The Superb Robyn Smith

Pushing organic, local, ethical e-commerce, before it was cool

It seems like only yesterday that we started shopping online, but e-commerce in SA has actually been around for a while now. Faithful To Nature has been up and running for nearly a decade, and is the oldest and best in local organic and natural lifestyle online. Stocking everything from bamboo toothbrushes to Himalayan salt crystal lamps, the green machine built by founder Robyn Smith and her team has become the digital home of conscious shoppers across South Africa.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?

If I am not in the ocean trying to surf, you’ll find me walking on the beach or in the mountains.

What’s the next thing you’d like to tick off your bucket list?

A year-long road trip across the Americas with my husband and son.

What are the top 10 things on your wishlist?

  1. Peace on Earth – a girl can dream can’t she?
  2. A fully subsistent fruit and vegetable garden
  3. A trip through Norway
  4. A month long trip to Japan – a visit to the tea houses, a night out in Tokyo, two weeks skiing on the slopes and two weeks at a rad surf spot
  5. Skinny dipping in phosphorescent waters
  6. Surfing with dolphins
  7. Hiking the Himalayas
  8. Writing and publishing a book
  9. Starting my own blog
  10. The new iPad pro

What’s the weirdest thing in your bag right now?

 A spare leash for my dog.

What’s the last thing you bought?

A fish-eye lens for my phone.

How did you start doing what you do?

I saw a gap in the market here for creating an ethical shopping platform when I returned from working as an innovation consultant in London in 2006. I believed that although it was very niche at the time that more and more people would wake up to the benefits of using natural and organic products and I wanted to create a “worry-free platform” where they could find these products. Faithful to Nature is one of the first companies in the world to procure ALL its products according to a very strict ingredient policy. I decided to distribute the products via e-commerce as it seemed friendlier to our limited budget and given that the market was so niche at the time, I felt we could at least serve all of SA by operating online, rather than just the local community around us if we opened a physical store. The first steps were obviously to build our website and to start looking for authentic suppliers. I found natural and organic products to stock by trawling markets all over the country and getting contact details that way, as at the time there was no online database of natural and organic suppliers.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs wanting to start a business?

It’s so 101, but do not undermine the importance of a business plan. You’ve got to understand what makes your idea special.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

You are a master creator, not a victim. Take responsibility and create the life you want.

What would you do with a R100 000 investment?

I started my current company with about that sum of money and so I’d challenge myself to do it again.

Which words or phrases do you overuse?

“Ok guys, I just want to play with this idea a bit, but what if we…."

Name the talent you’d most like to have.

If I could sing in tune, I’d never stop rocking.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would take it easier on myself

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Taking my meagre life savings to start an online organic and natural shop back in 2007 seemed quite crazy. But I made it work.

What is your most treasured possession?

A pair of lace-up boots from Steve Madden than I am busy having resoled from so much wear

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in doing what you do?

My business is pioneering ethical retail in South Africa and my ideas have always been pretty radical for their time. It has taken patience and persistence to deal with all those close to me concerned that I was going down a wobbly rabbit hole with my ideas.

What is your idea of complete happiness?

Happiness comes from allowing the present moment to be whatever it is going to be.