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Zenzele Fitness’s Clever Tactics To Grow In Next To No Time

Tumi Phake has built Zenzele Fitness into a serious business relatively quickly, but it hasn’t been easy. The company’s quick growth has been the result of some very clever tactics.

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

Tumi Phake always liked going to the gym. It was a place where he could relax and unwind. One day, while still working for a prominent South African bank, he started wondering about the small gym that the bank had on the premises.

Where had this equipment come from? Who was responsible for it? What if you could offer the same sort of experience you’d find at a large commercial gym to corporate employees? Turning this dream into reality has been the focus of Phake’s life for the last few years.

Related: Join The Fitness Revolution

Here are the lessons he’s learnt along the way.

1. Do Your Research

Phake had spotted an interesting opportunity to offer in-house gyms to companies, but he took his time pursuing it. Instead of rushing in, he first did his research.

“The company was officially launched in 2013, but I was working on the business way before then. In fact, it took a few years from conceiving the idea to starting the business. I made sure that I would be ready when I eventually launched,” says Phake.


Business strategy doesn’t start the day you open the doors to your business. If done correctly, it should start well in advance. Some careful research and development done ahead of launch can often save you a lot of time, money and hassle later on.

Sure, it’s tough to stay calm and bide your time when you’ve stumbled upon a great business idea, but it’s important to sometimes take a step back and critically assess if your idea is really viable. Be sure to speak to experts in the field and prospective customers.

2. Find The Right Partner

Early on in the creation of Zenzele Fitness, Phake realised that he needed a partner. Many entrepreneurs refuse to acknowledge this reality, even long after their businesses are up and running.

Phake was not under any illusions — he needed a partner who knew the industry well. As an outsider to the fitness industry, he wasn’t equipped to launch a fitness business on his own.

Phake approached someone he knew through his position at the bank — someone who was well established in the industry. Not only could this person provide valuable insight — but he could also leverage his contacts in the industry to smooth the way for Zenzele Fitness.


Great founders often come in pairs. Very few individuals have all the skills and knowledge needed to launch a business, which is why finding the right partner can often mean the difference between failure and success.


3. Funding Begets Funding

Phake needed money to launch Zenzele Fitness. He needed to purchase expensive training equipment, which meant bootstrapping wasn’t an option. He was lucky enough to secure R5 million in funding from the Awethu Project, but this wasn’t enough.

The good news is that funding often begets funding. With each person who shows a willingness to invest in you, it becomes easier to get more funding.

After receiving the funding from the Awethu Project, Phake managed to get another R7 million in debt funding, thanks to that initial investment.


Accessing debt funding can be hard, especially if you don’t have many assets to be put up as collateral. Because of this, it’s a good idea to try to get some outside equity funding — even if it’s not the whole amount needed. This funding could be enough to secure a loan, which would help you avoid having to give away any extra equity.

Related: Healthy Body20 Franchise Leads To Happy Hearts

4. Proving ROI Through Data

In many ways, Zenzele Fitness enters a partnership with the corporates where its gyms are located. Most companies pay a portion of employees’ membership fees, and don’t charge Zenzele rent.

This is obviously a great position to be in, but it also means that clients will expect some sort of ROI. So how does one show that?

“It’s all about data,” says Phake. “Too often, South African companies go to clients with overseas data. This is not the way to do it. You can’t assume that overseas data is just as relevant here.”

Because of this, Phake is actively generating data that shows unequivocally that this sort of fitness initiative has a positive impact on business.

“Companies are definitely becoming aware of the fact that health and wellness in the workplace is important, but you still need to show some sort of ROI,” says Phake.

“For instance, we recently took 100 high-risk people and put them on a 12-week programme. By the end of it, we had managed to reduce serious risks by 30%. This is the sort of significant impact that companies are willing to invest in.”


‘Selling’ your offering is not enough. Your slick pitch needs to be backed up by some proper data. Don’t ask prospective clients to simply believe that you can improve their businesses — show them.

5. Reduce Your Risk

As with most businesses that are capital intensive, there is some risk in spending loads of money on equipment that might never be utilised. What if the gym didn’t attract workers? Or what if workers were slow to sign on?

“We reduce our risk in two ways,” says Phake. “Firstly, we try and sign on as many people as possible early on. We typically try to sign on enough people before the doors even open, to break even on a month-to-month basis. We also negotiate with clients and ask them to guarantee a certain level of monthly membership fees, especially during the early months.”


As the adage goes: Everything is negotiable. Enter into a real partnership with clients where risk is shared and mitigated.

Related: Free Sample Business Plans

Do This

If you have a B2B business — especially one that aims to attract corporate clients — it’s incredibly important to be able to prove the ROI on offer. Solid data can play a huge role in signing up new customers.

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Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



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1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

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Lessons Learnt

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.

Louw Barnardt




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.

Market access

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.

Flawless execution

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!

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Lessons Learnt

That Time Jeff Bezos Was The Stupidest Person In The Room

Everyone can benefit from simple advice, no matter who they are.

Gene Marks




When you think of Jeff Bezos, a lot of things probably come to your mind.

You likely think of, 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.'”

Related: Jeff Bezos: 9 Remarkable Choices That Shaped The Richest Man In The World

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

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