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Start-up Advice

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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Concerned Citizen

    Sep 3, 2015 at 06:36

    This real sounds a great it is good business practices 🙂

  2. Hugh Kukard

    Sep 3, 2015 at 10:00

    Awesome stuff, love the networking you done Mikie. Well don.

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Start-up Advice

The Importance Of Being Organised For Your Start-up

If you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Amy Galbraith

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So, you have decided to create a start-up. This is great news, especially if you have solid plans in place and have attainable business goals. However, if you are somewhat of a tidsoptimist or are disorganised, then your start-up could be something of a nightmare to begin with.

Being organised does not have to be difficult or take up too much time. But if you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Schedules are crucial

Established business people understand how a schedule can significantly contribute to business success. You do not have to be at an executive level in order to follow an executive schedule, and setting one up for your start-up can work wonders for how your business grows.

You should take time on the weekends to plan out your week, writing down all obligations, meetings and tasks that you have to finish. Seeing your week written down in front of you will help you to stay on task and will make it easier for you to complete them on time.

Having a schedule is important, as you are the leader of your start-up and you need to stay organised and set an example for any staff you have.

Related: 4 Fundamentals To Successfully Jump-Start Your Start-up

It saves you time

Being organised saves you from rushing around, searching through paperwork to find that one invoice or bank statement. You can use business processing solutions to help you to capture and collect forms, as well as outsourced document collection to save you from having to chase clients for forms and documents.

You should invest in having a well-structured filing system, both in the office and digitally. Use neatly organised folders with clear and relevant names on them for all of your documents, bills and emails. By doing this, you can free up hours of the day to work on important tasks, such as drumming up more business through a new and exciting marketing strategy. You will also be setting an example for your team by having an organised office and computer.

Procrastination can be toxic

When tasks get put off due to disorganisation or procrastination, everyone fails. Not only will you feel bad for not completing a task on time but your clients and possible business partners will see you as unreliable, which is hugely damaging to any start-up. Many instances of procrastination can be linked to not being an organised business.

This is one of the major reasons why organisation in a start-up is essential. You will spend less time procrastinating and more time achieving goals and completing client tasks. Spend time every day organising your digital folders and your physical folders before you start working. This will ensure that there are no distractions throughout the day and you can complete all the important tasks on time and within budget.

Organisation keeps your employees on track

You cannot expect your employees to stick to their schedules and stay organised if the person at the top doesn’t do the same. As the leader of your start-up, you need to set an example for your staff, which means that you have to be the most organised person in the company. While it is important to ensure your employees follow suit, try not to be too overbearing about how they choose to organise their days.

By keeping your company organised, you will be better able to keep your employees on track, making it easier for them to finish tasks on time. This is because they will not be spending time searching for important documents that have been filed in the wrong folder (or not even filed at all) but rather focusing on completing tasks and building your profit as a company.

Related: How To Start Your Business With No Budget

You can improve customer service

By using organisation techniques, such as document processing solutions and an outsourced document collection service, you will be able to improve customer service. Problems with organisation can lead to a drop in customer service, which is highly detrimental to any start-up. Customer satisfaction is key to any return business, which is why you need to be organised.

If you have a poor billing system or are constantly losing invoices and important documents, soon your clients will move on to greener pastures (and more organised businesses). If you implement a strategy to become more organised, you will find your customer service improving. This will lead not only to return clients but to new business, as word-of-mouth travels about your professionalism and efficiency.

Keep ahead of the curve

As a start-up, you likely have a lot of competition in your industry. This means that you need to stay organised in order to keep ahead of the curve. By being more organised, you will be able to meet client briefs on time and keep to your schedule. Organisation is important for your start-up because it saves you time, stops you from procrastinating and keeps your employees on track. With improved customer service due to your efficiency, you will soon find your business growing in leaps and bounds.

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Start-up Advice

Want To Jump-Start Your Ecommerce Business? Try A Pop-up Shop

The first thing you need to know: A pop-up isn’t about stocking shelves and hoping people browse. It’s about attaining a ‘wow!’ status.

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Facebook talked a good game about its 3-D virtual-reality headset, Oculus Go, during the platform’s annual development conference, F8. Still, the social media behemoth knew that words alone couldn’t make anyone but early adopters fork over the dough.

Consequently, Mark Zuckerberg’s team made a bold, radical departure by opening an Oculus pop-up shop to showcase the company’s newest technology.

Interestingly, the Oculus pop-up was arranged, Foot Locker store-style, to give browsers the opportunity to try the device rather than instantly buy it. Sure, eMarketer predicts ecommerce will exceed the $4 trillion mark by 2020; but, as a Retail Dive survey showed, nearly two-thirds of consumers remain leery of this consumer channel. They want to physically experience merch before handing over their hard-earned cash.

Hence, Facebook gambled, not on its core platform but on the expectation that die-hard, wannabe Facebook and VR fanatics would share their experiences on social platforms, bringing awareness, hype and, eventually, sales, to an emerging product.

Not surprisingly, that was, and is, one smart bet.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but smell-o-vision still isn’t available

What makes a temporary pop-up store such a powerful differentiator? In a nutshell, it’s tactile products. Forget that people are buying stuff online; they still appreciate a solid in-person demo. Plus, a well-managed pop-up is an intriguing prospect: No basic retailer can match the energy, intensity or uniqueness of a fleeting pop-up that’s literally here today, gone tomorrow.

Besides, pop-ups make odd or brow-furrowing products easier to understand. For example: A beeswax alternative to Saran Wrap? It’s tough to envision that product’s inherent value unless you see it in action and get answers to your questions, face to face from an expert.

Ultimately, pop-up stores raise brand awareness and generate loyalty. At the same time, they aren’t the place to make sales – they’re marketing events engaging brand loyalists who love the company’s message and want to interact. Sure, new influencers are bound to stumble upon pop-ups, too, but the truest emotional connections come from people already knowledgeable about the product line.

For example, a Harry’s pop-up shop’s purpose wouldn’t be to introduce guys to its razors. How many would care? Even more important, why would they switch? The pop-up, instead, would be to magnify Harry’s branding by creating an experience for people curious about why they should use its products.

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

An ideal Harry’s pop-up would offer haircuts, shaves, hipster drinks and other memorable experiences. After getting the best shaves of their lives, super-fans would head online and do some organic referral work to spread the brand’s message.

In response, people who trust those influencers would head out to the pop-up sooner rather than later, worried they’d miss the fleeting chance to see the fuss. Their actions would be all-too-human, according to Shopify: Individuals routinely flock to scarce, novel opportunities. The reason: FOMO is a powerful force.

Eager to get started on your own pop-up adventure? One that gets tongues wagging and fingers swiping? Before you pitch a pop-up tent on the corner green next week, pull in the reins. Pop-up shops require some serious forethought and planning.

1. Choose a location that caters to your audience

When our company put up The Nest pop-up to showcase many of our clients’ brands, we picked a place where our target personas hung out: Abbot Kinney Boulevard, in Venice, Calif. It’s known nationally as one of the country’s most expensive retail streets, putting us in front of the sophisticated, high-end community our brands serve.

After picking the locale, we used the pop-up to highlight a series of rotating brands. At the same time, we kept the atmosphere fun by serving healthy vegan popsicles, playing great music and consistently engaging with visitors. The idea was to create a complete experience from beginning to end, catering solely to the people we wanted to impress.

Your pop-up should be similarly based on your ideal visitors’ profile, whether that might mean a twentysomething socialite or a hip baby boomer. When you know your audience, you can arrange a locale that fits. From that point, you should create landing pages and send emails to your hottest buyers. Take advantage of organic shares and ad-targeting, along with Facebook event-creation and retargeting. Your goal? Pack your launch party (and every day thereafter) with eager faces.

2. Ditch anything that doesn’t elicit a “wow!”

Say it with me: “experiential.” That’s the pop-up mantra. Your only job is to provide a huge, memorable experience. Forget about stocking shelves and hoping people browse – this isn’t How to Run a Lame Mall Kiosk 101.

For instance, when Target set up CityTarget, its Chicago Millennium Park pop-up, the store wasn’t like a typical suburban big box store: Instead, it offered commuters special CityTarget coffee and a few tchotchkes. One morning, CityTarget even set up a spin class. Another day, kids created CityTarget-logo-ed kites from scratch. Its final event? A launch for the full-store version of CityTarget for VIGs, or “very important guests.”

To attain “wow” status, map out every second of the pop-up flow (from the amplified, hyped launch party to the fireworks-inducing last moment). Keep the momentum going with live day events: Workshops, speakers and guest appearances keep the days hopping. Oh, and don’t forget to have a dedicated iPad to capture visitors’ emails and send instant welcome drips.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

3. Follow up after the pop-up becomes a memory

Pop-ups are temporary, but impressions are lasting if you re-engage your guests. The Nest lasted three months, and it wasn’t a profitable up-front endeavour. However, we set out to monetise it later by treating it as a marketing exercise to broaden our clients’ brand scopes and widths. By following up, we ultimately made money down the line.

Of course, some pop-ups buck this trend. Toms Shoes is a great example: It started as a fleeting project and ended up becoming a permanent hangout spot in Abbot Kinney. People hang out, work, drink coffee and occasionally buy Toms merch. Still, don’t rely on an immediate profit. The Marc Jacobs pop-up dedicated to its Daisy fragrance sure didn’t. To the contrary, it allowed people to use “social currency” in the form of #MJDaisyChain on Instagram and Twitter.

The way to make money is by taking the valuable connections you make and turning them into evangelists. Reach out via email and thank those who shared social photos. Then, send out coupons to anyone who missed your pop-up.

You don’t have to be Facebook or Target to get significant foot traffic and loyalist love from a pop-up store. All you need is the right location, a solid planning team and a strong after-event marketing plan. Now get out there and make some brag-worthy experiences for your target audience.

Read next: 3 Types Of Ecommerce Business Models

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Start-up Advice

5 Actionable Tips For Novice Entrepreneurs To Skyrocket Their Business

Just follow these tips and your business will certainly go a long way.

Neil Helson

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Trying to curate a listicle of suggestions that can be given to any newcomer in the entrepreneurial world is really a task. Even if there are already more than five or ten pointers in the list, they don’t seem to be enough. Myriad of changes can occur in a businessman’s journey from a startup to an entrepreneur. Still, here are some effective tips for you to get a strong foundation on which you can build a flourishing organization.

Just mix and match these ideas with your own thoughts. Finally, you will be able to overcome the obstacles that will come in your path of becoming a successful businessman.

1. Build a culture of learning around you

The businessmen who’ve already established themselves, understand that there will be loopholes in their knowledge and expertise. They never cultivate the feeling of self-content. Rather, they make sure to alleviate with a perfect commitment towards learning.

So, if you want to earn the same reputation and degree of stability in business, you must follow in their footsteps. One of the best approaches to do that could be investing in professional development training for the entire company. Try to make the most out of the resources around you like industry publications, professional network and so on.

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

2. Co-operate with reliable partners

New business owners should never hesitate to choose who they want to work with or hire. If you are one amongst them, aim for a variation in your stakeholders and clients across different levels.

Wait! You are not supposed to look for a racial and gender diversity. Rather, it is all about a miscellany of experiences and backgrounds. You must work with reliable people.

3. Be constantly focused

You might be eager to grab every opportunity that you come across. Well, that’s not something you should be doing as a new entry in the business world. Be careful and always make sure that you are not losing track. If you end up juggling hundreds of ventures during the initial period, it will spread you thin. Finally, you will lose your efficacy and productiveness. Make a rule to deal with one thing perfectly rather than trying to manage twenty things poorly.

Wait! It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take up new projects. Of course, you must. All you need to take care of is the number of new works in your hand shouldn’t exceed your capability to accomplish them perfectly.

Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success

4. Work with a budget-friendly approach

Remember, you’ve started with a new thought amid millions of other ideas which are going strong for years. It is important for you to act strategically and smartly, especially when it comes to financing. You must create a business proposal which includes all the startup costs and expenses. However, make sure that you are not taking the first step with redundant expenses.

You must be clear with the idea of when it is the right time to throw the towel. Too much cash outflow can even cause bankruptcy. Before you open the doors to a new business, generating financial goals is a great idea. If you follow this tip, you will certainly be benefited.

5. Welcome failure with open hands

Of course, you’ve not gone into the business while expecting to fail, yet failure is a fact of life and every single one of us must bear it. There is no way to combat this reality.

In such a scenario, you must do what the biggest business tycoons have already done for years. Take every failure as a desired learning opportunity. It is pivotal to understand that setbacks bring a positive energy to fight back with a new enthusiasm. If everything goes on perfectly, you will not get a chance to learn something new and have new experiences. So, failure is important, make sure you to embrace it.

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