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Sumting Fresh Founders Started Their Food Truck With R20 000 And Gifted Utensils

Hezron Louw and Andrew Leeuw started Sumting Fresh with nothing. It wasn’t an easy ride and they thought about throwing in the towel on more than one occasion, but success is all the sweeter now.

Nadine Todd

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Hezron Louw

Vital Stats

Hezron Louw and Andrew Leeuw started their business, Sumting Fresh in 2012 with a R16 000 trailer, which they converted into a food truck. It was the beginning of a beautiful dream — Hezron quit his job at a bank and Andrew left the lodge where he was a chef to run his own business. Unfortunately, this dream would be three years in the making.

Problem number one was funds. Hezron cashed in his pension thinking it would provide them with start-up capital and enough cash to pay the bills while they got the business off the ground. Instead, the R150 000 paid off his debt.

“We started with nothing,” says Hezron. “I was living with my girlfriend and we managed to borrow R20 000 from my mom, which we used to buy the trailer, Andrew’s mom gave us some kitchen utensils and his brother bought us a coffee machine, a neighbour gave us a set of knives. That was it. That’s what we had to start.”

The idea was simple. Food trucks were already taking off, and Andrew and Hezron decided the market needed a gourmet option. “Our first trading day was at Arts on Main and it was a complete flop,” Hezron recalls. “We were offering Cape Malay Fish Cakes, Umami burgers, interesting meals that we thought people would like. They didn’t.”

And so Hezron and Andrew took their food truck to Bekker Road in Midrand, and parked alongside competitors who were offering more traditional meals like pap and steak. “We were determined to be different — something new and fresh, which was where our name, Sumting Fresh, came from. We failed.”

For two years Hezron and Andrew shlepped their trailer to Bekker Road, determined to stick with their vision of a gourmet food trailer.  “We were making enough to pay suppliers and petrol… sometimes. We were still borrowing money and ran the business out of my then girlfriend’s garage. And we ate a lot of chicken.”

Related: How Sumting Fresh Reinvented Itself

Every new year’s day the partners would quit, and a day or two later they’d have talked each other into giving the business another go. And then Miles Khubeka, founder of Vuyo’s tried their chicken wings and loved them. “He came around frequently, asking us to work for him. Eventually, we gave in. We parked the trailer and went to work.”

That first day, Andrew and Hezron were given a lunch hour. They hadn’t brought any food, so it was basically an enforced one-hour break. The following day, they arrived with lunchboxes, sat down to eat at their ‘lunch hour’ and couldn’t believe what they were doing.

“We wanted to be entrepreneurs, and here we were, working for someone else with a lunch hour. We quit and took the trailer back to Bekker Road.”

Miles had a stand at the Fourways Farmers Market though, and he asked Andrew and Hezron to help him out on weekends — and that’s where things started to change for Sumting Fresh.

“I met the manager and was determined to get a stall. I kept pitching ideas to her and she kept saying no, until eventually I think she just caved in to make me stop. She gave us a small stall that was hidden away, and we launched with our Goujon Chicken. We had 20 portions and we sold out. The following weekend the queue at our stall was so long it was blocking other vendors and so we were moved to a bigger stall. We added Jam Jars and built our brand from there.”

In the interim, Hezron and Andrew had both become fathers, were supported by their partners and could have decided to quit on numerous occasions. They didn’t. “I live and breathe this business and brand,” says Hezron. “We just had to keep pushing forward until we made it.”

From the Fourways Farmers Market, Sumting Fresh got into the Neighbourgoods Market, and the business finally started to gain some traction.

“The big shift came when we began to understand who our target market was,” explains Hezron. “We had been focused on a working lunchtime crowd. The people who appreciated our gourmet offering were weekend crowds who were looking for an experience — not a quick, affordable meal to fill the gap. Once we understood that key difference, we could really work on building our brand.”

Because Sumting Fresh changed its market focus, Andrew and Hezron started meeting people that were into artisanal food. They were approached by Braaimaster, which Andrew participated in, and then Top Chef South Africa, which Hezron joined, even though he isn’t a classically trained chef.

“Everywhere we go, people know us. I believe our passion and energy really shine through, and affect our customers. We’re fun. We love what we do, and we offer delicious food that comes with an experience.”

The two have gone through fire and back to build their business, but that experience has formed the foundation of what the business is today. “Our success is so much sweeter after suffering for so long. We appreciate the fact that we’ve made it, and we’re living the dream.”

Bootstrapping the business has also forced the partners to be creative. For example, they needed a sweet-chilli sauce, but couldn’t afford the R275 to buy it at Makro. “Instead of giving up, we googled how to make sweet chilli sauce and made our own. We couldn’t get it as thick as other sauces, or as spicy, but it turned out that we had something different and people loved it. It’s called the ‘love sauce’ by our customers and we’ve never changed the recipe.”

Making a plan is in Sumting Fresh’s DNA. The partners opened a restaurant in Norwood in 2016, a dream they’d had since 2012 but couldn’t afford to make a reality. “It was better that we couldn’t start with a restaurant. We’ve been able to bootstrap even that, doing everything ourselves — I’m a tiler and a welder now — but there were so many lessons we needed to learn before we could take this step. We would have lost our money if we’d done it any earlier.”

2016 also saw an upgrade of the trailer to a double-decker bus, which Andrew and Hezron bought from a local church. “The bus’s name was Joy, and we had to go to church for six weeks to be able to buy her — it was one of the pastor’s conditions.” Because they were at Fourways Farmer’s Market on Sundays, that meant Friday nights.

The bus is the foundation of Sumting Fresh’s corporate and eventing catering business, which complements the restaurant and food market sides of the company.

“We now have a factory in Bramley, the restaurant and we own Africa’s largest food truck. Everything has been achieved through organic growth. We haven’t changed our lifestyles, which means we can invest everything back into the business.”

Related: Sumting Fresh, Food With A Future

The growth focus is franchising, which is why the factory is so important. Sumting Fresh processes all its own food, and Hezron and Andrew are focusing on getting their systems and processes to the point where they can easily be replicated as the blueprint for a franchise, with the full supply chain handled from head office.

“We spent three years struggling, and the next three years growing from strength to strength, but we’ve learnt so many lessons. The food industry is incredibly competitive. We need to keep shifting the bar higher and higher. The barriers to entry are petty low, but truly making a success of your brand is much tougher. Quality, standards, a great vibe and continuously adding new products all work together to make our brand a success. Support structures are also incredibly important — we couldn’t have done this without our family and friends supporting us. At the end of the day though, anything is possible — if you believe and don’t quit when things get tough. There’s always a solution.”

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

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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andrew-zimmern

I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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