Solo Saddlers And John Booth In The Financial Mail
Article extracted from the Financial Mail - by Stafford Thomas
HORSE POWERED BUSINESS
John Booth has had a life long passion for horses. It is a passion that led him into the world of entrepreneurship as founder of Solo Saddlers, one of a handful of SA firms still manufacturing saddles and other items used by horse and rider.
Booth is standing fast in a SA manufacturing sector that has wilted in the face of competition from imports, primarily from India. "You can compete against imports," he says, "but you must be innovative."
Booth's approach was to change the production process. "In the old days staff specialised in aspects of tack (horse equipment) manufacture." It was unproductive. "Our people are trained to do everything."
Solo, says Booth, produces 40% of about 2000 items it sells to horse sport retailers and racing stables and through its own Midrand outlet. Of the balance, 40% is imported and 20% sourced locally.
Solo targets the broad market which demands quality at a good price. It is a far larger market than most would imagine. Between 700 and 800 saddles alone are sold in SA every month, he says.
Booth has a wealth of experience in the horse game, which he first enetered 40 years ago. His first 5 years were with Sagorins Bros. "I learnt everything, from running a factory to sales, at Sagorins," says Booth.
From Sagorins he moved to another grand old name in the horse world, HI Merwitz (now Trident Saddlery). "I ran Merwitz for 27 years as a partner." 9 years ago he left to establish Solo - a decision he says he would make again without hesitation.
Financial Mail April/May 2013