income to talented, up-and-coming designers through our online shop, where we curate the hidden gems in casual wear to discerning shoppers,” Ronaasen said.
The website is currently undergoing an ownership change, one the Ronaasen hopes will help Fox&Dash become one of the big players in the e-commerce space.
“I’d like us to find a regular flow of great designs, the ‘hidden gems’ that customers are looking for,” she said. “It would be nice one day to help create a fund for giving back, be it for education of creative aspiring designers or using themed designs to create awareness and fundraising for causes and NGOs.”
In her personal life, Ronaasen started practising yoga after buying a Groupon for discounted classes. At first, she said, she just liked it for the stretching and exercise, but the more she learned about the philosophy, the more she connected with it.
Last month, she created YogaBox, a monthly subscription box full of yoga supplies and health and beauty items, “to inspire and nurture the human spirit of every yogi.”
“YogaBox started as an idea over the holidays,” she said. “I have a passion for my practice and struggle to find all the fantastic things that I would need before, during and after a lesson.”
The boxes come in two sizes – one containing three to five items and one containing five or more. Customers can purchase a single box or a one-month subscription, and receive surprise items relating to yoga practise such as incense, beads, soaps and towels.
“For YogaBox [I’d like] to have a large regular customer base of yogis, like me, and to provide my boxes to all functions, events and retreats of yoga instructors, schools and travel-based companies that appeal to yogis,” Ronaasen said. “I’d like for part of the profits to go to community-based projects to spread the love, especially projects that teach children yoga and meditation to help them cope with the pressures of school, peers and ‘life.’”
Ronaasen is also involved in freelance packaging design and writes a monthly blog for Follow The Sun. Besides yoga, in her free time she enjoys trail-running, adult colouring books, cycling and eating out.
She’s ambitious, hoping to grow both YogaBox and Fox&Dash into national, and then international, companies.
Her life’s motto, she said, is a Maya Angelou quote.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Listen to Catherine Ronaasen’s podcast interview on YogaBox, Fox&Dash, her life story and entrepreneurship below: