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How Fourways Farmers’ Market Tapped into a Gold Mine

Frustrated Joburger, Greg Straw, took matters into his own hands and created his own über picnic park, also known as the Fourways Farmers’ Market

Tracy Lee Nicol

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Greg Straw

What’s your career background?

I’m a landscape architect and horticulturist, with several smaller add-on businesses.

How was the Fourways Farmers’ Market conceived?

I’d bought the old Keith Kirsten nursery, which also had an adjacent vacant plot. While fixing it up, it struck me that Joburgers work their backsides off Monday to Friday, with little escapism available on the weekend. I love picnicking, and saw an opportunity to build a picnic park for families like mine.

To solve the hassle of catering I came up with the idea of an outdoor supermarket. That’s when the market started taking shape.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 8 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Proudly South African Businesses

What research backed up your idea?

I visited and researched markets all over the world and in South Africa to see what worked and what didn’t and then formulated my own idea. People flow and ergonomics are very important to a successful market.

This market has been planned in AutoCad and the resulting aisle layout means that each vendor has ample space, there are no dead spots or bottlenecks, and items are grouped into sections like a supermarket.

We also made distinct areas for buying and consuming, essentially creating different ‘rooms’ for different functions and to accommodate all visitors.

Is this a lean operation?

Absolutely not! There are the beautiful gardens and lush lawns to picnic on, with add-ons like security cameras, baby changing facilities, umbrellas, car guards, cleaners, a paramedic, music bands, garden and lawn maintenance and carpentry. It’s capital intensive and high maintenance, but it puts the market in a league of its own.

There are rose gardens, olive groves, veggie and herb patches, water features and arbours, beautiful flowers everywhere – and while people scoffed at the money spent to achieve this, and questioned the ROI, people walk in and are blown away. It’s a place they want to keep visiting.

How have you created a profitable model?

Greg Straw fourways farmers market

In two years we’ve grown to 106 stores – 100 are leased to vendors, six belong to us because leasing isn’t sufficient to create profit. We supplement income with sale of coffee, sodas and water, and we sell all the liquor. We limit the market to Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00 to create exclusivity and give our vendors a break.

The rest of the week the venue is leased for private and corporate functions.

What is the secret to getting a market right?

First is organisation. Next is getting your mix right: The ratio of finished foods, prepared foods, food ingredients, raw foods, craft, beverages, gifting and jewellery.

We’ve ensured there’s no direct competition with the vendors, that the quality is very high, and they’re selling something new and different that customers want to buy. We insist that vendors pay attention to the whole consumer experience, as that creates a lasting experience.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

How can a market help launch new businesses?

We’ve had vendors build up such a client base in 18 months that they’re now supplying local supermarkets or building their own shops.

While it’s a part-time passion project for some, it’s a stepping stone for others, depending on their goals. As a start-up you come in at a minimum rental, have a space and an audience, you can develop your product and brand and get to know your true target market, and you get massive exposure.

What have been some unexpected snags?

With seating capacity for 2 400 people in a day, we’re technically Joburg’s largest restaurant and you wouldn’t believe what people can do to the infrastructure. There’s a lot of maintenance every week so it’s ready for the next Sunday.

We’re expanding to other locations now, applying lessons we’ve learnt. We’re in the final stages of zoning for a new market and managing objections.

Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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