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Jupiter Drawing Room: Renee Silverstone and Graham Warsop

Two entrepreneurs build a creative reputation worthy of the title “legendary”. Renee Silverstone and Graham Warsop tell the story of how they took advertising powerhouse, The Jupiter Drawing Room, from a two-man band to one of the top agencies in the world.

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Renee Silverstone and Graham Warsop of The Jupiter Drawing Room

There are many things that are legendary about The Jupiter Drawing Room. For one, there are the awards – a whole cabinet of them. The company is the only South African agency to be listed among the top five most creative agencies in the world by US trade publication Advertising Age, based on creative performance. The recent partnership deal with WPP – in which Jupiter retained a 51% stake and therefore its independence – is being hailed as an industry first. The founders are industry legends in their own right. Powerhouse CEO Renee Silverstone is a leading light among South African businesspeople of both genders and is respected by clients, employees and competitors as a woman who makes things happen. Group chairman Graham Warsop is the most awarded creative director in the history of South African advertising and in 2005 was recognised by the London International Advertising Awards as the top creative director in the world.

And then there’s the chesterfield – an antique leather sofa that’s legendary not only because of the history attached to it, but because it sums up everything that The Jupiter Drawing Room stands for. “Renee and I had been in business for about three weeks and we were operating out of an old run-down house on Oxford Road. I was given the task of buying the boardroom furniture, for which we had an allocated budget,” explains Warsop. Silverstone interjects. “The delivery vehicle arrived on the Monday morning with this gorgeous chesterfield and I said, ‘Oh that’s lovely! It will go so beautifully with the rest of the boardroom furniture.’ At which point, Graham informed me that there was no other boardroom furniture. He’d blown the entire budget on a sofa.” In spite of the blow-up that followed and Silverstone’s threats to walk out on the partnership, the chesterfield was permitted to stay. “It’s synonymous with beautiful craftsmanship and quality – things that I’ve always wanted our work to be associated with. The chesterfield and what it stands for are the things we started with and have tried to retain. It represents the power inherent in skill and ingenuity applied with care,” says Warsop.

Following the dream
Its single antique furniture item aside, The Jupiter Drawing Room had humble beginnings. In the early start-up months in 1989, Warsop and Silverstone initially employed only a PA and occupied modest premises. “We didn’t want to be the biggest agency. Right from the outset we wanted to be recognised for the quality of the work, not the quantity. We wanted to create an agency where doing brave work was everything,” says Warsop. It was this vision that clinched the deal for Silverstone. “When I first met Graham I had about ten years’ worth of good industry experience behind me and I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to partner with this person who hadn’t been around all that long. I thought I was a bit above it all,” she says, but adds, “What struck me right from the start though, was the fact that Graham’s work was outstanding. I was frankly mesmerised by his creative ability and passion. I wanted to be part of a journey that was about being the best in the industry.”

Establishing a growing reputation
The pair formed a partnership that, up until the company’s empowerment deal in 2005, was based on nothing more formal than a shared vision and a handshake. Growth in the early days was organic but steady. “With Hewlett Packard disinvesting in South Africa, we landed the High Performance Systems account, which was a big one,” recalls Silverstone. By the end of 1989, the company had 12 staff members and had turned a profit of R600 000, not an inconsiderable sum at the time.

“All of this was ploughed back into the business. We weren’t interested in being able to take dividends,” says Silverstone, “Instead we were trying to build something.”While it landed some big accounts like FNB and SAA, the team continued to invest in creative work for smaller, less well-paying clients. It’s a move Warsop believes helped build the company’s reputation for distinctive work. “We did work for smaller clients who bought into what we were trying to sell them and gave us the kind of creative freedom that isn’t easily found with multinational brands,” he explains. Team photographs, taken at the end of every year, show slow steady organic growth. In 1995, the Cape Town office of The Jupiter Drawing Room opened, with Kevan Aspoas, Ross Chowles and Joanne Thomas as founding shareholders. “By that stage, we had established a growing reputation in Johannesburg and wanted to expand. The Cape Town operation played a pivotal role in helping us to grow The Jupiter Drawing Room brand,” says Warsop. By the end of 2005 it was billing in excess of R300 million a year. And then came an event that was to change everything.

The tipping point
“We dubbed it the perfect storm,” says Silverstone. At the end of 2006 three major accounts – MTN, Sasol and Absa – all went out to tender and The Jupiter Drawing Room was shortlisted to pitch for all three. “The pitch days were scheduled on three consecutive days in December 2006, so we got our staff together and had a discussion about how to handle it. We didn’t know if it was possible,” adds Warsop. Overwhelmingly, staff voted in favour of pitching for all three accounts. “It was a risky move because when you pitch for one account, you can give it your all, but when you pitch for three at the same time your creative resources are stretched. Our people indicated however that they wanted to do it, so we went ahead. We were the only agency that was daft enough to do it,” he explains. The eight weeks that followed involved some of the hardest work Silverstone and Warsop say they’ve ever asked of their team. “It was one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced,” Silverstone says.

But the work – and the risk – paid off. Incredibly the company scored a hat trick. It was the biggest new business win in the history of the South African advertising industry. But if pitching for three accounts was risky, landing them was more even more so. The pressure to gear up in order to deliver could make or break the company. “It’s the kind of business everyone always dreams of winning, but when it’s awarded to you, you’d better make sure you can deliver otherwise it can sink you,” says Warsop. Fortunately, the board had been considering how to gear up before they even submitted their pitches. “When the decision was taken to pitch for all three accounts, we called our management team together and looked at what would be required if we were to land all of them. We then sent each person out to headhunt the best people in the industry, so we had already interviewed people before we’d been awarded the work. In December of that year, before I went on leave, I signed 40 appointment letters in the space of two days,” says Silverstone.

The company took on a billion rands’ worth of business overnight and the team more than doubled in size, going from 120 people to 250 in just three months. “I think it’s testament to our sustainability, gear-up strategy and ability to deliver that all our clients from those days renewed their contracts,” she adds.

The work is everything
The growth precipitated by that “perfect storm” brought with it other challenges however, not least of which was how to retain the unique and distinctive stamp that had secured The Jupiter Drawing Room its legendary status. Warsop admits, “It does get harder the bigger you get. In the early days we could focus purely on the work, but later you have the challenges of management, administration and growth. I try to remember why it is that we are in business and when I’m driving home at night I ask myself if we are doing the kind of work that we set out to do. If not, what are we going to do about it?

Industry legend John Hegarty says that if you take care of the work, everything else will take care of itself and I believe that. The work is what you have to drive every day. It’s central.”He continues, “The only way you can show staff how to deliver distinctive, compelling work, is to deliver distinctive, compelling work. You need to lead by example. And you need to hold everyone accountable for the work, not just the creative department. The performance of every team member needs to contribute to making the work distinctive, so this is the bar against which every team member is measured. If you’re not there to make the work better, you shouldn’t be there.” As CEO, Silverstone leads the charge with a highly interactive approach. “We hold staff away days every quarter where we communicate what’s going on in the business and the industry, but mostly where we assess the work of the last three months. Is it sexy or is it flat, and if so, why? Where can we improve? Asking these questions in both cases is important because it pushes you to be better,” she says.

The dream deal
With such single-minded dedication to excellence, it’s unsurprising that The Jupiter Drawing Room has been courted by almost every agency group, but the company has always valued its independence. “The history of advertising in this country involves a large multinational agency network acquiring a local agency and absorbing it into its network. We never wanted to do that but we did realise, particularly as we landed big global brands, that at some point we would need an international link if we wanted to grow with our clients,” says Warsop.

In watching his icon, John Hegarty, Warsop saw the blueprint for any future partnership deal The Jupiter Drawing might enter into. “He’d always been staunchly independent so when he did a partnership deal with Leo Burnett I phoned him to ask him why, and he pointed out to me the fact that you can’t grow beyond a certain point without a multinational partner. However, he made it clear that he would only sell 49% of his shares and I realised if we ever got the chance we would do the same,” he explains. In January this year the perfect deal came along. WPP, headed up by Sir Martin Sorrell, acquired a 49% stake in The Jupiter Drawing Room & Partners, leaving 51% in the hands of the Jupiter agencies. This is unique in an industry where the traditional international networks’ investment policy is to acquire majority equity.

But in the end, as Warsop points out, it wasn’t the 49/51 split that secured the deal. “It was rather the fact that we agreed with Sir Martin that our brand wouldn’t be part of something else, but rather that it would stand on its own as The Jupiter Drawing Room within WPP’s stable of ad agencies,” he says. This is significant not least because it allows the possibility for the brand to grow into other countries. “If your brand is part of a multinational network, you can’t open an office in a place they already occupy. But as The Jupiter Drawing Room we can open anywhere in the world,” says Warsop.

From Kilimanjaro to Everest
This is precisely where he and Silverstone have set their sights. “We want to open offices in other parts of the world but we also want to see if we can get international work here,” says Silverstone. Warsop adds, “South Africa has a wealth of creative talent. For a country that represents only 0,5% of global advertising spend we are easily in the top ten countries in the world when it comes to creative ability, so it makes sense to get our local creative talent to offshore briefs here at home.” Silverstone will continue to oversee the Johannesburg operation while Warsop will investigate the international opportunities at a group level. They know the challenge that lies ahead of them. “For one thing, we need to stay abreast of the global digital environment. In South Africa, digital spend accounts for only 1,5% of the market, but year-on-year it’s showing the biggest growth. This is where the opportunity and the future lies, and this is where we need to be,” says Silverstone. Charting new territory should come naturally by now. As Warsop says, “If the last 20 years – getting to the point where we are the largest independent agency on the second biggest continent in the world – was Kilimanjaro, then the next 20 years is about Everest. We want to build the most successful independent agency group in the world. We’re up for it.”

Surviving – and thriving – in the perfect storm
In 2006 The Jupiter Drawing Room rode high on the wave of “the perfect storm”, pitching for three major accounts on three consecutive days. It was the kind of opportunity businesses dream of, but it’s also the kind that can quickly sink an enterprise if not managed carefully. For The Jupiter Drawing Room, taking the risk paid off – the company took on a billion rands’ worth of business overnight. Here’s what Warsop and Silverstone did right:
  • Consulting their team, who overwhelmingly voted in favour of pitching for all three accounts at once. A team who was invested in tackling the challenge and getting behind the project was an important success factor.
  • Having the foresight to gear up for the potential new business before it had even been awarded. This meant that the company was well down the recruitment road and could quickly increase its headcount when the new business came in.
  • Delegating headhunting to team managers who were personally tasked with going out and finding the best people in the business, should the company need to employ them.
  • Being nimble enough to do all of the above while pulling off the most important pitches in the company’s history.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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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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Take note

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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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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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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