- Entrepreneur: Hezron Louw
- Designation: Co-founder of Sumting Fresh
- Visit: www.sumtingfresh.co.za
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.”
Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right
So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.
You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.
On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:
The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.
The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.
Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.
Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.
It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.
It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.
Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.
Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.
Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.
The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.
Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!
That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room
Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.
When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.
You likely think of Amazon.com, a company he founded more than twenty years ago, that’s completely disrupted retail and online commerce as we know it. You probably also think of his entrepreneurial genius. Or the immense wealth that he’s built for himself and others. You may also think of drones, Alexa and same-day delivery. Bezos is a visionary, an entrepreneur, a cutthroat competitor and a game changer. He’s unquestionably a very, very smart man. But sometimes, he can be…well…stupid, too.
Like that time back in 1995.
That was when Amazon was just a startup operating from a 2,000 square foot basement in Seattle. During that period, Bezos and most of the handful of employees working for him had other day jobs. They gathered in the office after hours to print and pack up the orders that their fast-growing bookselling site was receiving each day from around the world. It was tough, grueling work.
The company at the time, according to a speech Bezos gave, had no real organisation or distribution. Worse yet, the process of filling orders was physically demanding.
“We were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor,” Bezos recalled. “I said to the person next to me ‘this packing is killing me! My back hurts, it’s killing my knees’ and the person said ‘yeah, I know what you mean.'”
Bezos, our hero, the entrepreneurial genius, the CEO of a now 600,000-employee company that’s worth around a trillion dollars and one of the richest men in the world today then came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. “You know what we need,” he said to the employee as they packed boxes together. “What we need is…kneepads!”
The employee (Nicholas Lovejoy, who worked at Amazon for three years before founding his own philanthropic organisation financed by the millions he made from the company’s stock) looked at Bezos like he was — in Bezos’ words — the “stupidest guy in the room.”
“What we need, Jeff,” Lovejoy said, “are a few packing tables.” Duh.
So the next day Bezos – after acknowledging Lovejoy’s brilliance – bought a few inexpensive packing tables. The result? An almost immediate doubling in productivity. In his speech, Bezos said that the story is just one of many examples how Amazon built its customer-centered service culture from the company’s very early days. Perhaps that’s true. Then again, it could mean something else.
It could mean that sometimes, just sometimes, those successful, smart, wealthy and powerful people may not be as brilliant as you may think. Nor do they always have the right answers. Sometimes, just sometimes, they may actually be the stupidest guy in the room. So keep that in mind the next time you’re doing business with an intimidating customer, supplier or partner who appears to know it all. You might be the one with the brilliant idea.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How Sureswipe Built Its Identity By Building A Strong Company Culture
Culture is unique to a business, it’s the reason why companies win or lose.
A company’s culture is its identity and personality. Since this is closely linked to its brand and how it wants to be viewed by its employees, customers, competitors and the outside world, culture is critical. The challenge is understanding that culture contains unwritten rules and that certain behaviours that align to the culture the company is nurturing should be valued and cherished more than others.
At Sureswipe, the core of our culture is that we value people and what they are capable of. We particularly value people who are engaged, get on with the job, take initiative, are happy to get stuck in beyond their formal job descriptions, and who sometimes have to suck up a bit of pain to get through a challenge.
We include culture in everything we do, so it’s a fundamental element in our recruitment process. In addition to a skills and experience interview, each candidate undergoes a culture fit in the form of a values interview. We look for top performers who echo our core values (collaboration, courage, taking initiative, fairness and personal responsibility) and have real conviction about making a difference in the lives of independent retailers. If we don’t believe a candidate will be a culture fit, we won’t hire them.
If we make a mistake in the recruitment process, we won’t retain culture killers, even if they are top performers. This is such a tough lesson to learn, but it liberates a company and often improves overall company performance.
Culture should be cultivated, constantly communicated and used when making decisions. At Sureswipe, we often talk about what it takes to win and have simplified winning into three key elements: A simple, yet inspirational vision; the right culture; and a clear and focused strategy. The first and third elements can be copied from organisation to organisation. Culture on the other hand is unique to every business and can be a great influencer in its success.
Catch phrases on the wall are not the definition of culture
A strong culture is purposeful and evolving. It’s what makes a company great, but also exposes its weakness. No company is perfect and it’s important to acknowledge the good and the bad. Without it, we cannot ensure that we are protecting and building on the good and reducing or eradicating the bad.
Mistakes happen. That’s okay. But we are very purposeful about how mistakes are handled. Culturally we’re allergic to things being covered up or deflected and have had great learning moments as individuals and as an organisation when bad news travels fast. It’s liberating to ‘tell it like it is’ and almost always, with a few more minds on the problem at hand, things can be rectified with minimal impact.
Culture should be built on values that resonate with you and that you want to excel at. In our case, some are lived daily and others are aspirational in that we’re still striving for them. In each case we genuinely believe in them and encourage each other to keep living them. This increases the level of trust within the team, as there is consistency in how people are treated and how we get things done.
We are always inspired when, after sitting in our reception area, nine out of ten visitors will comment on the friendliness of staff. We hear their remarks about how friendly the Sureswipe team is or a potential candidate will talk about the high level of energy and positivity they experience throughout the interview process.
These are indicators that our culture is alive and well. It’s these components of our culture — friendliness, helpfulness and positivity — that cascade into how we do business and how we treat our customers and people in general. Being able to describe your culture and support it with real life examples is a great way to communicate and promote the type of behaviour that is important and recognised within the organisation.
Culture doesn’t just happen
We are fortunate that culture has always been important to us, even if it wasn’t clearly defined in our early days. As we grew it became important to be more purposeful in the evolution of our culture. About four years ago, the senior leadership team and nominated cultural or values icons were mandated to relook all things cultural.
A facilitator said to us, “You really love it when people take the initiative, and get very frustrated when they don’t.” That accurate insight became core to our values. We love to see people proactively solve problems, take responsibility for their own growth, initiate spontaneous events, change their tactics or implement new ideas. It energises us and aligns to the way we do business.
We celebrate growth and love to see our staff getting promoted due to their hard work and perseverance. We recently had one of our earliest technicians get promoted to the Regional Manager of Limpopo. It was one of the best moments of 2018.
Be purposeful with culture, describe it, communicate it and use it in all aspects of business. Culture should change. Don’t allow phrases like ‘this is not how we do things,’ or, ‘the culture here is changing,’ to stifle the growth and development of your culture. When done correctly change is a good thing. Culture is driven from the top but at the end of the day it’s a company-wide initiative. Design it together with team members from different parts of the organisation to get the most from it. And then make sure everyone lives and breathes it.
The best ROI is achieved when you stop wasting money.
Peter Drucker once said that businesses have two main functions — marketing and innovation — that produce results. “All the rest are costs.”
If you agree, that means that the average business has a lot of fat to trim. Obviously you can go overboard trying to cut costs too. My philosophy has been to look at some of the general areas where you can add some efficiency but not at the expense of impairing your most valuable resource — your focus.
The following cost-cutting measures will do that. Think of these as adding value to your company, whether it’s time, creativity or a closer connection to your consumers.
Uncover inefficiencies in your process
This is where I begin. In fact, it was analysing the inefficiencies of legal communication and knowledge sharing that led me to create Foxwordy, the digital collaboration platform for lawyers. I noticed that attorneys in our clients’ legal departments were drafting new documents from scratch when they could pool their knowledge and save time by using language that a trusted colleague had employed in a similar document. Business is all about process. When you create a new process, or enhance an existing process, you will drive cost efficiency.
Refine your process, then automate
If existing processes are lacking, it is time to create process. If you have processes, but they are not driving efficiency, it’s time to redefine your process. Either way, a key second step is refining processes that are needed in your business. Only then can you go to automation, since automating without a process will result in chaos — and won’t save time or money. Similarly, automating a poor process is not going to give you the cost-saving results you are looking for.
Thanks to the Cloud, there are very accessible means of automating manual processes. For instance, you can automate bookkeeping functions with FreshBooks and use chatbots to interface with clients — for very basic information. If you’re a retailer, a chatbot on your site can explain your return policy or address other frequently asked questions. Automating such processes allows you to spend more time focusing on clients and customers. Technology alone isn’t a panacea for all business functions, but if you find something you’re doing manually that can be automated, take a look and consider how much time and process definition automation would save you.
Rethink your outreach
Marketing and outreach are usually big and important challenges for an organisation. In my experience, there are two main components to successful marketing — knowing your customers and using the most effective media to spread your message. For the first part, I recommend polling. There are various online survey services that offer an instant read on what your customers are thinking. You may think business is humming along, but a survey could reveal that while consumers like your product, a few tweaks would make it even better.
For the second part — marketing messaging — once you have a firm idea of your marketing messaging, Facebook is a great vehicle for outreach. The ability to granularly target customers and create Lookalike audiences (from around 1 000 consumers) can help grow your business.
Scrutinise your spend history
There are tools that can help you assess spend history and find cost-cutting opportunities. For example, you might be able to take advantage of rewards or loyalty programmes to reduce common business expenses, like travel, or consolidate vendors for a similar function. If you have a long-standing relationship with a vendor, negotiate better pricing.
The most important elements to keep in mind are resources that make your company special. Your company may be built on one person’s reputation and expertise. Guard against tarnishing that reputation with inappropriate messaging in advertising or social media. If your company’s special sauce is intellectual property, protect that too. But everything else — ranging from physical property to salary and benefits — are costs and should be considered negotiable. — Monica Zent
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