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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.

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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.

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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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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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