TARRYN TAIT imports homeware and furniture from China, India, Malaysia and Brazil, supplying national retail clients and selling online direct to consumers.
A Durban girl through and through, Tarryn has travelled the world sourcing products for South African consumers. After four years working at an antique shop, she joined a merchandising company where she worked with buyers who sourced product for Game and Dion. When one of these buyers started her own business, she head-hunted Tarryn to join her, and sent her off on her first trip to China to source homeware items.
Two years later, the Coventry Group of Companies decided to open a new homeware division and approached Tarryn to set it up. Initially apprehensive because of her lack of experience in running a business, she soon realised it was a great career opportunity. They'd also offered her shares, making it even more enticing. And, as her husband pointed out, if she didn't like it she could always find something else. Keeping a principled perspective, Tarryn was careful to ensure there was no overlap with her previous company and joined the Coventry Group in 2008, setting up Colindale Trading, focusing on office furniture and securing Makro as their major client. Realising the risks inherent in over-reliance on one client, Tarryn soon branched out and began supplying other customers, including Game and Woolworths.
Focused on growth, It wasn't long before Tarryn identified the potential of online shopping, and introduced an online store that rapidly proved successful, and now accounts for approximately 45% of turnover.
After almost a decade, Tarryn realised that she wanted complete control of the business. The Paruk family, owners of the Coventry Group of Companies, had supported her throughout, but in real terms she was running the business with minimal input and wanted to do it on her own. After lengthy negotiations, the sale of the business was finalised and Tarryn took over Colindale Trading in 2018.
It's all about people
"People are my thing," says Tarryn, "and if I know one thing for sure, it's the people I've met along the way that have made the difference in my success. Yes, I work hard and I'm an over-achiever, but I couldn't have done this on my own." And with each career move, she's maintained relationships with previous colleagues and been able to move on and up without jeopardising those who have supported her and created opportunities for her. Which is probably why she's stayed in the same premises, renting from the Coventry Group. And her staff is equally loyal to her - her right hand woman has been with her for eleven years - and she maintains friendships going back to her school days.
Focus on the positive
At the age of 21, Tarryn was involved in a hit and run accident that almost left her crippled. She and another lady stopped to help victims of an accident, and a car, perhaps mistaking the accident scene for a roadblock and trying to evade it, mowed into her. Told she would be unable to walk for two years, she remarks that she surprised herself - and everyone else - by how well she coped. Downplaying the permanent damage and pain, she chose to focus on the positive. "I could have died, so learning to walk again wasn't such a big deal. It was merely an obstacle to be overcome."
Happily married, with two children, Tarryn says her children inspire her to be a better person every day. "I think about the values I want them to learn, and I realise I need to live those values to teach them."
But while family life is integral to her happiness, she admits that she doesn't have a good work-life balance. "I'm a people-pleaser and an over-achiever, so I take on too much." She's joined the Durban Entrepreneurs Organisation and says she's getting better at balancing her life. "We hold each other accountable. I can't meet every month complaining about my lack of balance; they won't let me get away with that - they'll demand to know what I'm doing about it!"
Tarryn's happy about what she's achieved so far. "But there's a lot more I want to do. Specially in terms of contributing to and improving the lives of others. I haven't even scratched the surface yet." She says there's a lot of advice she wished she'd been told when she was younger. "Most importantly, don't be so hard on yourself when you fail. Learn the lesson and move on. If I'd learnt to do that sooner, I'd have saved myself a whole lot of stress."