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Chartered Wealth Solutions

A new take on retirement planning helps three entrepreneurs grow a multi-million rand business that’s at the forefront of a global retirement philosophy evolution.

Juliet Pitman




You’re great at what you do. So good in fact that you’re able to earn a lot of money. You work for yourself, you have your independence and you’re financially much better off than when you were employed. Life couldn’t be better. Isn’t entrepreneurship great?

Yes, except that you’re not an entrepreneur. To paraphrase Michael Gerber in his best-selling book The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, you’re a self-employed technician. You don’t actually run a business. Without you and your technical skills, the ‘business’ wouldn’t exist at all. It’s a position common to countless aspiring entrepreneurs: how do I turn something that I’m technically good at into a business?

It’s a question to which John Campbell and Barclay Hoar, independent financial planners, found an innovative answer that led to the creation of a multi-million rand company. But the story of specialist retirement planning company, Chartered Wealth Solutions, is about more than how two ‘technicians’ managed to move beyond self-employment to entrepreneurship. It’s also a story about refusing to accept the industry status quo, about securing a leadership position through benchmarking against the latest international trends, and ultimately finding a new way of doing what is an old business.

Changing the conversation

Chartered Wealth prides itself on offering financial life planning, as Hoar explains: “Most financial planners start off by looking at a client’s risk profile, which then informs the kind of retirement product they choose, which in turn will determine the return they get and ultimately their lifestyle. Financial life planning turns that on its head – it  starts off by asking what kind of lifestyle a person wants to live after retirement. This is the critical point of departure and determines the return they require and the product they should invest in, before looking at whether the individual has the appetite for the associated risk.”

According to Campbell, Hoar and Kim Potgieter (who joined as Chartered Wealth’s third partner later on in the business), the problem with retirement planning is two-fold. On the one hand, people have no clear picture of what they would like their retirement to look like. On the other hand, the conversations that retirement planners have with them are focused solely on money.

“They talk about investment returns, what the markets are doing and whether you are putting away enough to ‘have enough money when you retire’. Obviously this is important stuff, but it‘s only one side of the equation. Money is only a means to an end, it’s an enabler that allows you to live a certain lifestyle. But if you don’t know what your ideal retirement lifestyle looks like – in detail – how do you know if you’re putting away enough money for it? And how can I as a retirement planner possibly assure you that your investment is sufficient or appropriate?” says Campbell.

Financial life planning changes the conversation, focusing on helping clients write a ‘life plan’ to clarify the return they want to get on their retirement investment. “Of course, good retirement planners will probably be incorporating elements of life planning into their conversations with their clients, but ultimately what they really focus on is the financial side of things — the calculators, graphs and tables and the assumption that if you have X amount of money in the bank upon retirement you will be okay,” says Potgieter.

It would be naïve, adds Hoar, to say that the money is not important in your retirement. After all, you can have as clear a picture of your ideal retirement as you like, but if you haven’t made the right financial investments and decisions, you’re still no nearer to living that ideal life. “You need both. So 50% of our meetings with clients focus on ‘the maths’ while the other 50% look at life planning,” he explains.

The psychology of money

Where Chartered Wealth has really set itself apart is in the use of formal and sophisticated tools for life planning. “There is a range of sophisticated financial tools for retirement planning, and we felt that the same degree of rigour needed to be applied to the life planning part of retirement,” says Campbell.

These tools ask questions that uncover clients’ attitudes towards and beliefs about money, and help them to build a clear visual picture of what they would like to get out of their retirement from a lifestyle point of view.

Potgieter, who has a psychology degree and is fascinated by the interplay of psychology and financial decisions, explains why this is important: “Each and every person has a different, personal relationship with their money and it is this unconscious, qualitative relationship that often dictates our financial behaviour. By examining your personal history with money you can identify which money issues from your past are shaping your financial attitudes and behaviours today,” she says.

She illustrates her point with an example: “Some of my clients are part of the ‘silent generation’. They grew up in a post-WWII world, where ‘waste not want not’ was a way of life and frugality was a necessity. These same clients now may have several million rands saved for their retirement, yet they conduct their lives as if they are one pay-cheque away from the street.”

She sees her job as a financial life planner to help these clients make whatever money they have work to create the best life for them in retirement.  Hoar concurs, “I believe that financial planning is a lot more than just the critical role of managing a client’s money wisely. It also requires an insight into the client’s life, and what money really means to them. Managing a client’s money and helping them make the most of it is what financial planning is really all about.”

As such, Chartered Wealth’s retirement planning philosophy also involves helping clients to understand and handle the personal challenges that come with retirement. “The goal of our business is to help people lead a happy life in retirement, and the key to this is not only being prepared financially but also ready emotionally. Retirement is not a financial event; it’s a life-stage and it can be challenging on many different fronts. You therefore need to prepare for it in a variety of different ways,” says Campbell.

Turning it into a business

The Chartered Wealth team are quick to point out that they can’t take credit for having birthed the life planning philosophy.

In 2000, Hoar and Campbell, who had been operating as independent brokers, joined forces. Like many in their profession, they were able to command a good commission-based income. “But we were really nothing more than salesmen – we sold anything and everything, from retirement annuities to life insurance policies, and we did it well. But we wanted something more. The philosophy behind lifestyle financial planning  gave us a clear idea of what ‘more’ might look like,” says Hoar.

Andrew Bradley, CEO of financial services group, acsis introduced Chartered Wealth to the concept of lifestyle financial planning in 2002 and this gave them the purpose and direction they’d been looking for. Hoar explains that instead of building an investment portfolio around a client’s tolerance for risk, lifestyle financial planning identifies what return a client needs from their investment portfolio in order to live the lifestyle they want, and then ensures they can stomach the risk.

In 2008, Chartered Wealth Solutions decided to take this concept to a whole new level when they realised that many of their clients did not have a clear vision of their lifestyle in retirement. As they believed this to be the fundamental step in designing a retirement plan, they partnered with Mitch Anthony, a pioneer of life planning in the US, to include this in their offering.

They may not be the authors of the life planning methodology, but they can take credit for having turned it into a thriving business. “It gave us a focus and a differentiator. But we also took some extremely important steps – many of them risks — to try and create a business that was more than just two commission-earning brokers sharing office space together,” says Campbell. Here’s what they did:

  1. We put ourselves onto salaries. We realised that we’d need to invest money in building the business. Brokers usually draw all their commission-earned income but we knew that we’d never grow if we did that. It was a difficult step and for six months we sacrificed  personal income, but it was critical to the growth of the business.
  2. We dedicated 20% of our time to working on the business. Every Friday was set aside to focus on the business, its strategy, direction and growth. We recognised the importance of this and were influenced in our decision after reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great.
  3. We moved from a commission-based system to a fee-based system. This gave the business an ongoing annuity income and meant we weren’t starting at zero every month. It also meant that existing clients were as important to us as new clients, which we believed was important in an industry so often criticised for its hit-and-run sales tactics. A fee-based system made more sense to our business. Because life, finances and goals change over time, a client’s financial life plan has to be revisited, reviewed and adapted every year. This requires an ongoing relationship with our clients that isn’t usually found in the commission-based sale of single products.
  4. We specialised in the niche retirement industry. When we first started out we did anything and everything, from short-term insurance to medical aid. Specialising gave us real focus and helped to define a clear target market of people 55 and older who want to have conversations not just about return on investment, but what they can get out of life beyond retirement.
  5. We focused on the client’s experience. This industry is not known for delivering a good customer experience and we wanted to change that. We invested in creating a space that was welcoming and professional. This also allowed us to ask clients to come and see us, which is rare in the industry, and in turn cut down drastically on the time we had to spend on the road.
  6. We closed the skills gaps that existed in the company. We have grown from six people to 37 but we found that in many instances people were often performing tasks that weren’t well aligned to their skills set. To address this, we matched every employee’s role to their particular skills set so they were doing what they were best suited to do, and where necessary we hired people to take care of the other tasks.

Of all these changes, the toughest was converting from a commission to a fee-based structure, but it was this move that had the most profound impact on the business and its future. “When you’re earning commission, you start at zero every year and have to work harder and longer to earn more. When we were earning commission, the business’s turnover was R2,2 million. Eight years after moving to a fee-based structure it’s R24 million and, most importantly, our income is stable and we have a business to show for our efforts,” says Hoar.

Campbell points out that Chartered Wealth is run like a listed company. “Everyone is on a salary, we distribute the profit via dividends and plough the rest back into the business,” he says.

The company also took a decision to outsource the management of investments to external specialists. “We recognise that financial planning is separate from investment management and believe that each should be handled by an expert best qualified and experienced to do so,” Hoar comments.

International benchmarking

Part of Chartered Wealth’s success lies in the fact that it looked to international best practice in defining its own direction. The financial services industry is changing and the company aims to be at the forefront of its evolution.

In 2008 Campbell was named Financial Planner of the Year and as part of his award won a trip to the Financial Planning Association Conference in the United States. A book there caught his eye. “It was called Financial Planning – The Next Step by Roy Diliberto. That title really resonated with me because it spoke to the kinds of questions we were asking about where to take financial planning,” says Campbell, who brought the book home for Hoar and Potgieter to read.

Many entrepreneurs read books and some even follow the advice they offer, but few of them phone up the authors, convince them to meet with them and fly halfway around the world to do so, which is what Campbell, Hoar and Potgieter did.

“We met with Roy who was incredibly generous about sharing his ideas with us, and we then went on to meet with Mitch Anthony, of the Financial Life Planning Institute in the US, who developed the financial life planning tools that we use in our business today,” says Campbell.

The meeting with Anthony also resulted in Potgieter, one of only two registered financial life planners in South Africa, setting up the affiliated South African Financial Life Planning Institute, further cementing Chartered Wealth’s position as a thought-leader in the financial life planning industry.

Adding value

One of Potgieter’s driving passions is changing the financial planning industry. “I hated financial planners. My experience of them was that they’d sell me a product and then I’d never hear from them again. Even though I had no financial background, the retirement industry really resonated with me and I knew I wanted to be involved in it somehow. I also knew I wanted to see it changed,” she says.

Driven by this passion and firm belief in the value of financial life planning, Chartered Wealth Solutions established, an online resource for retired South Africans.

“If we are truly all about helping people to live a great life in retirement, then we can’t just pay lip service to it. We need to give them the tools to do so, beyond the financial life plan that they pay us for,” says Potgieter, who realised that there was no local online resource for retirees. “People now live 20 or 30 years past retirement age. That’s a long time to spend sipping gin and tonics or playing golf, and the whole thing can be daunting. I wanted to create something that would help people enjoy their life and the money they’d saved,” she continues.

A key feature of the website is a Balance Test measuring eight areas of life that need to be balanced for a happy retirement. “These are money, health, relationships, play, purpose, work, giving back and learning. Once visitors have completed the online Balance Test they can see which areas of their life are lacking, and can use the information on the website from various retirement mentors, to inspire and improve those areas of their life,” Potgieter explains.

Although an online retirement-readiness calculator gives visitors the option of requesting an assessment, which in turn leads them to contact Chartered Wealth Solutions, the website is not a hard-sell. For the most part it is deliberately separate from the Chartered Wealth brand and is intentionally open to all retirees, whether they are Chartered Wealth clients or not. However with Potgieter’s involvement, it serves to strengthen the company’s position as a retirement leader, and delivers an important value-add to their clients.

“Adding extra value is part of our ethos. We have access to so much useful information for retirees and we like to share it. In addition to the website, we give small value-adds to clients such as our Show Me The Ropes booklet, which is a guide to navigating the Internet. It tells them how to use things like Facebook and Skype,” Potgieter explains.

Forging ahead

Chartered Wealth has received a number of awards. In the same year that Campbell won the Financial Planner of the Year award, the company was listed as a finalist in the Best Practice of the Year, going on the following year to win the title.

But the company has never actively engaged in formal marketing or advertising, relying instead on word of mouth referrals. However as the industry changes someone is bound to  try and ‘own’ the financial life planning space and Campbell, Hoar and Potgieter are aware of the importance of being recognised as a leader.

“It goes back to working ‘on’ the business and not just ‘in’ the business. We tell our clients that you need to allocate time, thought and money to being able to live a dream. It’s the same with business, and we try not to forget that,” Campbell concludes.

A Balanced Life

Retiring rich isn’t only about having money in the bank – it’s about how you spend that money and whether you lead a fulfilling life.

Life planning

Financial life planning isn’t just about products: it starts by asking what kind of lifestyle you want to live after retirement, and then finds the right products.

It’s not about the money

Yes, investments are based on money, but this is not the be-all and end-all. How can you know what you should be putting away if you aren’t clear why you are putting the money away?

50/50 Rule

50% of your investment strategy should focus on the maths, and 50% should look at life planning – ie. what the math gets you.

Your relationship with cash

How you save for your retirement — and ultimately live your life — has a lot to do with your relationship with money. How do you feel about money? That’s the first question to ask.

Emotional decisions

Retirement is not only a financial event. It’s a life stage that can either be incredibly fulfilling — or very challenging. Deciding which starts now.

Sharing the lessons

The founders of Chartered Wealth have shifted their own mind sets, moving away from merely being ‘technicians’ of the trade, and becoming the owners of a business that will have a lasting legacy.

Here are the lessons they have learnt:

1. Follow your passion

Ours was two-fold: to build a business that went beyond broking and to help change the financial planning industry for the better.

2. Become a specialist

Aim to be truly great at one thing. Accept that you can never do everything brilliantly, so specialise in one chosen area.

3. Identify why you’re in business

We wanted to build a business and make a difference to people’s lives. If we’d only wanted to make money, we would never have moved away from commission-based earnings. If we hadn’t wanted to make a difference to people’s lives we would never have listened to the financial life planning philosophy.
This has defined our success.

And finally, do the best thing for your clients or customers and the rest will follow.

Planning in action

Living The Right Retirement

Kim Potgieter likes case studies. She believes they are the only true test of whether Chartered Wealth is achieving its goal of helping people to use their money to live a better life in retirement. She shares the following case to demonstrate how financial security is not the only factor that determines retirement success.

“A 62-year-old man came to see me. He had R36 million invested but was not happy. He longed to start a meaningful hobby but had been roped in to act as his grandchildren’s au pair in the afternoon because his daughter was working full-time in a job she hated. He also wanted to take his family to China for a holiday but did not think he could afford to do so.

“Using a basic calculation I was able to clearly show him that he had more than enough money to live on. I suggested that he assist his daughter financially in her dream to start a nursery school from home. This would mean she could give up her full-time job, replacing it with a new part-time job that she would really enjoy.

“This would not only be more personally satisfying for her but it would mean she would be able to take over looking after her children in the afternoon, freeing my client up to start pursuing all the things that he’d wanted to do in life.

“I also suggested that he take R150 000 out of his investment to take his family to China to see the Great Wall of China. The real eye-opener for him was that even when we factored in these withdrawals, his portfolio value hardly changed. Yet, by making these changes, his life and that of his family would be made immeasurably richer.

If I’d only assessed his financial situation I would have sent him away to live an unhappily retired life, telling him he was in an enviably perfect position for a dream retirement. But because our process looks at what people want from their life in retirement I was able to uncover all his dreams, fears and disappointments, and how they were linked to his financial perceptions. And most importantly, I was able to help him make a change for the better.”

Assess your situation

Take the test

Visit wheel-of-balance and evaluate whether you are leading a balanced life — and how to restore balance if you aren’t.

Adding real value

Giving your clients what they need

Chartered Wealth Solutions’ Retire Successfully website is an excellent example of how to maintain positive client relationships at very little additional cost to the business, and one from which other entrepreneurs can learn. Delivering value isn’t only about delivering what you promised — it can also be about giving your customers something extra that will enhance their life and improve their experience of dealing with you.

“But whatever you choose to give has to be relevant and should fill a real need. Chartered Wealth’s website meets these criteria perfectly. It provides retirees with a mix of useful practical information, access to retirement experts and motivation and inspiration to lead a more fulfilling and richer life. It also recognises their need to remain connected and provides them with the opportunity to be part of a community. Importantly, it fills a gap in the online space that was previously unfilled.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

Company Posts

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.






Vital stats

  • Who? Neil Robinson
  • Company: Relate Bracelets
  • Position: Managing Director
  • Visit:

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

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




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



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 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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Entrepreneur Profiles

10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Remarkable stories about local entrepreneurs who built big businesses and well known brands up from humble beginnings.

Nadine Todd



Lebo Gunguluza
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10. Ryan Bacher

NetFlorist, SA’s largest online gifting company, was launched by accident


Ryan Bacher

“Our plan was to run the site for one day to prove that we could do it. And then we got R30 000 worth of orders. That was the equivalent of a whole month’s revenue at a flower shop.”

Ryan Bacher, Lawrence Brick and Jonathan Hackner; launched NetFlorist on Valentine’s day in 1999.

The founders of NetFlorist had no intention of starting an online floral and gifting company – they just wanted to prove to Makro that they could design and run an e-commerce site. But Valentine’s day came and went, and the ‘test’ site did unbelievably well, so they didn’t shut it off.

“What’s really crazy is that people were paying for us to provide a service. We had no stock and knew nothing about flowers. We just sent the orders to a flower shop in Sandton,” says Ryan Bacher.

How did they make it work? “We knew our best bet was to get the website out, hack it, and keep changing it. We would learn more from the site being out there in the market than we could ever learn in-house, trying to develop a perfect product. It was basically always a work in progress.”

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch

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