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Sorbet: Ian Fuhr

When Ian Fuhr made the decision to launch the Sorbet beauty chain in 2004, almost everyone he spoke to thought he was either pulling their leg, or experiencing a break with reality.

Nadine Todd

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Ian Fuhr

Ian Fuhr and his business partner Rudi Rudolph know they are an unexpected couple. They quip about their arguments over who would be the face of Sorbet, and delight in the reaction they elicit from newcomers who are not aware that the owners of Sorbet are less like Heidi Klum and more like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in Grumpy Old Men.

And they have reason to be delighted –100 million reasons. From just four outlets in 2005, today the group has 37 outlets with group sales amounting to R100 million a year. Not bad for relative newcomers to the beauty industry. How are they doing it? Fuhr’s decision to focus on a retail model rather than a traditional salon model, an uncompromising dedication to customer service, and the creation of a firm footprint before franchising the concept, have all played a part in the impressive growth the group has enjoyed over the past six years.

A Revolutionary Business Model

In 2004 Ian Fuhr sold his retail start-up, Supamart, to JetMart, a member of the Edcon group. He had grown his business into a valuable asset, and he could have retired. A serial entrepreneur by nature, Fuhr loves building up people and businesses. Retirement was not for him. He was eager for a new challenge, but not sure what area he wanted to tackle next. It was his massage therapist who planted the seed for an idea that would germinate into Sorbet.

“She suggested to me that the beauty industry was on the rise,” says Fuhr. “And I had a gut feeling that she was right.” Beyond the gut feeling was a retailer’s keen eye that the current industry was not fully meeting market requirements. “There were hardly any branded chains in the industry. Done right, a branded chain can offer a consistent, reliable and branded service, and it’s a real vehicle for growth.”

The first question to ask in any industry when you spot a gap is why. Why does that gap exist, and why has no-one filled it before? “Often there is a real reason for a gap,” says Fuhr. “Perhaps others have tried to fill it and failed. It’s important to understand an industry before venturing into it, even if your idea seems perfect.”

What Fuhr soon realised was that there were two options in the beauty industry at the time: high-end spa resorts, or traditional salons. These were typically single salons owned by therapists who had started their own business. “They were wonderful salons, but they were one-man shows,” he explains. “Therapists do not typically have business experience, so these salons started off as home-run small businesses. Some grew into larger premises, but their growth was capped because they were essentially run as salons and not businesses. I wanted to create a different model: one that could be geared for real growth.”

Through a mix of logic and gut feel, Fuhr recognised the gap as one waiting to be filled with the right model. “And that’s when the real research began. There are hundreds and hundreds of salons in South Africa. In terms of numbers we were going to have a lot of competition. It was important to create a sustainable model that we could easily scale, but that was based on a brand people would come to recognise and respect.”

The idea behind Sorbet was to eventually franchise it, and this played a large role in developing the business model as well. “Going back to why there was a gap in branded chains, I was drawn again and again to the fact that most salons were opened by therapists with little or no business experience. The CEO of South African Breweries has not brewed a beer in his life, yet he runs a highly successful brewing business. This didn’t only need to apply to my lack of experience in the beauty industry, but the franchise model as well. It’s easier to teach a business person about the beauty industry than it is to teach a beauty therapist about business.”

The business model would be developed based on firm business practices, with beauty therapists hired to do the actual treatments.

“I also didn’t want to focus exclusively on treatments,” says Fuhr. “Most salons focus on treatments with products as a sideline. Coming from a retail background, I wanted to do this the other way around: Sorbet would stock products, and offer treatments as well.” The decision to have a retail focus led Fuhr to Rudi Rudolph, a well-known retail consultant who Fuhr had worked with before. At first just a consultant, Fuhr later offered Rudolph shares in the business, making the two co-directors of Sorbet.

Finding the Right Partner

Deciding to go the retail route is one of the key factors that has separated Sorbet from its competition. The chain’s ratio of products to treatments is 60/40 – the exact opposite of traditional models. “We buy as a group,” explains Rudolph. “This means head office has secured favourable supply agreements with our product partners. Franchised stores are responsible for their own product procurement, but we open an account for them with our suppliers, and they receive the prices and terms we have negotiated.”

Sorbet’s key suppliers are Dermalogica and Environ. Again, a lot of research went into choosing the right products. “We eventually settled on Dermalogica and Environ because they were dominant brands in South Africa,” says Fuhr. “These are high-end products, but they are not seen as a luxury. Instead, South African women view them as treatments – ‘must have’ products for their skin.”

Early meetings with Dermalogica went as expected: the MD of the local branch asked Fuhr if he was sure he wanted to open a retail beauty salon chain. “We were not a big deal for them at the time. We were launching with four outlets and the MD had serious doubts about how successful we would be in the beauty sector.” She took a chance though and signed a supply agreement with the new kids on the block. The chance paid off. Today Sorbet is Dermalogica’s single biggest customer in South Africa and the partnership has grown into exactly what Fuhr and Rudolph hoped it would: the Sorbet name is inextricably linked with that of Dermalogica.

“We expose our retail clients to treatments and vice-versa,” explains Rudolph. “Salons have high and low months as well. For example, during the winter months women are not having waxes and pedicures as frequently as they are in the summer months. The retail side of the business supports the outlets during these slower treatment months.”

The Sorbet Difference

Over and above their retail-focused model, Fuhr and Rudolph have a keen understanding of just how important customer service is. “We actually view each of our customers as guests and refer to them as such,” says Fuhr. “We have instilled a firm customer-centric ethic at the heart of the brand: a guest is always right, and the very best care must be taken of everyone who walks through our doors.”

If a customer isn’t happy with a treatment, they don’t pay for it – and no-one in the outlet will argue the point. Similarly, all gift cards will be honoured, regardless of when they were purchased, and all customer complaints are recorded and actioned on. “We ensure that each and every query is resolved,” says Rudolph. “Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is how those mistakes are dealt with.”

Achieving this focus – and the customer loyalty it generates – has been the result of a number of key components. First, Sorbet’s Services Management will test every therapist’s technical competencies and verify qualifications before they can be appointed into the network. This practice includes appointments by franchisees. “We currently have two types of stores, head-office owned and franchises,” says Fuhr. “Our head-office stores are run by managers who we hand pick, and we are careful in our selection of franchisees.

This is in line with any franchised business. Where we differ is the level of involvement we have in the stores themselves. It is essential that each and every therapist is technically excellent at their job, and buys into our vision. If they don’t, we won’t offer the level of customer service that is now expected of the Sorbet brand.”

A customer loyalty programme offers free treatments and birthday specials, and can be claimed at any Sorbet. “The franchisees or head-office stores honour any loyalty card, and the therapist receives the same commission as she would if the treatment was paid for,” says Fuhr. This dedication to the therapists has resulted in an extremely low staff turnover as well, with the group’s commission structure a big draw card for experienced therapists.

“In most cases the owner/manager is not a therapist themselves,” says Rudolph. “We have focused on business people running the outlets, with excellent therapists performing the treatments. This means we need to retain and cultivate the best therapists in the business, which takes a good incentive programme.”

It is also based on the creation of a Sorbet ‘family’. “If you are happy at your workplace, or with your business, that satisfaction will naturally transfer to your guests,” explains Fuhr. “We have put a lot of energy into cultivating the Sorbet culture. We want everyone, from the owner or manager of outlets to therapists, receptionists and even tea ladies to really believe in the brand. They need to live and breathe the brand, and understand our own focus on the importance of our guests.” Regular training sessions, a strong focus on fair HR practices and incentive programmes have helped Fuhr – who has a background in employee relations – achieve this buy-in. He’s been so successful at it that all 17 of the group’s current franchisees were former guests who loved their Sorbet experience so much they wanted to buy into the brand.

Franchising the Business Model

Sorbet was launched in 2005 with the idea to eventually franchise the concept. Fuhr and Rudolph did not want to rush things though. “We wanted to establish a footprint and a strong network of stores before we began selling franchises,” says Fuhr. “Our franchisees will eventually be the ambassadors of the brand we have created, but we need something to offer them as well. We needed to build up a strong brand before we could franchise it.”

Head-office run stores gave Fuhr and Rudolph the ideal opportunity to perfect their systems and models as well. “Hiring managers allowed us to test the theory that the owners of Sorbet outlets did not have to be therapists, but business-minded,” says Rudolph. “As long as we have excellent therapists in each store, the owner or manager can concentrate on the business side of things, a system that has worked very well.”

Involved in every aspect of the business from day one, Fuhr and Rudolph have now scaled this model to include franchisees. “By 2009 we had grown from four outlets to 22,” says Fuhr. “It was at this point that we began opening franchise outlets as well.”

Today, of the 37 outlets in the Sorbet group, 17 are franchise stores. New stores are opening and some head-office stores are available for conversion into franchises. According to the partners, a few flagship stores will be retained by head office, but ultimately the group will be franchise-driven.

“We need to keep a few head-office outlets for two key reasons,” says Rudolph. “The revenue from the outlets gives head-office a revenue stream separate from our franchisees, and allows us to keep franchise fees to a minimum. Second, it’s always good to keep our feet on the floor. Running stores means we know exactly what our franchisees are experiencing on a daily basis, which is important if we want to continue supporting them in the way we have been.”

The partners have never focused on head-office stores to the detriment of franchisees, however. “Once we began franchising, our focus turned completely towards our franchisees,” says Fuhr. “Franchisees are the future of this business. We want a franchise environment of trust and support. We’ve kept our franchising fees low as a result, and marketing is free. We also capped royalties for new franchisees to help them get started. We’ve ensured good terms for our franchisees with our various suppliers, and even though we facilitate everything, franchisees deal directly with those suppliers. This means that if there are any savings to be made, the franchisee makes them, not us.”

Overall, the Sorbet group has focused since inception on a sense of community. While this was previously for employees, new franchisees are inducted into the group in the same way. “We have open and frank conversations about race relations, tolerance, success and working together,” says Fuhr.

“The success of this group will be built on how well we operate as a group and in turn treat our guests. Franchisees need to believe in this same goal. We are a young, fresh and exciting brand that has brought beauty and looking after yourself into the 21st century. We’re proud of our brand and we want everyone involved in it to be proud too. Not just because it’s new and successful, but because the foundations it’s built on are the foundations for personal wealth, happiness and success as well. The Sorbet community will be the driver of its own future growth.”

Sorbet’s growth

2005 – 1st full year trading; 4 outlets

2006 – 54% growth

2007 – 58% growth

2008 – 39% growth

2009 – 55% growth

2010 – Introduced franchised outlets; 45% growth

The stats

Over an average of three months, Sorbet’s 37 outlets perform:

  • 25 000 treatments per month
  • 9 000 – 10 000 waxes per month
  • 4 000 pedicures per month
  • 2 500 manicures per month
  • 1 800 facials per month

Becoming a sorbet franchisee

Opening a Sorbet outlet will cost in the region of R900 000, of which 50% (R450 000) must be in unencumbered cash. Head-office offers an entire turnkey solution that covers every eventuality and includes special supplier terms and conditions for opening stores. No past experience as a therapist or in the beauty industry is necessary, although business experience is a plus. For more information visit www.sorbet.co.za

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Entrepreneur Profiles

Jason English On Growing Prommac’s Turnover Tenfold And Being Mindful Of The ‘Oros Effect’

Rapid growth and expansion can lead to a dilution of the foundational principles that defined your company in its early days. Jason English of Prommac discusses how you can retain your company’s culture and vision while growing quickly.

GG van Rooyen

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jason-english-of-prommac

Vital stats

  • Player: Jason English
  • Position: CEO
  • Company: Prommac
  • Associations: Young President’s Organisation (YPO)
  • Turnover: R300 million (R1 billion as a group)
  • Visit: prommac.com
  • About: Prommac is a construction services business specialising in commissioning, plant maintenance, plant shutdowns and capital projects. Jason English purchased the majority of the company late in 2012, and currently acts as its CEO. Under his leadership, the company has grown from a small business to an international operation.

Since Jason English purchased Prommac in 2012, the company has experienced phenomenal growth. At the time he took over as owner and CEO, it was a small operation that boasted a turnover below R50 million.

Today, Prommac is part of a diversified group of companies under the CG Holdings umbrella and alone has grown it’s turnover nearly ten fold since Jason English took over. As a group, CG Holdings, of which Jason is a founder, is generating in excess of R1 billion. How has Prommac managed such phenomenal growth? According to Jason, it’s all about company culture… and about protecting your glass of Oros.

Jason English

Related: 5 Top Lessons From LAWTrust To Prepare For Super-Charged Growth

“As your business grows, it suffers from something that I call the Oros Effect. Think of your small start-up as an undiluted glass of Oros. When you’re leading a small company, it really is a product of you. You know everything about the business and you make every decision. The systems, the processes, the culture — these are all a product of your actions and beliefs. As you grow, though, things start to change. With every new person added to the mix, you dilute that glass of Oros.

“That’s not to say that your employees are doing anything wrong, or that they are actively trying to damage the business, but the culture — which was once so clear — becomes hazy. The company loses that singular vision. As the owner, you’re forced to share ‘your Oros’ with an increasing number of people, and by pouring more and more of it into other glasses, it loses the distinctive flavour it once had. By the time you’re at the head of a large international company, you can easily be left with a glass that contains more water than Oros.

“Protecting and nurturing a company’s culture isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Prommac has enjoyed excellent growth, and I ascribe a lot of that success to our company culture. Whenever we’ve spent real time and money on replenishing the Oros, we’ve seen the benefits of it directly afterwards.

“There have been times when we have made the tough decision to slow growth and focus on getting the culture right. Growth is great, of course, but it’s hard to get the culture right when new people are joining the company all the time and you’re scaling aggressively. So, we’ve slowed down at times, but we’ve almost always seen immediate benefits in terms of growth afterwards. We focus heavily on training that deals with things like the systems, processes and culture of the company. We’ve also created a culture and environment that you won’t necessarily associate with engineering and heavy industries. In fact, it has more in common with a Silicon Valley company like Google than your traditional engineering firm.

“Acquisitions can be particularly tricky when it comes to culture and vision. As mentioned, CG Holdings has acquired several companies over the last few years, and when it comes to acquisition, managing the culture is far trickier than it is with normal hiring. When you hire a new employee, you can educate them in the ways and culture of the business. When you acquire an entire company, you import not only a large number of new people, but also an existing organisation with its own culture and vision. Because of this, we’ve created a centralised hub that manages all training and other company activities pertaining to culture. We don’t allow the various companies to do their own thing. That helps to manage the culture as the company grows and expands, since it ensures that everyone’s on the same page.

“Systems and processes need to make sense. One of the key reasons that drove us to create a central platform for training is the belief that systems and processes need to make sense to employees. Everyone should understand the benefits of using a system. If they don’t understand a system or process, they will revert to what they did in the past, especially when you’re talking about an acquired company. You should expect employees to make use of the proper systems and processes, but they need to be properly trained in them first. A lot of companies have great systems, but they aren’t very good at actually implementing them, and the primary reason for this is a lack of training.

“Operations — getting the work done — is seen as the priority, and training is only done if and when a bit of extra time is available. We fell into that trap a year ago. We had enjoyed a lot of growth and momentum, so we didn’t slow down. Eventually, we could see that this huge push, and the consequent lack of focus on the core values of the business, were affecting operations. So, we had to put the hammer down and refocus on systems, processes and culture. Today Prommac is back at the top of it’s game having been awarded the prestigious Service Provider of the year for 2017 by Sasol for both their Secunda and Sasolburg chemical complexes.

Related: Establishing The Wheels Of Change In Business

“If you want to know about the state of your company’s culture, go outside the business. We realised that we needed to ‘pour more Oros into the company’ by asking clients. We use customer surveys to track our own performance and to make sure that the company is in a healthy state. It’s a great way to monitor your organisation, and there are trigger questions that can be asked, which will give you immediate insight into the state of the culture.

prommac

“It’s important, of course, to ask your employees about the state of the business and its culture as well, but you should also ask your customers. Your clients will quickly pick up if something is wrong. The fact of the matter is, internal things like culture can have a dramatic effect on the level of service offered to customers. That’s why it’s so important to spend time on these internal things — they have a direct impact on every aspect of the business.

“Remember that clients understand the value of training. There is always a tension between training and operational requirements, but don’t assume that your clients will automatically be annoyed because you’re sending employees on training. Be open and honest, explain to a client that an employee who regularly services the company will be going on training. Ultimately, the client benefits if you spend time and money on an employee that they regularly deal with.

“For the most part, they will understand and respect your decision. At times, there will be push back, both from clients and from your own managers, but you need to be firm. In the long term, training is win-win for everyone involved. Also, you don’t want a client to become overly dependent on a single employee from your company. What if that employee quits? Training offers a good opportunity to swop out employees, and to ensure that you have a group of individuals who can be assigned to a specific client. We rotate our people to make sure that no single person becomes a knowledge expert on a client’s facility, so when we need to pull someone out of the system for training, it’s not the end of the world.

“Managers will often be your biggest challenge when it comes to training. Early on, we hired a lot of young people we could train from scratch. As we grew and needed more expertise, we started hiring senior employees with experience. When it came to things like systems, processes and culture, we actually had far more issues with some of the senior people.

“Someone with significant experience approaches things with preconceived notions and beliefs, so it can be more difficult to get buy-in from them. Don’t assume that training is only for entry-level employees. You need to focus on your senior people and make sure that they see the value of what you are doing. It doesn’t matter how much Oros you add to the mix if managers keep diluting it.”

Exponential growth

When Jason English purchased Prommac late in 2012, the company had a turnover of less than R50 million. This has grown nearly ten fold in just under five years. How? By focusing on people, culture and training.

key-insights-from-jason-english

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Who’s Leading Your Business Billy Selekane Asks – You Or The Monkey On Your Back?

You’re either a change-maker, or someone who is influenced by the shifting conditions around you. The truly successful know how to determine their own destinies. Here’s how they do it.

Nadine Todd

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billy-selekane

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  • Player: Billy Selekane
  • Company: Billy Selekane and Associates
  • About: Billy Selekane is an author, internationally acclaimed inspirational keynote speaker, and a personal, team and organisational effectiveness specialist.
  • Visit: billyselekanespeaks.com

We live in a world of disruption. We live in a world where Airbnb’s valuation is $31 billion, but the Hilton’s market cap is $30 billion. Airbnb doesn’t own one square kilometre, and yet they’re worth more than the world’s biggest hotel chains with enormous assets. We live in a world where things have been turned upside down.

In this brave new world, you can either thrive, or fight to survive. As a leader in your organisation, the choices you make, the mental mind-space you occupy and how you engage with those around you, will determine your personal success, as well as that of your entire organisation.

“The business of business is people. You can’t just pay lip service to the idea that they are your most important asset. You need to live it. Leaders must be intelligent and honest. You can’t just push people to meet the numbers,” says Billy Selekane, personal and business mastery expert and international speaker.

The problem is that great leaders need to first find balance within, before they can successfully lead their organisations.

“Things can no longer be done the same way,” says Billy. “Success today is defined by people who are driven, are inspired by their own lives and goals, and have the power and capability to inspire others.” But before you can achieve any of this, you need to rid yourself of the monkey on your back.

Related: Billy Selekane

The monkey on your back

“If I continue doing what I’m doing, and thinking what I’m thinking, I’ll continue to have what I have,” says Billy. “That’s the definition of insanity. Are you doing things by default or design?”

Billy’s analogy is a simple one. It’s something we can all relate to, and it’s the single biggest thing stopping us from clearing our minds, focusing on the positive and achieving success. He calls it the monkey on our backs.

“Every one of us is born with an invisible monkey on their shoulder,” says Billy. “Your monkey is always with you. Sometimes they’re the one speaking, and you need to be careful of that.” What you need to be even more aware of than your own monkey though, is everyone else’s monkeys.

“Every interaction we have is an opportunity for what I call a monkey download. You have an argument with your spouse before work, and you end up getting into your car with not only your monkey, but theirs as well. Your irritation level has doubled thanks to the extra monkey. Now you get irritated with a pointsman, another driver or a taxi on your way to work. You’ve just added three monkeys.

“By the time you walk into the office, you’re bringing an entire village of monkeys with you. They’re clamouring, clattering, arguing with each other, and the noise is deafening. Not only does everyone get out of your way, but you can’t hear yourself think. And the more your mood drops, the more monkeys you download from the people around you. This is not the path to focus, achieving your goals or being happy. It’s certainly not the path to great leadership.

“Great leaders know how to keep all those monkeys out. They know how to control their moods, and regulate their own positivity. They understand that they are the architects of their own success.”

Getting out of the monkey business

To be a great leader — and personally successful and happy — you need to start by getting out of your own way, and as Billy calls it, ‘getting out of the monkey business.’ You need to not only shake your own monkey, but everyone else’s as well.

According to Billy, there are four simple areas you can begin focusing on today that will help you become the person (and leader) you want to be.

First, honesty is the foundation of everything else you should be doing. “Be clear and straight. Speak to people simply and honestly, but with respect. Connect with them, not through the head, but with the heart. Don’t play tricks.”

Related: 5 Top Lessons From LAWTrust To Prepare For Super-Charged Growth

Next, be authentic. All great leaders are authentic, and recognised as such. Aligned with this is integrity. “This is sadly out of stock, not only in South Africa, but the world,” says Billy.

“There is nothing as disturbing as a leader without integrity, and on a personal level, you won’t achieve emotional stability if you aren’t a person of integrity.”

Finally, you need to embrace love. “Wish your employees well. Wish your family, friends and connections well. When we are given love, and trusted to perform, we take that and pay it forward. In the case of business, this means your employees are giving the same love to customers, but if everyone showed a little more love, the world would be a better place. When people feel cared for, they show up with their hearts and wallets, and they pay it forward.

“Great leaders understand this. They don’t only focus on making themselves better, but adding to everyone around them. Remember this: In every business, there are no bad employees, just bad leaders. Employees are a reflection of that.”

If you want to build a better future, business or life, you need to start with yourself.


Do this

Stop letting negative thoughts and minor irritations derail you. You are the master of your moods and thoughts, so take personal responsibility for them.

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Shark Tank Funded Start-up Native Decor’s Founder on Investment, Mentorship And Dreaming Big

Vusani Ravele secured offers from every single Shark in the first episode of Shark Tank South Africa, eventually settling on an offer from Gil Oved from The Creative Counsel. Entrepreneur asked to him how this investment has changed his business.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital stats

  • Player: Vusani Ravele
  • Company: Native Decor
  • Established: February 2016
  • Visit: nativedecor.co.za
  • About: Native Decor creates visually pleasing products from sustainable timber. The company’s designs are innovative and functional, with its creations mostly inspired by South African cultures, landscapes and wildlife.

It all started with a cordless drill. In February 2015, Vusani Ravele received a drill from his girlfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift. He immediately became obsessed.

“I couldn’t stop drilling holes in things,” Vusani laughs. “I just loved working with my hands.”

Unlike most people, who lose interest in a Valentine’s Day gift by the first day of March, Vusani’s passion for his cordless drill didn’t dissipate. Instead, it had reignited a spark. Thanks to that cordless drill, he rediscovered a love for design he’d first felt in high school. And one year later, he had started a company called Native Decor.

Related: 6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

As a start-up he then made the bold move to enter the inaugural season of Shark Tank South Africa. He was funded by Gil Oved on the very first episode. It was a life-changing experience, but Vusani is keeping a level head. The money helps, but he’s trying not to let it change his approach too much.

I’m doing my best not to think of Native Decor as a funded start-up. The money has allowed me to do certain things, like buy a new CNC machine, but I still try to think like a founder without money. Once you have a bit of money in the bank, the temptation exists to throw it at every problem, but that’s not how you create a successful business.

You need to bootstrap and pretend that you don’t have a cent in the bank. With a bit of lateral thinking, you can often come up with a solution that doesn’t require money. It might require more effort, sure, but I believe it creates a stronger foundation for your business. If a business can carry itself from early on, its odds for long-term success are much higher. You also need to fight the urge to spend money on things like fancy premises or extra staff. The longer you can keep things lean, the more runway you create for yourself.

Vusani Ravele of Native Decor

I didn’t enter Shark Tank just for the money. The money was important, of course, but there was more to it than that. Looking purely at money versus equity, Gil Oved’s offer wasn’t the best, but I knew that I wanted to work with Gil. Stepping into the room, my primary aim was to attract him to the business.

He wanted 50% equity for R400 000 of investment. I wanted to give away 25% for the same amount. We settled on 40% for R400 000 with an additional R3 million line of credit. It was more of the company than I initially wanted to give away, but I was okay with it, since I saw it as the cost of Gil’s involvement, which I knew would add bigger value to the business than just the cash injection.

Related: Shark Tank’s Dawn Nathan-Jones: How Leaders Who Focus On Growth Will Build Successful Companies

Investment comes in many forms. I wanted Gil to invest in the business because I realised that investment isn’t purely about money. I didn’t just want him to invest his cash in Native Decor, I also wanted him to invest his time and energy. You can get money in different places. You can create a business that funds its own growth, for example, or you can get a loan from a bank.

What an investor like Gil offers, however, is knowledge and access to a network. Money can help a lot with the growth of a business, but a great partner can help even more. By giving Gil 40% of the business, I’ve ensured that he has skin in game. He has a vested interest in seeing Native Decor succeed, and that’s worth more than any monetary investment.

True mentorship can be a game-changer if you’re running a young start-up. A great advantage that often comes with investment is mentorship from someone who knows the pitfalls of the entrepreneurial game. With a new business, it’s easy to be sidetracked or to chase an opportunity down a dead end.

Gil is visionary, and he has helped me focus on the long-term goals I have for Native Decor. He has also helped me to think big. As young entrepreneurs, I believe we often think too small. We don’t chase those audacious goals. Someone like Gil, who has seen huge success, can help you push things further and to dream bigger.

You need to dream big, but act small. It’s important to have big dreams for your business, but you should also chase those easy opportunities that can help you build traction. When I started, I wanted to try and get my products into large retail stores, but the fact of the matter was, as a start-up, I didn’t have a strong negotiating position.

There was a lot of bureaucracy to deal with. Gil advised me to focus on the ‘low-hanging fruit’ — those small gift stores that would be keen to carry my products. By doing this, I’m gaining traction and building a track record for the business. Also, I realised the importance of aligning myself with the right kind of stores. Perhaps being in a large retailer isn’t a good idea, since this is where you typically get cheap items produced overseas. Unless you’re purely competing on price, that’s probably not where you want to be.

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


Take note

Funding is great but it’s not all about the money. If that’s what you’re chasing you’re doing your start-up an injustice.

Watch the Shark Tank investment episode here:

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