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Mama’s Spices & Herbs 10 Smart Start-Up Strategies

Tapping into the lucrative township market with a hunch and R10 000: Mama’s Spices & Herbs founder Mikie Monoketsi reveals her ten smart start-up tactics.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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Mikie Monoketsi

Vital stats:

  • Player: Mikie Monoketsi
  • Company: Mama’s Spices & Herbs
  • Established: 2012
  • Visit: mamaspicesandherbs.com
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 021 2205

In 2011, Mikie Monoketsi had lost everything – her call centre business and marriage. Having read Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, she made a life altering decision.

“I decided to stop worrying about the future and how to turn things around, and just start with something in the now.”

For her, that started with getting out of bed and hitting the gym. It didn’t just get her back in shape and feeling good about herself, it was a networking place that launched her entrepreneurial career.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Start-up tactic #1

Find an accessible market

I know that the township market is huge and very lucrative if you have the right offering. As a lover of health, fitness and lifestyle I was surprised at how many people in the townships are misinformed about spices and seasoning and their health benefits.

From this, I realised a need to educate the township market. Through my research I discovered that the spices customers used by townships are cheap and of poor quality, with high levels of salt, MSG, preservatives, additives and bulking agents – which all negatively impact health and contribute to high levels of hypertension and diabetes.

Start-up tactic #2

Get on the ground and get talking

I come from a PR background and I find it very easy to talk to and build relationships with people. I started with informal research in Diepsloot, Randfontein, Cosmo City and Lion Park where I’d park the car, talk with people and visit their kitchens – some of which really shocked me, but you’ve got to humble yourself to people from all walks of life.

Through this research I learnt what they were cooking – skop, mogodu, maotwana, kota (cows head, intestines, chicken feet, bunny chow), potato chips, fish, braai, stews and curries and fried chicken.

This gave me the idea to create my own unique blend of healthier spices that would complement these foods that are already consumed, but offer better quality, with health benefits, and at an affordable price. I’d also use their feedback to adjust recipes to their liking.

Start-up tactic #3

Approach existing businesses to get started

I didn’t want to be like so many other would-be entrepreneurs who procrastinate because they don’t have the resources to start big.

I approached an existing spice manufacturer with the relevant certification including Kosher, Halaal and ISO ratings, and they began blending my unique spice recipes. Now we’re producing approximately 1,2 tonnes of spices monthly for Mama’s Spices & Herbs.

Start-up tactic #4

Use people’s own networks to sell your product

I came up with a ‘business in a box’ concept where individuals could buy spice starter packs and they’d keep whatever they made when reselling.

It worked really well because people trust their friends, family and colleagues far more than a stranger. From there, they’d recognise it at their local shops and would spread the word themselves.

At the moment I have ten sales reps working in the townships on a commission basis, which helps keep my overheads low. They get paid weekly for their sales, and I’ve got 12 consistent distributors who pay upfront for orders and sell amongst their networks.

Related: How the Mad World Group Grew the Smart Way

Start-up tactic #5 Mikie-Monoketsi

Gyms are the new golf (or, leverage your networks like crazy)

At gyms you can network, strike up partnerships, get connected and meet people who can be instrumental in building your business. It was at the gym that I found a spice manufacturer and met an executive producer. He pointed me in the right direction and today,

I’m on SABC 1’s Yo-TV, hosting a four minute exercise programme every Saturday morning. I get to promote my vision of health and fitness, demonstrate exercise, and occasionally throw in a good word about my business!

Start-up tactic #6

Record and cost every cent

When you start your business, ensure that every cent is accounted for, especially the non-tangibles like labour, packaging, cost of sales, and time. I found that because I didn’t cost everything, despite my sales improving I wasn’t making more money.

I realised I wasn’t factoring in the samples I was giving out – and when you’re in food, market samples are critical but you must factor in their costs. I also realised that using the business as a personal piggy bank was hampering growth – a few thousand here and there adds up – and I was no more sophisticated than the spaza shops and road-side shisa nyamas I was supplying to.

I didn’t get expensive software or an accountant, I bought a Croxley notebook and wrote down every expense and invoiced all customers. Once I did that I started seeing a difference.

Start-up tactic #7

Make sales worth your while

In the township market people don’t have a lot of money to buy in bulk, therefore it was impacting my stock management and projections. Turnover was hugely inconsistent – sometimes low and other times high.

I made the decision to leverage economies of scale and incentivise my distributors and direct clients to buy in bulk. I created a tiered pricing structure that really rewarded bulk purchases, and though I lost some business, turnover is now growing at a steady pace.

I’ve also had people approach me from all over South Africa and even neighbouring countries asking to sell my spices. These people are required to pay cash upfront for stock tailored to their needs and target market and are required to find their own delivery mechanism if post isn’t the best solution – I’m not a logistics expert and I’m not afraid to ask them to help.

When post isn’t an option customers take advantage of malayitsha services (informal courier services operating from Zimbabwe to South Africa). Their rates are cheaper and they’re very reliable.

Start-up tactic #8

Stay focused on your vision

I stay focused by concentrating on the present. I create yearly goals and categorise and prioritise these goals according to certain time frames in conjunction with the business and its operations.

Though I’ve branched into a few other product lines I always stay true to my vision of promoting a healthy lifestyle, fitness and longevity. Some of my new product lines include MSG-free spices and seasonings, popcorn sprinkles, homemade sauces, marinades, stews and soups, and spicy health teas.

I recently identified an opportunity in the market and launched our Ready Mix Concentrate Ginger Beer – people find it too much of a hassle to brew their own, so we’ve manufactured a ready mix concentrate that makes 20 litres per 750g (and because of its natural source it’s great for colds and flu, in keeping with my vision). All you do is add water, leave for 24 hours, refrigerate and then drink.

Some customers then tweak it with pineapple and raisins, bottle it and sell to their communities, creating their own businesses. In the first month of its launch we sold 100kg of concentrate.

Start-up tactic #9

Learn your mistakes quickly

I initially dabbled in white labelling but realised it was diluting the brand. The Mama’s Spices & Herbs brand was not growing because entrepreneurs were rebranding with their own packaging and branding. People would enjoy the unique flavours but didn’t know the producer.

It’s been great to discover that while I identified a niche market in the townships, health, fitness and longevity is common to all markets and consumers, which allowed me to open the products to a larger marketplace. Because we’re now focused on brand building, we get to enjoy extensive growth even in neighbouring countries because there’s no confusion of who the spices and seasonings belong to.

Related: How Billion Rand Business USN Was Launched From a Small Kitchen

Start-up tactic #10

Make smart mutually beneficial partnerships

I have partnered with an entrepreneur who started selling potatoes with a one-tonne truck. He’s grown to a six-tonne truck and delivers 15 tonnes of potatoes per month to informal food outlets.

I approached him to tap into his network of customers to sell my best-selling potato and chip spice. He gets to add value to his customers, and to make extra money by taking a cut of the spice sales, and I get added business.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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Start-up Advice

4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

Here are 4 tips to help you secure funding for your start-up.

Ellie Martin

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Entrepreneurs seek to create new and ingenious ideas. Successful business owners are adept at looking at things in new and interesting ways. Their creativity fuels everything they do. Blazing through the initial steps of opening your own start-up can seem like a breeze if you’re endowed with this creative mojo, but you still may find yourself stuck at the very last step of starting your business.

Finding funding is undoubtedly the most difficult part of starting a business, and securing it requires the most creativity of all. Still, you can only stretch your creativity so far. Luckily, there are a few ways you can improve your chances of getting the money you need, regardless of whether you decide to attract angel investors or venture capitalists, or if you decide to apply for small business loans and grants.

Here are 4 tips to help you secure funding for your start-up:

1. Seek alternative funding opportunities

Before taking out a massive bank loan, consider these other funding options:

The vast majority of entrepreneurs either use their own funds to start their business or borrow money from friends and family. According to Forbes, 90% of start-ups fail, with 25% of them failing within their first year of operation. Due to this rate of failure, if it really is impossible for you to attract investors or secure venture capital, it is still best to avoid putting up your own money. Before draining your personal savings account, look into other options, such as crowdfunding. Research small business grants as well, as these can help cover gaps in funding.

2. Write a top-of-the-line business plan

If you’re interested in attracting investors, you’ll need a solid business plan to lure them in. Regardless of how wonderful your idea is, you must communicate that idea effectively and back up your claims with thorough research. A tightly organised business plan has the ability to assure investors of your industry know-how. It will give them a picture of how you plan to run your business and how accurately you can assess and address risks.

An entrepreneur who has a business plan with a punchy executive summary and a precise market analysis in hand is more likely to attract shrewd investors than one with only an inspired (and undeveloped) idea.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

3. Network, network, network

The absolute best way to find investors is to network. Generally, you never want to cold call investors with your business ideas. You want to build relationships naturally with those in your industry and in your local community. Talk with other business leaders and go to local events. Offer to help other entrepreneurs and established business owners. They may return the favour by introducing you to reliable angel investors or they may steer you to a venture capital firm that helped launch their start-up. They may even offer to pitch in some of their own cash, if they really take to your idea.

Moreover, to make sure your networking efforts are effective, try to pinpoint the audience who would be most interested in your idea.

“Network selectively,” advises American author and entrepreneur, Steve Pavlina. “Take the time to build a profile of your ideal customers, and target your networking activities to reach them. Speak to those who are already predisposed to want what you offer.”

Building connections is a vital part of creating your business. You’ll need to build new ones and strengthen existing ones, not only to get the funding you need in the short term, but also to survive as a business in the long term. 

4. Be prepared to compromise

Asking for funding for your startup means experiencing failure time and time again. Most of the investors you’ll encounter will pass on your idea. You shouldn’t take this to heart. It’s all a part of the process. You may find that in order to get the funding you need you’ll have to give a small piece of the business over to an angel investor.

Your first crowdfunding effort may fall short, and you might have to incorporate feedback from backers and implement changes to the core of your idea to crowdfund successfully the next go around. Don’t be too rigid with your vision. If you’re willing to make some slight changes, you could have a much better shot at landing a deal.

Securing funding for your start-up is no easy task, but it is certainly not one you have to do alone. Enlist the help of friends, family, and business associates to help you craft a superb business plan, meet other entrepreneurs and investors, and make revisions to your idea. Use their input to help you find other ways to fund your start-up, such as small business grants and crowdfunding. Use these 4 tips for securing funding for your start-up, continue researching your target market and refining the way you approach investors. Without a shadow of a doubt, if you’re willing to seek the advice of others and compromise when necessary, you’ll find a way to fund your start-up.

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Start-up Advice

7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

What follows are seven simplified yet key strategies to develop yourself as an entrepreneur which are a hybrid of the authors’ practical experience and what he has learnt from very successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants over several years.

Dirk Coetsee

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What lies behind you and what lies in front of you are tiny matters compared to what lies inside of you” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson


I am an entrepreneur, I surround myself with business minded people, I am privileged enough to be mentored by great leaders. I speak to visionaries, I write about them and learn from them.

What follows are seven simplified yet key strategies to develop yourself as an entrepreneur which are a hybrid of the authors’ practical experience and what he has learnt from very successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants over several years.

A wise man once told me, “A higher level of consciousness does not mean you are better than anybody else it just means your mind sees from a higher vantage point and therefore you see clearer than most.”

Related: 8 Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice For When The Going Gets Tough

Those wise words lead us into explaining the first strategy:

1. Expand your consciousness

Simply put your consciousness is nothing but what you are aware of. By increasing what you are aware of through experience, study and honest self-reflection and by inquiring deeply into every aspect of your business as to increase the quality of your awareness you are enhancing the quality of your experience as an entrepreneur.

The second strategy often referred to as priming or framing is commonly used by successful entrepreneurs:

2. Priming or framing

Priming or framing is creating a positive mindset first thing in the morning which builds mental strength and the capacity to face the day with a very good attitude. This is, in essence, done by creating a morning ritual or habit for yourself which can take whatever form you prefer, as long as the outcome of it is a stronger and better you.

Some prefer meditation and/or prayer. Others repeat affirmations in the mirror. Some take the quiet early morning hours as the opportune time to read and learn more about their craft. Exercise is another way to start your day in a positive way. See this exercise of Priming or framing as an investment earning compound interest over a period of time.

nelson-mandelaGoogle whom any famous leader or entrepreneurs’ mentor was and a name or many will most certainly pop up. Nelson Mandela’s’ mentor was Oliver Tambo, Warren Buffet holds the Dale Carnegie certificate proudly displayed on his office wall in high regard, the famous investor Ray Dalio is still coached by Tony Robbins.

Related: (Podcast) Being An Entrepreneur Is Painful

That explains why you should:

3. Be willing to be mentored

When I facilitate training or a coaching session a common objection to being mentored is: “ Yes , but I do not know anyone that could mentor me.”

Honestly, what a lame excuse. Most servant leaders understand that it is part of their duty to society by leaving other servant leaders and/or entrepreneurs behind and are actually just waiting for your call.

It is really as simple as that, make your list of people that you look up to and want to be mentored by and call them, sincerely tell them how much you admire them and ask for guidance and mentorship. To those whom knock sincerely a door will be opened.

There is no such thing as a “self-made man” as everyone has received some help in some shape or form along their journey of entrepreneurship.

It is much harder to give up on something that you really have worked hard for over a long period of time as opposed to something that you have approached with half-hearted intent and little effort.

Therefore:

4. Hard work compounded by smart work

Hard work is not only something that you should do to stay ahead of the competition but a necessity in order to build resilience.

When you have lost sight of your purpose and vision as an entrepreneur decision making becomes drastically harder, your morale might be affected negatively, and your bank balance might suffer as a consequence.

So:

5. Ensure that you have constancy of purpose and a clear Vision

A very effective way of priming and/or framing is to remind yourself of your purpose and vision every morning. Make your Vision and purpose visual by displaying it clearly at your office. An entrepreneur cannot talk regularly nor enthusiastically enough about his or her vision and purpose. When you have not wholeheartedly bought into a vision and purpose how can you expect your team to?

ian-fuhrThose whom embody servant leadership of which the founder of Sorbet, Ian Fuhr is a prime example know that unconditional giving as a principle not only builds character but empowers others so that we can not only grow as businesses but as people.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

That is the reason for:

6. Giving without expecting anything in return

When you give of yourself unconditionally you have a true servant heart and your clients will not only be loyal, but they will love you in general. Giving unconditionally feels good and receiving unconditionally places no burden on you and creates a wonderful and vibrant work atmosphere, generally speaking.

When you only take a stand on your principles and values during good times yet allow them to crumble in the face of challenging times “your house is divided and cannot stand”.  Your principles and values must become ingrained practises and not just frivolous words.

Taking the aforementioned into account:

7. Have non-negotiable principles and values that you live by

As an example, if when respect is a non-negotiable value that you live by you will refrain from losing emotional control and will be willing to walk away from a conversation where someone dis-respects you.

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7 Ways A Tech Start-up Is Like Starting A Band

Building a successful tech start-up and putting together a band are more similar than most entrepreneurs and musicians would like to admit.

Alice Goldstein

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Building a successful tech start-up and putting together a band are more similar than most entrepreneurs and musicians would like to admit. The truth is that both of them require a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, self-induced poverty and other big sacrifices. Like a startup, says Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot:

“The process that once entailed a songwriter or record label spending countless hours and dollars recording, manufacturing and marketing music is gone. It is now up to the artist to figure out what the next move is in the industry.”

Succeeding in the music or the business worlds can also bring a number of great benefits. Becoming a successful entrepreneur can open up doors to new, more fulfilling projects and rewards. Moreover, you will have more control over your future ventures and have a big role in the success of any project you work on.

Visualising your tech start-up as a band can help you get creative, and may even help catapult your company to success. Because of this, I’ve put together a list of seven ways a tech start-up is like putting together a band, so you can put on your inspirational hat and make your company more than just a one-hit-wonder.

1. Be honest with your skill set

The first thing you need to consider when starting a band is the instrument you can play and at what level. The very same can be said for tech start-ups. Technology now influences virtually every single part of modern society, so you need to consider the skills you have available and determine how you can use them to create a good product.

David Ellefson, the bassist from Megadeth, owner of Ellefson’s Coffee and EMP label group shared his learning experience forming and playing in rock bands, in which he said:

“The idea of a rock band is selling this dream of the ultimate creative journey and endless freedoms. Yet, things like showing up on time, knowing your role (and respecting the roles of others!), disciplined practice, marketing &; promotion are as much part of the band experience as getting onstage and rocking the house each night.

Related: How Craig Bright And Brian Little Launched Rocking The Daisies

I learned many years ago that just because I was successful in music didn’t qualify me to be an expert in other fields, too. My successes came as a result of discovering my passion and honing in on skills that came natural to me. That led to relationships that opened doors for my success. We’ve all been blessed with certain skills, talents, and abilities and having success (and happiness!) usually lies with our passion allowing us to be the best we can be with those abilities in a chosen field.”

The good thing is that you don’t only have to focus on your particular expertise. Each band member offers a valuable set of skills that contribute to the quality of the music. In this case, your band members will be your start-up team. Take a look at what each team member brings to the table and make sure you are applying them to their full potential.

2. You need to be driven by passion

business-passionJust because you love music doesn’t mean making music will just happen, and in the words of Phil X the guitar player of Bon Jovi:

“There are no short cuts. You have to kick your own ass before you kick everyone else’s.”

Once you have identified your passion, the next step is acquiring the skills to realise your dream. This may seem tricky at first, but try to get creative and figure out a way to combine your skills and passions to build a valuable business.

If you are preparing to launch a tech start-up, you should definitely find something you are passionate about. Not only will this make your work easier, but you will always find motivation to give your best, even on bad days. Moreover, you may find that working on something that you really love will actually bring you joy and work as extra fuel when your tank is running low.

3. Put together a stellar lineup

If you were building a band and you knew the best drummers and bass players in town, you would definitely reach out and try to recruit them, right? Well, the same thing goes for your tech start-up. You should review all your options and scour your connections until you find the combination that best suits your vision.

Now, remember that putting together a killer lineup isn’t only about finding the best of the best. You also need to find a balance and make sure that the talent you bring on board will compliment the whole team. If you have two great candidates, but you think they won’t work well together, you are better off choosing the one that works best with the rest of your ensemble.

4. Practice makes perfect

practiceOne of the most important aspects of having a band is practicing frequently. Musicians already have a high level of dexterity, but that doesn’t mean the band will sound good right off the bat. By practicing together, you can make sure everyone is on the same page and organise your act.

As a start-up, the equivalent of having band practice is working as a team. Although everyone learned the skills needed to carry out their specific tasks separately, you also need to work as a team to make sure everyone is in sync.

A good way to do this is to give everyone individual tasks, and also assign at least one communal task a week. This will give you time to sit down with your team members, gauge that everyone is on the same page, and clear the air if they are not.

Related: Will.I.Am: The Man Who Took Music To Mars

5. Networking is the KEY

Any successful musician will tell you that networking is as important as the quality of your music. Networking with the right people can help you land gigs, get your music to the right listeners, and make a name for yourself by rubbing elbows with established industry giants.

The reason why I say that networking is KEY to any tech start-up is because it’s what will enable you to Keep Expanding Yourself. Building connections with established tech companies and influencers can help you get your name out there and land significant contracts. Not only this, you will also be able to gain valuable insights from the people that already thrive in your industry.

6. Find your audience

audienceMost bands already have a good idea of who their followers are or will be, and they focus on getting gigs in venues that will attract these fans. This makes their promotion easier and increases the chances of hosting a successful event. Not only this, in order to adapt to your audience’s changing needs and preferences, you must be ready to diversify wherever necessary.

Marq Torien from BulletBoys put it beautifully “Always know at some point you have to reinvent yourself in your music career. It’s a must, if you want to keep your audience and fans who love what you or your group does. All the great musicians and artists have done so at some point in their careers. Don’t have fear of diversity”. Marq stayed true to his words as their highly anticipated March 2018 Frontiers Records release “From Out of The Skies ” is truly one of their most diverse album to date.

Although it’s a bit more complicated, you should identify your start-up’s perfect clientele in the form of fictional buyer personas. This requires a good amount of market research, but it will give you essential information about your potential customer base. You’ll be able to create marketing campaigns that speak directly to your buyer personas through the channels they use the most as well as diversify based on changes in consumer demand.

Related: Kim Coppen-Watkins On Having And Maintaining Strategic Growth

7. Use all available promotion channels

It’s no secret that the most popular bands are featured on radio, television, the internet, and just about any other channel you can imagine. Besides boosting their collective egos, bands tend to take advantage of all promotional channels they have available because it guarantees it will extend their reach as far as possible.

You should also consider all the marketing channels you have available and take advantage of every single one of them. Now, if you start-up is in its early stages, you may not be able to invest huge amounts into advertising. That being said, you can always get creative and use free marketing channels such as social media platforms, blogs, and YouTube videos.

Finally …

Launching a tech start-up may not sound as glamorous as being in a band, but they are more similar than you may think. Always remember a successful tech start-up requires patience, a lot of behind-the-scenes work, the ability to adapt to change, and a well-organised team. Follow the tips outlined above to pave your way to success and enjoy the perks that come with it!

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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