Stanton and Carla Ashton are a young, dynamic couple with a refreshing energy. With a few businesses between them, the Ashtons have settled in Simbithi and struck the perfect balance between family, work and peace.
The Ashton’s dog, an elderly Jack Russell, strolls out of the family’s Beverley Lane home on a warm Friday morning. “That’s Peppy,” Stanton welcomes me into the tastefully furnished living area; natural light streams in from the front-facing windows. As Peppy nudges closer for more tickles and backrubs, Carla appears from the passage in a summery patterned dress, paired jauntily with white Chuck Taylors. She rustles up teas and coffees in the kitchen, while Stanton offers me a devilishly tasty almond croissant. We settle on the patio, overlooking The Stables, and a few horses are basking in the morning rays. “It’s so beautiful out here,” Stanton leans against the balustrade. “We love watching the horses. Our daughter knows each of their names and, if she doesn’t, she gives them names!”
Carla’s eyes soften as she speaks of two-year-old Chloe, their “miracle baby”. “She was our fourth attempt at IVF. We battled for seven years to have her, and she has filled our lives with incredible joy. Daddy’s girl,” she looks fondly at Stanton, her husband of 10 years. Carla and Stanton grew up together in Empangeni and, after their marriage, lived in Umhlanga. In 2010, Carla started Thandana. “I had always loved art, and I’m a woman…I love bags! I played around with a few design ideas, and some beautiful pieces of fabric.” Thandana (isiZulu for ‘to love one another’) started out in a garage, with four staff members handmaking a small range of bags and luggage. Today, Thandana’s highly sought-after products can be found in 130 stores nationwide, and in Mauritius, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Dubai, Japan, The Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom, with prospects in other major countries. Stanton recently joined Thandana, which is now run from a factory in Mount Edgecombe: employing 20 staff members. “I had been looking to bring in a partner for a while,” Carla shares. “I’m a creative, so bringing Stanton in has allowed me to focus on that while he keeps his eyes on the factory. It’s wonderful to have each other to bounce ideas off.” Thandana is 100% local – from the fabrics, to the laminating and leather: every facet of the bags is manufactured in South Africa.
The Ashtons have their plates full: aside from Thandana, they are partners in Yorba Organics with Carla’s father and brother, Werner: a natural baby and family personal care range of GMO-free products made using wild-harvested, organic ingredients. The Yorba Clay Wash, within the range recently won an award from Women & Home, bearing testament to its popularity. Stanton and Carla are also partners in Chloe Connor & Co, with Angela Otto, Carla’s sister-in-law. an online store of modern baby lifestyle products: think bags, sleeping pods, blankets and muslins, linen and nursery essentials. Stanton and Carla agree that the key to running several successful businesses is keeping the family dynamic. “We hold our customers in high regard, and treat our employees like family.” An avid cook, Carla adds: “the secret to business is getting the recipe right, and then going for it!”
It stands to reason, then, that their home in Simbithi is their sanctuary. It was an adjustment, Stanton admits, travelling a longer distance to get to the factory after moving up north, but it is a sacrifice he willingly makes. “There were three major milestones in my life. Marrying Carla, having Chloe and then moving here,” he smiles. “There has been such a change in our relationship, our marriage and in our daughter since we settled in Simbithi.” Stanton, an avid surfer, enjoys the close proximity to the beach and the abundance of natural spaces on the Estate. His favourite trail is Mfuleni. “It opens up into a forest that takes my breath away.”
With her parents, twin brother and nephew on Ladlau Drive, Carla values the family ethos of Simbithi. “I love heading down to the community centres and meeting up with other moms having a break with their children. Living here is just wonderful.”