Here’s food for thought for anyone who’s ever bemoaned the difficulties of starting a business in South Africa.
Christian Matuz arrived in South Africa from his native Hungary speaking not a word of English, knowing no one, without any clear idea of how business operated in this country, but with a single goal in mind — to start a successful entrepreneurial enterprise. What he knew about South Africa he’d learnt on the Internet and from what little he could translate using a dictionary.
Selling healthy lifestyles
Imagine for a moment packing up your life, moving to Hungary on your own and trying to start a business. In spite of these challenges, Matuz set himself up in Cape Town in 2005 and spent the first few years teaching himself the language and getting acclimatised to the culture and the country, all the while keeping his eyes open to business gaps and opportunities.
“I realised pretty quickly that many South Africans were interested in a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating. I’d worked as a stock broker previously in Budapest, but I had also completed studies in food manufacturing technology and work flow management, and this background together with a similar business concept I’d seen in Europe, gave me the idea of starting iHealth Meals,” he says.
The company delivers freshly prepared, low fat, healthy meals to a growing band of happy customers. “Originally I cooked mostly for individuals, for friends and people at my gym. People told their friends and slowly things started to grow,” Matuz explains.
Customer service drives growth
After two months he hired a kitchen and a cook, and then moved into compiling healthy meal plans for customers. This is a full package which takes all the stress, shopping, planning and cooking away from busy consumers. Within two years he was catering for corporates and events.
“We’ve gone from doing 1 000 meals a month initially to 15 000 today, and while we are only based in Cape Town at the moment, there is enormous demand for us to open an operation in Johannesburg,” he adds. Today the business employs 13 people.
The journey hasn’t been without its challenges though. “Perhaps my biggest frustration is finding the right people with the right work ethic and the commitment to excellence,” he says.
Fortunately the business has an exemplary customer service record. “An MBA class from UCT conducted some customer service research on the business, contacting some 150 previous and existing customers to get feedback on their experience. 99% of them came back with positive feedback. That’s not to say we don’t make mistakes, but when we do, we don’t hesitate and we fix the problem immediately. It’s something I’m very proud of,” he says. It’s not his only achievement that warrants pride.
- Player: Christian Matuz
- Company: iHealth Meals
- Launched: 2009
- Contact: +27 (0)76 539 2345; www.ihealthmeals.com