Daleen Mulder: “For me, the business isn’t about us, it’s about the customer. We really try hard to be much more than average and find the balance between offering a decent product at a decent price with good service.”
Bedmat was founded by Daleen’s father, Eddie Papendorf, in 1961 and the original factory, along with the family homestead, is still in the original Plaston premises next to Curlews station. Back in the day, Bedmat had its own private stop on the railway line. History buffs will be interested to know that the site was originally home to an old pack house built in 1899 to which fresh produce was delivered by oxwagon and then railed to Johannesburg and Lourenço Marques.
The road to establishing his bed and mattress business was a rocky one for Eddie. It proved very difficult to obtain business rights and finance, until White River pioneer George Turner quietly stood surety for the young ‘Boertjie’ and Eddie stood up to the over-officious government bureaucrats. Bedmat was in business!
Originally selling coir mattresses and steel beds for £1, 12 shillings and 6 pence, sales were slow in the beginning until George Turner suggested marking up the prices and things took off. In 1991 Eddie’s children became involved in the company.
Today, Daleen and her mother Mats are hands-on and Bedmat has adapted to changing times. Daleen has embarked upon an ambitious expansion plan, opening a branch in Nelspruit as well as in White River town and begun an online service. “It’s personal for us,” Daleen says, “we’re not working for anybody else.” Their traditional business is strongly repeat based, often the third generation of Eddie’s original customers are still shopping at Bedmat. Research has shown Daleen that their clients come from word of mouth or repeat sales, and people buy from people they know and trust.
The Bedmat team of Daleen, Mats and 15 staff members handle a client base ranging from 5 Star lodges, FET colleges and schools to people buying their first bed. They’ll cut foam to size and reupholster furniture as well. In addition, Bedmat manufactures school desks and lockers and sells a range of luxurious bed linen. Daleen firmly believes in supporting South African manufacturers. She’s also a strong sponsor of local community and is grooming local talent to take over Bedmat when she’s ready to retire.
Daleen is a dynamo, though, so that’s a long way into the future. Meanwhile, sweet dreams are made here.
1 Peterhof Building, Tom Lawrence Street, White River
Telephone: 079 202 7823