CO-FOUNDER: FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
FROM A SINGLE LEATHER BAG, LÉAN BOEZAART AND THE TEAM HAVE IGNITED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT (FOM) TO A PREMIUM SOUTH AFRICAN LIFESTYLE BRAND THAT RANGES FROM THE TRENDIEST LEATHER BAGS AND FOOTWEAR TO AESTHETICS TIMEPIECES. TODAY THEY PROUDLY BOAST 10 FOM CONCEPT STORES, WITH ONE BASED IN AMSTERDAM
Léan Boezaart grew up in a house of four boys, all very sociable and profoundly sport driven. As one can imagine, his parents had their hands full more often than not, so to keep things at a ‘respectable level of control’, his dad introduced the ingenious house rule called ‘Freedom of Movement’.
‘You earned your right to “Freedom of Movement” through hard work and personal discipline. If your academic performance at school was satisfactory, for instance, you earned “Freedom of Movement” as a sign that you have proven yourself capable of making your own decisions and taking responsibility for your actions.
‘This rule generated a foundation for us boys to understand the significance of making decisions and managing our priorities,’ says Léan.
‘My Dad always encouraged and supported us to chase our dreams, but more specifically to work for ourselves one day. We were extremely fortunate to have loving and supportive parents who gave us the perfect platform to live out our passions,’ says Léan.
Léan tells the amusing story of how at varsity, three of his mates and he scraped together all of their savings and organised a house party that attracted more than
600 students. The entry fee was R20.They organised everything: two bars with a temp liquor license, a built stage for the three live bands, right to bouncers.
‘We woke up the next morning with a suitcase filled with cash and minimum damage control. I guess this crazy experience sparked the entrepreneurial flame!’ says Léan.
In 2011, Léan’s childhood dream of being a professional golfer became a reality when right after articles he received a sponsorship from Deloitte. It was an exhilarating time of his life. Turning pro in 2012, Léan gave it his best shot in South Africa and abroad with achievements that he says he will cherish forever − especially the four wins as a professional on the IGT Tour. He also learned to overcome challenges that he found valuable in growing FOM to success.
‘I had many near misses in my quest to fulfil my dream of making it as a golf professional. Professional golf is a game of very small margins and if you are on the wrong side of the cut, it can be the most humbling game in the world. All the disappointments in hindsight contributed to the patience and perseverance that were required to get our business to where it is today,’ he says.
After he had qualified as a CA(SA) and his brother Roal Boezaart as a civil engineer in 2013, they felt like they had finally earned their freedom to explore new ideas. After they had verified their vision, they scraped together all their savings and started a business, Freedom of Movement, in a small room at the University of Stellenbosch.
‘Our vision was to create a proudly South African lifestyle brand based on the core principles of quality, longevity, value and worth. For us, leather was the one raw material that epitomised all four of these principles. Leather is known for its quintessential robust and timeless appeal, and nothing tells a story quite like a well-worn leather bag!’ says Léan.
And so they started with only one leatherman craftsman called Benjamin and one antique, traditional leather-stitching machine, and began selling one bag at a time to friends on campus.
‘We created something from scratch with very limited knowledge, nor a clear foundation or concept to work from. All we had was a vision to create a proudly South African lifestyle brand. We continuously had to innovate and evolve and have since 2013 been on the never-ending journey of figuring things out.’
After months of hard work and various prototypes, they finally developed two products that met their satisfaction and launched them into the market: the Benjamin, a traditional leather briefcase, and the Bobby, a full-leather adventure backpack.
Six years later they have a product offering that ranges from premium leather bags and footwear to timepieces, sunglasses, clothing and accessories that they sell through online platforms that offer worldwide shipping. They proudly boast 10 FOM Concept stores, with one located internationally, in Amsterdam.
‘Our core products all have unique names and identities, as we want our customers to resonate with a product, personally connect with it and allow their newly chosen companion to share in their lifestyle and adventures. We want to inspire others along the way to create their future, dare to dream, and live their lives with true Freedom of Movement: The freedom to dream. The freedom to explore. The freedom to create.’
FOM has recently launched a new shoe, the field green FOM Vellie, with Siya Kolisi and will be using the proceeds to build a new sports field at the Mbewkeni Youth Centre, an underprivileged community outside Paarl in the Western Cape.
And where does Léan see himself in five years’ time? Happily married and best friends with his two beautiful daughters.
‘Stay free and keep moving!’