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Private Property: Justin Clarke

The story of how Justin Clarke developed Private Property into the leading alternative means of buying and selling real estate is, above all, one of determination in the face of adversity.

Juliet Pitman

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Justin Clark of Private Property

Here are two kinds of people in the world – those who’ll run from a threat and those who’ll take it as a challenge. I guess I’m the latter,” says Justin Clarke, executive chairman of Private Property, the company that changed the face of the real estate industry in South Africa forever.

The challenge he’s referring to dates back to the company’s early days. The launch of a new way of selling real estate in 1999 sent jitters throughout the industry. There was a fast closing of ranks by real estate heavyweights and systematic attempts to shut Private Property down.

“I think they were very threatened. We used very aggressive ambush marketing with slogans like ‘You must be crazy to pay commission.’ They really hated that,” remembers Clarke.

What had got everyone hot under the collar was the fact that Private Property effectively removed the need for an estate agent. The company took a small upfront fee of between R3 000 and R5 000 and provided the seller with a national platform to advertise the sale of their house, putting buyers and sellers in direct contact with each other through a website and SMS system.

Estate agents suddenly saw their 6% commission fee (which, as anyone who has sold a house will tell you, can be a considerable chunk of money) being threatened. For a while, the fight got dirty. “It was especially bad in Port Elizabeth – 26 different estate agencies got together in one room and effectively tried to throw us out of the area,” he recalls.

“They threatened our sponsors – NBS was one of them – and they warned the marketing people at NBS that they would boycott them in the Eastern Cape if they continued to advertise and support us. One of the leading conveyancing attorneys had to take his branding off our website because his business was immediately boycotted.”

Several complaints were lodged with the Estate Agency Affairs Board but, as Clarke points out, “They couldn’t touch us. We’re not estate agents. We’re advertisers – just like the newspapers advertise the sale of property. We don’t sell the house, the seller does. We just allow them to advertise it.” Complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority were also overruled.

Looking back on that time, Clarke says, “I think it just made me more determined to make the thing work. I thought that what the industry was doing was wrong – they were trying to prevent a direct market from developing and that’s fundamentally wrong.

So I just thought, ‘Now I am going to make it happen, no matter what.’ It strengthened my resolve.”Clarke has had to dig deep and stick to his guns on more than one occasion and his fighting spirit crops up repeatedly in Private Property’s story.

It’s a story that starts in the late 90s, as Clarke relates. “A friend of mine, Paul Fourie, had registered the Private Property URL and together with some other guys was struggling to get the thing off the ground. There wasn’t really a business at all at that stage and I think the reason they couldn’t get it to work was that it was just too early for the market.

I eventually bought out one of the guys, registered the cc in 1999 and by 2000 all the original people had left.”

Clarke paid R120 000 for the business, a sum he describes as “way too much at the time” but what he’d seen had sparked an interest in him. “I thought it was fantastic. My initial interest in it though was as a property developer, which is what I was doing at the time.

I thought it would be a great way to database buyers because if you want to supply housing, it’s all about knowing who and where the buyers are. So I thought it had incredible potential,” he relates. And although his original focus was on property development, he wasn’t wrong about where the potential lay.

Putting residential buyers and sellers in direct contact with each other turned out to be a simple but potent way of selling real estate. And the key to it all was the Internet, a medium that Clarke never lost faith in, even through the dot.bomb.

“After the crash, what emerged over time was the fundamental belief that as long as you were introducing a buyer to a seller and saving them both a whole lot of money, the thing would have to be successful eventually,” he says.

But that’s not to say there weren’t difficulties. When the company launched, very few people had the Internet. “I remember going to do our first property listings. We’d arrive and I’d haul out one of those old Mavika digital cameras – the ones where you put the stiffy disk into the slot in the side – and people would say, ‘What’s that?’ and I’d have to explain that it was this thing called a digital camera and that we were going to use it to take a photo of their house and then list their property on the Internet.

And they’d say ‘What’s the Internet?’ So you’d try to explain that some people have computers at home and that these are all connected via the telephone line and that people would be able to go via the telephone line to see their property on the computer,” says Clarke.

“For most people, the idea was just too far-fetched.” The obvious solution lay in consumer education but here Clarke faced an uphill battle. Not only did the company lack the huge marketing budget needed to launch a national consumer education campaign, but, as he explains, the purse strings for the mass media in property advertising are held by real estate agencies.

“You have to consider that all the revenue for a property publication is coming from the estate agents’ camp. In fact, the Saturday Star property section belongs to the real estate industry (you’ll notice there’s nothing about us in there) so you can’t get into a property publication if you take an anti-estate agent stance.”

Undeterred and with fighting spirit still intact, Clarke set his mind to finding a creative solution. It came in the form of a deal with a local radio station, as he relates, “Back in 1999, East Coast Radio was building a website using a web developer who was also building our website in exchange for shares in the business.

We proposed an idea that would develop an extra line of business for them, drive listeners to their website and get our properties and contact details out there. We would load our properties on their website, which they could white-label as East Coast Property, and they would drive their users to the listings. We would then give them a share of the revenue generated from the property sales.”

The idea worked like a charm; East Coast Radio had the ability to talk to 600 000 listeners, a public that Private Property was desperate to reach but couldn’t afford to. Even though their brand wasn’t used it was a way of getting their name – and more importantly, their business concept – out there.

And it drove customers directly to the business because the radio station quoted the company’s telephone number. Kagiso Media, which owned East Coast Radio, got really excited about the idea. “We were dealing with Omar Essack at the time – now executive director of broadcasting at Kagiso – and the idea worked so well that we took it to the other Kagiso local radio stations,” remembers Clarke. Similar deals followed with Jacaranda, Algoa, O-FM and K-FM. It turned out to be the tipping point for the company. “We were suddenly all over the place – each time we’d get a new radio station deal, we’d go to that area and set up franchises,” say Clarke.

There was a second factor, however, that together with the radio stations, contributed to the development of Private Property’s franchise network. During the interest rate hikes of the 90s, banks were sitting with thousands of repossessed properties, or properties in possession (PIPs), on their books.

Ever the opportunist, Clarke went to them with a proposal, negotiating to list their PIPs on Private Property’s website. However, there was one small problem, as he explains, “They said they’d give us a try to see how quickly we could sell the PIPs but they gave us properties from all over the country, and we didn’t have a country-wide network of franchises at the time.

So we ran around phoning friends and almost begging them to take franchises. We literally gave the first franchises away!” After that, the company joined the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) and attended the FASA Franchise Exhibition.

Clarke sat back and watched, fascinated, as crowd after crowd of prospective franchisees visited the stand. It was clear that word had finally got around.

Choosing the right people to run the company’s franchise network became the next big challenge. “This business is all about people,” says Clarke, adding, “We had to find people who were passionate about the direct channel, about introducing buyers and sellers.

We needed franchisees who believed in the concept of the business and felt passionate about the fact that it’s consumer-friendly.” Today the company has 30 franchises. As the numbers grew, Clarke recognised the need for training.

“We keep learning more and more about the importance of training,” he says, “In the beginning, we didn’t really train anyone. We told them how the system worked and sent them out there. But as the business develops you want to make sure that a consultant going out in Pofadder is the same as one going out to sell properties on the Atlantic Seaboard in Cape Town. We learned that you have to make sure that people deliver the same recipe, and that’s what our training involves.”

As the business has grown, it has advanced technologically. “One of the things I’m most proud of having achieved is the development of some world-class technology – simply because we had to,” says Clarke. One of the latest advancements capitalises on the increasingly mobile nature of Internet connections, specifically through cell phone technology.

“People can now click on a link via the SMS that we send them and view photographs of particular properties on their cell phones,” he says. He also makes reference to a new mapping technology, but won’t divulge any of the details.

“It’s still in the process of being developed,” he says. Over time, Clarke has taken a back seat in the business, leaving the day-to-day management to trusted CEO, Justinus Adriaanse. “I interfere where needed and get involved in the new developments, the exciting things,” he smiles.

This has been a deliberate move on his part. “I believe that the whole task of building a business is about finding people who do a better job than you can. I’m not specifically good at anything but I know how to encourage other people who are good to get involved and expand their capacity to do the job well,” he explains.

They’re humble words, especially considering what Clarke has achieved. Looking back on it all, he remains philosophical. “The great thing about being young and naive in business is that you look at a door and don’t think about it being locked.

You just run into it – to see if you’ll be able to break through. You might fall over a couple of times, but if you keep trying, you might just get through eventually,” he says. The door he found himself breaking through changed the face of real estate in South Africa forever, and is testament to the fact that no one can stop the march of progress.

Private Property OPA

(Online Publishing Association) net ratings per month

  • 194 000 unique users
  • 6,75 million page impressions
  • Users return 450 000 times
  • 17th biggest publisher of Internet content in the country

Clarke’s advice to aspirant entrepreneurs

  • The quicker you realise that you are not going to be good at everything in business, the better; no one is ever going to be good at everything. You need to surround yourself with people who are great at what they do and make up for what you aren’t good at. The faster you can replace yourself, the faster you can grow.
  • I was a terrible student and never finished my degree so I’m technically uneducated. But you should never let this hinder you. You can always learn through experience and it can turn out to be a positive thing. For me, it meant I never learnt where the parameters were supposed to be; I just went for everything.
  • The one thing that is an absolutely fundamental truth is that your mind is the only limiting factor to any business venture that you try. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mr'FreshIdeas Maddocks

    Dec 5, 2012 at 12:07

    I im truly inspired by this story and can relate in so many ways. Well Done to Justin

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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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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.

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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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