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Beyond Stardom

From signing autographs to writing cheques. There are celebrities who manage to make a successful transition to life-after-stardom

Juliet Pitman

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Stardom

Entrepreneurship offers excitement, challenge and the high of success that so often leaves a gaping hole in the lives of once-famous, highly driven, top-of-their game people. It’s also an easy fit for the perfectionism, single-minded focus and work ethic so characteristic of people who excel in other spheres of life.

And, importantly, it offers an often-welcome opportunity to escape the limelight and get down to the business of living a ‘normal’ life, while still deriving satisfaction from a job well done.

But it doesn’t always come easy. As one of our interviewees points out in this feature, having a public profile might get you through the door, “but once you’re in the room you’d better make sure you have something valuable to offer.”

Many celebs haven’t had time to invest in education and they lack essential work experience. So by the time they enter the world of business, they are often ten years or more behind their better-educated, more experienced peers. It can make their fall to earth that much more humbling.

The smart ones recognise early on that stardom is fleeting and start making plans for the future while still in the limelight. They’re the successful ones, and we interview six of them in the pages that follow.

So if you’ve ever wondered what there can possibly be to match the high of playing for Manchester United, winning Olympic gold, being crowned as Miss South Africa or enjoying a successful modelling, music and film career, read on – the interviews that follow hold some of the answers.

Beyond face value

Former Miss SA Amy Kleinhans-Curd shows she’s more than a pretty face as she proves her entrepreneurial mettle.

When Amy Kleinhans-Curd was the reigning Miss South Africa, she’d seek out marketing and financial directors at events and arrange to sit next to them.

“Business has always fascinated me. I would find talking to those people absolutely intriguing. I knew all the way back then that I wanted to be in business,” she says.

Kleinhans-Curd is a qualified teacher and she combined her passion for education with her interest in business to launch Dial-A-Teacher in 2000 as part of her husband’s newly-formed group, Private Label Promotions (PLP).

“We had identified a gap in the market for 24/7 personal assistant services and had launched My PA in response to this need. Dial-A-Teacher was a similar call-centre based solution that allowed learners to call a teacher for help with their homework,” she explains.

Anticipating customer needs

Since those early days in 1992, PLP has grown to include one of the widest ranges of call-centre based solutions, loyalty, acquisition and retention programmes, value-added benefits, and direct marketing solutions.

PLP’s Loyalty Solutions provides customer engagement and marketing services aimed at customer acquisition and retention; PLP WorkLife Balance Solutions delivers employee wellness and assistance programmes to large corporates; and PLP Business Growth Solutions targets the SME and enterprise development market, providing a wide range of services to help business owners become more efficient in running their day-to-day operations and tackling challenges such as access to market finance and business support. Kleinhans-Curd explains: “All of these services are white-labeled and we tailor them to meet our clients’ needs.”

One of the business’s key success factors has been its ability to identify and respond to market needs with appropriate solutions. “Right from our first PA and education solutions, we have always tried to not only identify what our clients need now, but anticipate what they might need in future.

This has been the growth driver of the business – as we identify a new need, we implement an in-depth research and development programme to build a solution that will fill that need,” says Kleinhans-Curd.

Serving the SME sector

The latest Business Growth Solutions product is a prime example. “South Africa’s entrepreneurs face an uphill battle especially in the first start-up phase. I know this from first-hand experience of trying to get this business off the ground.

Coupled with that is the fact that large corporates struggle to implement successful enterprise development programmes as part of their B-BBEE requirements. There was a clear need for services in this sector. Our solution provides SMEs with everything they need, from legal, financial and tax advisors, to discounted office equipment and workshop tools.

We go as far as providing them with business leads, tender oppportunities, and assistance with obtaining finance or grants,” she says.

Kleinhans-Curd believes each business unit has enormous growth potential, and the company is currently focused on a strong push into mobile apps and social media space across all its divisions. “Business has proved to be every bit as exciting as I first thought it would be. I’m challenged and stimulated every day.”

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Still rocking

David Gresham’s name epitomises rock music in South Africa. He shares some insight into how he’s got it right.

Ask David Gresham a question about business and he’ll reply with an answer about music. “The music IS the business,” he says. The seamless integration of the two is what has kept this legend of the South African music industry so successful for so long.

Gresham started what is now South Africa’s longest running independent record company in 1972. He has evolved the David Gresham Record Company into the David Gresham Entertainment Group with recording studios, full promotional, marketing and sales functions, a separate publishing division, a DVD movie division and a separate import division.

The publishing division is the largest independent publisher in South Africa and represents 700 000 titles for artists such as Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, James Blunt, Gwen Stefani and Quincy Jones. The company also represents record labels from all over the world in the South African territory.

No magic formula

Gresham enjoyed an illustrious radio and television broadcasting career, and was the only South African to interview John Lennon, a moment he describes as the highlight of his career. Talking about starting the company he says, “There are always people waiting in the wings to take over your radio or television show. I wanted to create something of my own, and music, being in my blood and my soul, was the obvious route to go.”

The success he’s built up over the years hasn’t always come easily though. “Know this – the music industry has never been easy. If 20% of your releases turn out to be hits, you’re really winning,” he says. There is no magic formula for identifying the next big artist or song or musical trend.

“I think that’s the hardest thing about what we do – identifying an artist or song that the consumer will go out and buy. Music is trend and fashion based and there really is no telling what the next thing will be.

Keeping abreast of music trends

There are still instances when he gets it wrong, he says. “Even today, things that I think will really fly turn out to be a flop and vice versa. For this reason, when we speak to new artists I never guarantee them a hit. It would be an empty promise. But what I can guarantee them is hard work, absolute commitment from me and my team, and outstanding  production,” he adds.

He attributes much of the company’s success to consistency, hard work and a think tank system for generating new ideas for where to take the business. “We’re also not a genre-based company and I think that has kept us broad and open to all types of artists and music.”

He’s also kept abreast of the ever-changing music scene: “Today’s iTunes generation has a very different connection to music, and you have to take that into consideration. The only thing that’s constant is the existence of the music, in all its different forms, and its enduring power to resonate deeply with people of all ages and walks of life.”

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Off the pitch

Former Man United goal keeper Gary Bailey knows what it takes to be successful – in football and in business.

Within four months of signing for Manchester United Football Club as one of the youngest goal keepers ever to play in English League football, Gary Bailey’s team lost the FA Cup Final because he failed to save a goal in the final minute of play. It gave him an early taste of the immense pressure and intense scrutiny under which professional sportsmen operate.

“Professional football is one of the most pressured businesses in the world. Every year, a third of all managers are fired or resign. And being a goal keeper is perhaps one of the most pressured positions on the pitch. If you fail to save a goal people blame you for losing the match,” he says.

Game plan for business

Since retiring from professional football Bailey has run numerous businesses, enjoyed a successful career in the highly pressured world of sports broadcasting and is one of the country’s top motivational speakers. His latest book, Succeed Under Pressure, converts football lessons into business success and takes many of those lessons from his former manager and one of the most successful ever, Sir Alex Ferguson.

The advice he offers is equally relevant to CEOs and small entrepreneurial enterprises who are passionate about football and those who know nothing about it. “There are five things I believe you need to do or have in order to succeed under pressure,” he says. These include:

  • Gratitude. Be grateful for the opportunities and blessings you have. It will give you positive energy to deal with the challenges you face. When we lost that FA Cup Final, my dad told me to be grateful I had played in a cup final at all. It was an opportunity countless people would never have.
  • Reframe. Take situations that made you feel negative: In my early career I became very scared of making a mistake, until someone pointed out that this would keep me from fulfilling my potential. So the next time I was in the box, I reframed the situation. I thought, “Please shoot for goal. Give me a chance to show you what I can do.” It made a tremendous difference to my entire game.
  • Empathy. Emotional intelligence allows you to understand people, see their strengths and know their weaknesses. You need to learn to observe people. This is how Sir Alex chooses his top players for every match, looking for those who show great energy and desire.
  • Adaptable. Remain open to new possibilities and always make sure you are learning new things. David Beckham’s first few interviews were a disaster until he got some advice on answering questions. Today he’s the biggest sports marketer of all time. It’s often the small learnings that make a big difference.
  • Teamwork. One of the things that makes Manchester United so successful is that everyone works for the other. They never use the words “I” and “Me” – it’s always “We” and “Us”. Reflect glory back to your team, and set them inspiring targets that have emotional resonance, as Sir Alex did when he arrived at Man Utd and set Liverpool as the team to beat.

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Fine tuned

Musical prodigy Zwai Bala has learnt some tough lessons, but they’ve all made for a better businessman.

Zwai Bala first exploded to musical stardom with the kwaito group, TKZee, but his career in music stretches back to childhood. Schooled at the Drakensberg Boys Choir, alongside his brothers, his prodigious musical talent was evident from an early age.

“My life has been immersed in the business of music,” he says, adding that it seemed a natural step to form Bala Brothers Productions when the TKZee trio parted ways and Zwai joined brothers Loyiso and Phelo to form the Bala Brothers. The multi-award winning trio have made their mark on the music scene by infusing classical opera with popular African music.

The full package

Bala Brothers Productions manages and produces the group and other artists, but it also offers a broad range of entertainment solutions to the corporate market.

“I’ve drawn on everything I’ve learnt and been exposed to in the music industry and poured it into the business. This means we can offer full package solutions for events – from delivering a live performance and managing all the sound and entertainment, to writing and professionally producing a unique track for the event, which is recorded and delivered to the client before the function is over.”

Formalising the business

These are things Bala had always done, but the formation of Bala Brothers Productions marked an important step towards formalisation and the establishment of a business. Bala walked a hard road to get here.

“When I was with TKZee, I never paid any tax. It never occurred to me that it was something you needed to do. So I ended up getting into trouble with SARS and it’s taken years to sort the whole mess out. But it taught me an important lesson about formalising business and getting the admin side of things in order. When you have someone taking care of the admin, you can focus on the creative stuff, but ignore the admin and it will eventually catch up with you and destroy what you are trying to do creatively,” he explains.

Bala’s kept the business as lean as possible. “One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that when you see an opportunity to make money, you have to think of it as a business from the word go. The money you make is the business’s money and much of it needs to go back into the business so you can build for the future.”

That future holds great promise. Bala recently completed his Masters Certificate in Orchestration for Film and Television at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and went to Hollywood to work on the score for the animated feature film, Zambezia, to be released towards the end of 2012. “Film score is definitely an area I want to move into,” he concludes.

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Against the stream

In the time since he won Olympic gold, Ryk Neethling’s been busy. Here’s how he evolved into a businessman and entrepreneur.

Ryk Neethling knew early on that he didn’t want to join the ranks of sports stars whose post-professional life trajectory follows a depressingly downward curve. “I always knew there’d be life after swimming, and I was determined to be successful at it.

I also knew that I wanted to own my own business. Even when I was swimming professionally, the business side of sport interested me. I wanted to have a say in my contracts, I understood that sponsorships were a business transaction and I learnt   an enormous amount about marketing,” says the Olympian-turned-entrepreneur.

Among the things that have kept him busy since he retired from professional swimming are the establishment of six Ryk Neethling Swimming Schools and two Players Swimming Academy facilities. The first of these offers swimming lessons to people of all ages, while the second provides professional training for more serious swimmers.

With one swimming school already successfully franchised, Neethling plans to expand the businesses along these lines.

Maximising the platform

He also manages professional swimmers, including Cameron van den Burgh and Chad Le Clos, through Ryk Neethling Marketing, and is the African representative for Italian pool company Myrtha. Van den Burgh has also participated in Players for the past four years.

There’s an obvious alignment between these businesses and Neethling’s previous life in swimming, but his real passion lies in property. He’s a shareholder and marketing director for Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate, Guardian Development Projects and Brick Art Construction. “Val de Vie keeps me really busy, and it’s been exciting to be part of the creation of such a unique development,” he says.

Neethling’s obvious talent for marketing has its roots in the world of sport. “I recognised the importance of maximising the platform I’d been given to market myself and build a profile.

As a professional sportsperson, you only have that platform for a short period of time, but if you work hard at it, you can create the foundations for a life and a business after sport,” he explains. In addition to his other pursuits, Neethling is highly sought-after on the speakers’ circuit.

Tangible business value

There’s no doubt that his public profile opens doors, but as Neethling points out, “Getting through the door is just the first step. Once you’re in the room, you’d better make sure you have something of value to offer. Whether I’m selling wine, property development, delivering a talk or representing a professional sportsperson, I focus on delivering real, tangible business value.”

He’s bemused by the perception that he’s ‘made it and can lie by the pool all day living it up.’ “Make no mistake, I have to work,” he says. The fact that hard work comes naturally makes entrepreneurship an easy fit: “I always knew that I could outwork anyone in the pool, and I’ve just carried that over to business. I work seven days a week and I love it. It’s stimulating, exciting, challenging and exhausting. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

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Star billing

Kimberleigh Stark’s extensive experience as an actress and casting director gives her invaluable insight into what artists need from the industry, and what the industry needs from artists. She brings the two together in Stark Raving Management.

When actress and former model Kimberleigh Stark opened the doors to Stark Raving Management in 2003 her vision was to create an agency for artists that protected their interests while promoting absolute professionalism.

“I run my business very much with my heart. I care about the people on my books. I want them to be working. It’s like a family here,” she says.

The entertainment industry is notoriously tough and Stark knows first-hand that it can be extremely exploitative of artists who are desperate to get work and make a name for themselves. “You get a lot of fly-by-night companies and unscrupulous practices such as charging artists to keep them on the books or charging them for every audition secured.

I realised from my own experience in the industry that there was a need for above-board, professional management,” she says. The company is accredited with the Personal Management Association (PMA).

Leveraging experience

But while protecting the rights of artists is undoubtedly important, so too is getting them work, and in this Stark is well positioned to deliver. In addition to many years’ experience in acting, Stark draws on her role as casting director for shows such as Egoli, Generations and Muvhango, and international films.

“I believe that having been a casting director makes me a better agent. I’ve been on the other side. When I get a casting brief I have a good sense of what the casting director is looking for. I am therefore able to brief my artists properly so that they are thoroughly prepared, and I only send those who I think have a good chance of landing the part,” she says.

Attracting high profile artists

She also has her own reputation to protect. “At the end of the day, I’m sending artists to my colleagues in the industry, so my name is very much on the line,” she explains.

The combination of integrity, professionalism and transparency has landed her a string of high profile artists, including Patrick Shai, Darlington Michaels, Rose Motene and Palesa Mocuminyane. “This business is based on trust and relationships.

My artists know I will fight for them. But I only take those who are absolutely committed to working and in whom I can detect an abiding passion for acting and the work. I don’t head-hunt. I don’t go looking to sign artists,” she says.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Going The Extra Mile With Neil Robinson Of Relate Bracelets

In business, your offering is only as good as your relationships. Neil Robinson from Relate Bracelets explains how FedEx Express has helped the business grow into Africa and beyond.

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  • Who? Neil Robinson
  • Company: Relate Bracelets
  • Position: Managing Director
  • Visit: relate.org.za

Neil Robinson, MD of Relate Bracelets understands the importance of business relationships. While Relate is a non-profit organisation, it is run like a business. It does not rely on donors, but instead produces and sells a product.

For each bracelet sold, one third of the income goes towards the materials and operating costs, one third supports the people who produce the bracelets, and one third goes to the charity for which that particular bracelet is branded.

In order for the business model to work and be sustainable, Relate’s partners are incredibly important. These include the retail chains that stock the product and who provide prime point-of-sale positioning, the charities who Relate works with, and most importantly, Relate’s logistics service provider, FedEx Express.

“Retail is all about visibility and availability,” explains Neil. “A brand is a living, breathing thing. People can see it, use it, and comment on it, but if they can’t access it, it’s all for naught. And so, at the point of purchase, it’s both visible and available, or it’s not.

“Logistics is key. You need to get your product to the retailer on time, 100% of the time. The expertise and focus that FedEx displays in supply chain and logistics encompasses far more than just retail, they understand our specific needs, making them a strategic partner, rather than merely a supplier.”

Related: Zenzele Fitness’s Clever Tactics To Grow In Next To No Time

Building a relationship

The FedEx/Relate Bracelets relationship stretches back to 2009, when Relate Bracelets launched its first campaign with ‘Unite Against Malaria’ leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“We did the first campaign in partnership with Nando’s,” says Neil. “Robbie Brozin was passionate about the cause, and he pulled in strategic partners to launch the campaign. Within two years we’d shipped hundreds of thousands of bracelets. FedEx was an incredible partner, ensuring the integrity of our product and time-sensitive deliveries, and we’ve worked with them ever since.”

As with all good B2B relationships, the FedEx and Relate Bracelets teams understand that regular strategy sessions and updates are important.

“FedEx understands the inner workings of our business,” says Neil.

“A successful campaign has multiple elements, from planning and strategy, to marketing support, pricing and distribution planning. Of these, distribution planning is the most critical. For us, the bridge between our brand and the consumer is logistics. FedEx have delivered beyond expectations. They literally and figuratively go the extra mile for us.”

Protecting a brand

FedEx has customers across different industries and each of their needs are different. In the case of Relate, who operate in the retail sector, buying patterns are important. “Retailers run a tight ship,” explains Neil.

“They have planning cycles and seasons. Besides the fact that penalty clauses are built into contracts, you can’t miss a deadline by two days, or you’re in the next cycle, and that might be two weeks later. Not only are you missing out on valuable shelf time, but this can affect an entire campaign. Lost sales can also influence the retailers’ buying decision the following season. FedEx has made it their business to understand our business, so they know what’s at stake and what’s important to us.”

Supporting growth

FedEx has also played an integral role in the overall expansion of Relate Bracelets, particularly into new markets. “As a global organisation, FedEx has been absolutely critical in supporting us to grow our business into Africa, the US, Australia, the UK, Western Europe, and now New Zealand. They play an enormous role in the delivery of our products, with sophisticated tracking systems ensuring that the quality and integrity of our products are maintained.”

Through the relationship with FedEx, Relate experiences the benefits of working with a globally recognised and credible brand. “When you work with quality, you get quality.”

Related: Entrepreneur BB Moloi’s Inspiring Story of Rise To Success Through Grit And Hard Work

The business

If you’ve ever bought a beaded bracelet that supports a cause (for example: United Against Malaria, Operation Smile SA or PinkDrive), chances are it was a Relate Bracelet. If you bought it at Woolworths, Clicks, Sorbet or Foschini, it most definitely was.

To date, Relate Bracelets has raised more than R40 million, which supports various charities and ‘gogos’, women living on government grants and supporting their grandchildren, and who desperately need the additional income Relate Bracelets provides.

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Entrepreneur Profiles

Slikour’s Moto: If You Dream It, You Can Be It

Rapper and entrepreneur Slikour believes his success is the result of one key element: The aspiration to make something of himself, and create a platform for his voice to be heard. Now he’s bringing that mindset to South Africa’s black urban youth.

Nadine Todd

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Before you can achieve great success, you have to believe in the possibility of success. This is the single greatest secret to changing your circumstances — you have to believe it’s possible.

Did music or entrepreneurship come first? Siya Metane, aka rapper Slikour, isn’t sure himself. The two have worked hand in hand for him since he started selling cassette tapes of his own music when he was 12 years old.

What has developed over time however, is an innate and deep understanding that with his success comes a responsibility to pay it forward, and help his community and kids like him see that they can be anything they put their minds to.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

If they can dream it, they can be it — provided they realise they can dream it in the first place. This is his challenge, and greatest driving force.

Start small, but dream big

I bought cassette tapes on Smal Street in the CBD for R5. My best friend, Lebo and I recorded our own rap music onto them and sold them in our neighbourhood for R15. We needed the mark-up — it meant we could buy more tapes, and also that we were making a profit.

Related: Zuko Tisani Learnt These 7 Invaluable Lessons On His Path To Success

I’m not sure if we were trying to start a business or launch our rap careers, but if you’re living in a hood like Leondale you don’t always recognise that there are opportunities open to you. No one is going to do it for you — you have to have your own aspirations, and find a way to make them happen.

Keep dreaming big, no matter what

That was one of the biggest and earliest lessons I recall growing up: The ability to dream big can be stifled out of you. I lived in a hood where there were no aspirations past our neighbourhood — the neighbourhood and its opportunities were everything. If 90% of the people you know are suffering, who are you to not suffer?

It’s a very limiting mindset, and one that does a lot of damage to our youth. I knew kids who had incredible potential, but could only look at their immediate environments for opportunities. So a budding young scientist doesn’t find a way to change the world — he finds a new way to make drugs.

Those are the limiting aspirations I was surrounded by. I call it the Trap, and it’s the driving force behind everything I do today. I want South Africa’s urban youth to recognise the Trap, and understand that they should have aspirations beyond it, because they have the abilities and potential necessary to break free.

Work hard, be determined and believe in yourself

I was lucky, I wasn’t a victim of the Trap. What so many people don’t understand is that I could have been. Hard work, drive and discipline aren’t enough to break free of the Trap. You need to believe you can break free — to look beyond your current circumstances. In my experience, that seemingly simple mindset shift is the biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s more complicated and pervasive than you can imagine.

Two things showed me a different way. First, my mom got me bursaries at Holy Rosary Convent and then St Benedict’s College. I was surrounded by rich white kids, full of privilege, and it struck me that here were the same talents and opportunities, but with a wealth of aspiration in the mix.

Related: Self-Made Millionaire At 24 Marnus Broodryk On How To Build A R1 Billion Business

That was the real difference — not ability, but recognising that ability and having the aspiration to do something with it. It was eye-opening. The second was meeting my best friend, Lebo Mothibe. Lebo, or Shugasmakx, as he’d later be known in the music world, had one foot in the privileged world, and one foot in our world.

His mom lived in the hood, his dad was a wealthy entrepreneur who lived in Illovo. And Lebo straddled both worlds effortlessly, and with humility. But he looked beyond the limiting beliefs held by many of his neighbourhood peers.

Find people to inspire you to reach success

His dad was also the first self-made, wealthy black man I met. But when I heard his story, I realised that it wasn’t overnight success. He’d slept on Lebo’s mom’s couch while he slowly but steadily built his business. It gave me an understanding that success is earned. You need to work at it, and push on against adversity. This had a huge impact on me.

Lebo was the ying to my yang. Even though we didn’t think of each other as business partners, that’s what we were, from the age of 12. We formed Skwatta Kamp, we hustled and shook up the music industry together, and changed the face of rap music in South Africa.

I was the dreamer, the visionary, and Lebo was the executor. He found a way to make my crazy schemes and ideas come to life. This is exactly what a partnership should be — helping each other grow, and complementing diverse skill sets.

Build your success, one step at a time

We built our success, brick by brick. I entered a TV show competition, Jam Alley, and won. I used the cash and Dions vouchers to buy recording equipment. Lebo’s dad helped with speakers and a keyboard. My brother, who was studying IT, downloaded software and helped us with our recording quality. Everyone pitched in with what they could. 

Be your own biggest cheerleader

We tried the recording contract route for a while, but realised that the only people who cared about our success were us. And so we hit the streets — hard. We had street crews, we sold our own CDs and negotiated with music stores to carry our albums.

Recording studios kept saying they’d sign us, but they never had a studio available. They just didn’t see the value in rap and hip hop. They didn’t believe there was money in it in South Africa. We needed to prove there was.

Gallo finally approached us and signed us after we won at the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) as an independent act. We used real guerrilla tactics to get our name out there — on stage, with that platform, we told our fans that if a music store didn’t carry our album, to burn it down. We wanted the attention — that’s how you build a name.

Related: Entrepreneurial Powerhouse TBO Touch On How Success Is Built From Small Acts

Our first album went gold, and we used that to push the idea of rap into mainstream media. If 20 000 people bought the album, another 200 000 had bootlegged it. There was money here; and slowly brands and advertisers started realising we were right.

Drive a movement with your business

We were musicians, but first and foremost we were driving a movement, and that meant we needed to be businessmen as well. We hosted end of year parties, and got brands on board, realising we had a captive audience that aligned with their target market demographics. We started our own label, Buttabing Entertainment.

Our goal was to find and nurture young musicians from the hood to get them established in the industry, and show other kids in the Trap that it could be done: Anyone can create their own destiny. One of the things I’m proudest of is discovering a kid in Katlehong, Senzo Mfundo Vilakazi, who would develop into Kwesta.

He’s doing phenomenally well, and recently appeared on Sway in the Morning, one of the biggest hip hop shows in the US. Our success spilt over into Kwesta, and now his meteoric rise will hopefully inspire a whole new generation to dream bigger than they ever thought possible.

Pivoting to further growth

All success has its pinnacle. By 2010 we had achieved so much as Skwatta Kamp. We’d brought rap music into the mainstream and opened opportunities for countless kids, as music labels actively sought rap and hip hop acts. I realised that I’d hit a ceiling. I needed to step back, regroup and figure out what to do next.

What I did was something I’ve only ever associated with privilege. I moved home, spent a lot of time lying on the couch, and wrote. I wrote my life, my lessons, my dreams, my ideas. I don’t know how I reached a point where I was able to do that, but I’m grateful. I started collecting my thoughts and understanding my purpose.

During that time I was approached to join a few marketing agencies. I had no formal marketing training, but we’d worked with big brands at our parties and activations.

Sprite was the first to recognise that they had an opportunity to authentically connect with the black urban youth through us, and so we partnered up. I learnt above-the-line marketing in a Coca-Cola boardroom, and built onto what we’d learnt on the streets about below-the-line marketing.

Take a step back, and rediscover your purpose

That experience had drawn attention, and so for a while I joined an agency. But its mandate was sponsorships, and my heart was with the black urban youth. I’d discovered my purpose, even if I’d subconsciously been living that purpose for almost 20 years.

I wanted to create a platform that gives young black artists a voice; established artists a way to reach out to the youth that other platforms don’t offer; and brands a way to authentically connect with that audience — not just to sell products, but to show black urban youth that their culture is important, that it holds value, and that they, in turn, hold value.

Related: Shark Tank’s Romeo Kumalo Weighs In On High-Impact Entrepreneurial Businesses

Adidas’s support of Run DMC in the US showed that kids from the ghetto had a message worth listening to. Big brands have the power to connect the unheard and voiceless to the mainstream, if it’s done correctly. I had the marketing experience to understand the ROI that brands need, as well as what I could do with that to support black urban youth.

All I had were dreams and a URL, but that was enough. I quit my job and launched my website, Slikouronlife.

Reveal opportunities and create aspirations with your message

This is my politics and CSI. If we can get marketing to marry culture, and change the positioning and perception of young black South Africans, we can show there are opportunities out there, and create aspirations.

But we need to put culture first and tap into the authenticity of who we are as South Africans. We need to recognise and acknowledge the mental traps that exist in our neighbourhoods, and that we are victims of limiting beliefs, and then show that there is another way.

Everyone told me I was nuts. That black people don’t go online. I did it anyway. With Skwatta Kamp we had created a market for our music. Kids supported us; my name added value — and then brands came on board. We now average between 200 000 and 250 000 unique visitors a month, which is impressive for a mainstream website, let alone a niche music site.

Ten months ago we were a team of three operating from my house with one desk. Today we’re a team of ten with one focus: To make a real difference on the ground. To give the voiceless a voice. To prove that if we can drive the aspirations of South Africa’s urban youth, the sky will be the limit.


Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

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Entrepreneur Profiles

Edward Moshole Founder Of Chem-Fresh Started With R68 And Turned It Into A R25 Million Business

Edward Moshole started a business in 1999 with just R68 in his pocket. Today he has a company that not only has a turnover upwards of R25 million, but is also on the cusp of expanding to the next level. Here’s how he’s turning clients into partners.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

In 1999, Edward Moshole was a cleaner with just R68 in his pocket, but he noticed a business opportunity.

Good quality detergents and disinfectants could make a tough cleaning job much easier, so he started buying quality products in bulk and selling them to his fellow cleaners. He wasn’t satisfied, though. He wanted a business that made and sold its own products. So, he tackled the long and arduous process of creating cleaners and detergents that could pass strict regulations and compete with the best products on the market.

It wasn’t easy, but he kept at it. In fact, he only got his first real breakthrough in 2006 when a supermarket agreed to start stocking his products. Today, his Chem-Fresh products can be found all over Africa, and he counts Pick n Pay as one of his main clients. How did Moshole manage to turn R68 into an empire?

Here are his rules for building a large and sustainable operation.

1. Find the right clients

“Very early on, I identified Pick n Pay as a must-have client. I could see that the company was changing its strategy — it was starting to move into townships and rural areas, places where it hadn’t been operating until then — and I thought it would be the perfect place to sell Chem-Fresh products,” says Moshole. But getting in wasn’t easy.

“As a small business, you don’t get to sit down with decision- makers. Becoming a supplier to a large retailer is a difficult process. It took me years to get a foot in the door, but I didn’t give up. I just knew that Pick n Pay was the right company to do business with, so I kept at it.

I refused to take no for an answer. Today, Pick n Pay operates more like a partner than a client.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

Thanks to my partnership with Pick n Pay, I’ve been able to scale Chem-Fresh quickly and access a distribution channel that allows Chem-Fresh products to be sold all over the continent. Once you have the right clients, you gain instant clout and reliability.”

2. Own the manufacturing process

chem-fresh-products

PC: risingafrica.org

When starting out, entrepreneurs often have little choice but to buy other companies’ products and resell them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — it can be a successful strategy. However, it can eventually limit your growth.

Firstly, buying and reselling products places a cap on your margins. When you own the manufacturing process, you can increase your margins, since making and selling products tends to offer wider margins than merely buying and reselling.

That said, you have to keep in mind that this is only true when you operate at a certain scale. Making and selling something in small quantities can often be more expensive and time consuming than simply buying it from a supplier. You need to crunch the numbers and make sure that the expense of a manufacturing facility is actually worth it in the long run.

Secondly, it allows you to keep control of the quality of your product. “The secret to any great brand is consistency,” says Moshole.

“People should know what they can expect from the brand, and one of the best ways to ensure this is to have total control of your product. If you make it yourself, you’re in charge of the quality.”

3. Be willing to diversify

Some companies can grow while sticking to a very specific niche, but most have no other option but to diversify. Although Chem-Fresh started out selling just one or two products, Moshole soon started to expand the range. The company now has more than 100 products.

“Generally speaking, you can only capture so much of a market. Sometimes it makes sense to actively try to grow your market share, but it’s also a good idea to diversify. Not only does this open more revenue streams, but it also protects the business against market changes. So, if the sales of one product slows down, another speeds up and everything evens out,” says Moshole.

Related: Sibongiseni Mbatha’s Top Collaboration Techniques To Grow Your Business

But the important thing is not to stray too far from your comfort zone. Chem-Fresh now has a large product range, but it has stuck to an industry that it is knowledgeable about. The company has built a name for itself within a specific industry.

4. Build a strong foundation

“Don’t wait too long to start thinking about the long-term life of your business,” advises Moshole. “The stronger the foundation of the business, the easier it is to grow it, so you need to implement the right systems and processes early on. If you don’t, the business will fall apart without you.

“You will always be very involved at an operational level. You’ll be so busy with the daily grind, that you’ll never be able to take a strategic view and focus on building the company.

So, you need the right systems and the right people. You need to know that the business can keep going without you. If you do this, you will be able to grow the company while others deal with the operational demands.”


Key Insights

There’s no substitute for perseverance

It took Edward years to get his product onto Pick n Pay’s shelves, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Today, the relationship is more like a partnership.

Own the process

In the right quantities, producing and selling your own product can significantly increase your margins over selling someone else’s products.

Strategically increase revenue streams

Diversifying your product range within your niche allows you to offer the same clients a greater range, tap into new markets, and protect the business against market changes.


TAKE NOTE

Take a long-term view when contemplating the growth of your company. It’s never too soon to prepare a business for growth. Implementing the right systems and processes right now can make it much easier to scale the operation down the line.


Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

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