Toprock is a family and friend business that was started in 1991 for the love of nature and the addictive pursuit of its hidden treasures and obvious beauty. Africa is a beautiful continent and any excuse to explore in remote and new areas is a good one too! Firstly, we are Conservationists and Naturalists, and secondly, we are Rock Dealers with a huge variety of stones that you will not easily find elsewhere.
Humbly started by myself, Nick May, Toprock has grown much larger over time with many new locations and discoveries, several shops along the route, and with help from the rest of the team, who have joined as they were needed, or they needed. Some of the previous staff have moved on to open their own rock shops and businesses, but we have remained basically the same team for many, many, many years. As most rock folks are aware; you can't just hire somebody in this business, you have to find exactly the right kind of people to fit in, so having the right people is an integral part of our whole rock wholesale business. Needless to say, we have the right people.
So here we have it, an international bunch of folks with Toprock, mostly living in the African bush, in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa; I am originally from Somerset/Devon (U.K), My lovely wife, Nicole, is a Swiss-South African, Vohoangy, Eddie, Andy, Vluluna, Raholy and Do (Madagascar), Alex (MSc in Paleontology..he helped with the research of Australopithecus sediba at Malapa Caves and specialises in insect damage on ancient bones) is our Operations Manager and is an ex Geordie (UK), Abel (our top class warehouse manager) is Zimbabwean, Mandy, (data inputting) & Megan (shipping) South African, and Paul, our photographer (Rhodesian). Kent is a friend who has come back from 12 years in the Caribbean and is sorting rough materials and making unusual rock items up for us. We also have Vusi, Wayne, Albert and Ali who help us.
We are based in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, but also have satellite stations in Antananarivo, Madagascar and at Karibib in Namibia. We have all sorts of permanent and loose arrangements with hundreds of small Artisanal miners, Lapidary setups and Mines all over Africa and Madagascar.
I am an avid Mineralogist and Paleoanthropologist, Nicole is the nature lover and artist and a dynamite business person. Alex is great with customers and is always 100% reliable and very knowledgeable, as well as being very IT savvy, which helps greatly with being mostly an online wholesale business. Able is a workaholic and has his sidekick, Vusi (Prince of Happiness..you won't catch him not singing) who helps packing. Mandy works from home and does all of our data inputting, loading products onto the website many hours per day (and often many hours per night), bless her cotton socks. Paul is a joker deluxe so although working hard, he tends to crack us up with laughter several times per day to keep the mood light while we are trying to hectically keep up with orders.
We regularly and irregularly supply over 2700 Rock, Crystal and Fossil Shops, All manners of Rock & Gift businesses, Galleries, Mineral Dealers, Crystal Guru's, Architectural companies, Gemstone Factories, Garden Centres from local South Africans, to as far afield as Hawaii, Denmark, United Kingdom, USA, Australia, Zambia, Canada, New Zealand, Iraq, Malaysia, China, Zambia, Croatia, and some Islands that I can't remember the names of..and quite a few in-between..and have been doing so for 28 years.
We have had shops ourselves over the years as well, so we get to think like shopkeepers while buying stock...nothing dull and dusty or chipped up is going to sell easily unless it's extremely rare or interesting (or cheap)..generally we just stick to the top 20-50% of what can be found in this part of the continent and we are always way above average with selection and way below average with price..a good combination that has made sure that we are always busy, and that you are always successful.
I have been seeking and collecting minerals, crystals, fossils and gemstones since birth, almost 47 years now and have a 35000 odd strong collection of classic Minerals and Crystals (along with 500 odd fossils and around 9000 stone tools) and some of the most interesting, beautiful and unusual species, hence the African Crow on the rocks of the Toprock logo. The love for rocks does make it difficult to part with many of them and becomes quite a dilemma on a regular basis, especially as I tend to pick many of the pieces as if they were for myself.
The actual rock sourcing part is/was/has also been an extremely difficult system to set up. We operate very efficiently in South Africa and to you Internationally, but Africa does tend to be the place where nothing seems to run quite on time and things aren't always what they seem. Cross this with Mother Nature and you have to have extra 'Patience DNA' in your bones. We strive to keep all our dealings on a plateau of everybody gaining from the operation. We are 100% fair and honest with all the miners and guys from the bush and try our utmost to make this viable concern for all of them, us and you. They even ask us recommended values and mining techniques, packaging methods etc. and we try and make sure that all of our rocks get to us in good condition and get treated correctly from A - Z.
Fairness always pays off, and we have now built up direct sources with over 1200 individuals from South Africa, Madagascar, Namibia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Zululand, Swaziland and the whole of the Southern African continent to central African regions. From collecting, trading, prospecting, manufacturing, doing shows, owning retail shops and more importantly, actually liking the rocks ourselves, we have built up a fairly decent sized wholesale business which is, of course, centered around our customers, many of whom are now our good friends, We do always like and enjoy feedback from you as well, as even though we are professionals at this, we can always try new things.
We stock the widest variety of African stones on the continent. Fact. We are constantly on the look-out for the new and unusual, the rare and beautiful. There is always a mixture of different types of items being uploaded onto the website to keep it interesting, along with a regular amount of items that we know that you can do well with as a retail or wholesale outlet. Sometimes we get a bulk of selected stock but we also have regular amounts of 'One Offs' and small batches of rare items continuously coming in and out. There is also a section on the website now for selling batches of goods as they arrive, so you have the option of buying the whole lot/pockets /batch /production before we split it up into smaller lots, making this "wholesale" lots for wholesalers. We do our best to keep it interesting and exciting whenever possible.
There are between 500-1000 new photos taken and uploaded on a daily basis, we are always efficient, well practiced and still constantly striving to perfect and improve all methods, systems and anything that can make our supply line, and you as content as possible. This isn't always easy, as we have cyclones, wars, bush telegraph and old-fashioned transport and communication systems, along with some very sticky and corrupt African customs people to deal with, all of which pose as regular obstacles in the pathway of our business, but we get surprisingly good results all things considered. Of course, we can't offer you a truckload of bright red gemmy Rhodochrosite crystals at $10, but we certainly do our best to get goods to you at a level where you can make a very good living from our stock..there usually plenty of room for a 2-10 times mark up on any given item after shipping.
Being in Africa, where the economy tends to be on a lower level than many other continents, we are at the source and can deliver goods to you, not only at base prices, but we can also supply a lot of rocks that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Our aim is to have a good business line where everybody is happy and to create lifestyles that are people and planet friendly.
Normally, to run a wholesale business of any kind, you have to be in a city area somewhere, as that is where the population is centered, but due to our nature needs, we decided to run our business form the country and use modern technology to our advantage. We used to be near Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, then we moved to a 4500 acre Protea flower farm near Cape Town for 5 years, followed by Natal Midlands, at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains, then our final resting place, our beautiful Bush farm near Pietermaritzburg, where our main aim is Nature Conservation.
If somebody had mentioned being in the computer trade many years ago, I would have laughed and said; "Me Caveman, You Idiot"! But it served our love of nature to further that same cause and here we are, a whole pile of rocks and a whole pile of computers; allowing us to converse and deal with folks all over the world from a very active Nature Conservancy; more satisfying for us and a direct source for you.
We hope we will be able to help you and make your life happier and better.
All the best