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How Jonny And Astrid Sacks Leveraged Connections To Start Klutch

Ex-Virgin employees Jonny and Astrid Sacks have turned their idea into the thriving Klutch by being different from the competition.

Monique Verduyn

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Klutch

Vital Stats

  • Players: Jonny Sacks and Astrid Sacks
  • Company: Klutch
  • Established: 2013
  • Contact: +27 (0)21 705 9033
  • Visit: klutch.co.za

Virgin founder Richard Branson is known for nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. His belief in supporting new ventures is a philosophy that is entrenched in the Virgin group of companies.

Former Virgin Active South Africa (VASA) employees Astrid Sacks and Jonny Sacks experienced that first-hand when they left the company to launch their branded merchandise business, Klutch.

Astrid was VASA’s marketing production manager, and Jonny, an accountant, worked in the finance department. Years of experience in branded merchandise production had given Astrid insight into the sector and she was all too aware of how large corporates can get taken for a ride when it comes to costs.

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When the husband-and-wife team were ready to launch their start-up, they met with VASA MD Ross Faragher-Thomas, FD Grant Scott, and COO Rick Jaffe. “We were blown away by their willingness to help,” says Jonny.

“We had countless meetings. We had to provide case studies to prove what we were preaching, and take part in a formal RFP process with some big names in the promotional industry. When we launched in early 2013, VASA was our first client.”

The value of being different

Klutch-and-Richard-Branson“High costs and poor service convinced us that there was a gap in the market for a merchandising business that could provide great service, fair prices, speedy turnaround, and good quality,” says Astrid.

“We wanted to take our passion for production and give clients a different kind of service. We know inks and how the printing processes actually work because we’ve seen it; we go into the factories and get our hands dirty.”

In a sector where competition is rife, Klutch also offers an end-to-end service, including promotional branded merchandise, print management and branding of banners, gazebos and other items.

“Usually, you would need to go to three different suppliers for this, but we have it all under one roof,” says Jonny. “Because we are a trade business, we get everything at trade prices. For the client, it’s easier and more convenient to deal with one provider. We also offer extra services, like packaging and distributing across the country.”

One of Jonny’s dreams was to meet Richard Branson and his former bosses made that happen, setting up a meeting in Cape Town. Jonny says there is no money in the world that can buy that type of mentorship. “He asked difficult questions and gave us advice that helped us through the start-up process. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Be prepared to work

Klutch-south-africa

Their motto today? “Do what others don’t, to achieve what others won’t”. “We work 16-hours a day, every day,” says Astrid.

“It’s a slog and you have to be prepared for the long haul. The biggest mistake people make is thinking that being your own boss is easy. It really isn’t. It takes hard, gritty, dirty work. Bags under your eyes and countless cups of coffee kind of work. But perseverance is key. One day you look up and see what you have created from nothing. It’s like having another child to care for.”

Jonny agrees. “Your head will always be full of a hundred things you need to do at any one time, and the competition is fierce. People get nasty. Don’t be. Be willing to help others get their break. Go out there and make connections – one thing we realised is that it’s who you know that counts. And service is everything.”

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Their advice to aspiring business owners is simple. Start a venture based on your expertise. Don’t get involved in something you know nothing about. Do what you know, but add a twist. Also, go slowly. Don’t grow too quickly.

“We started at home,” says Astrid. “When our lounge got so full that our son had to sit on boxes to watch cartoons, we realised it was time to find a home for Klutch. Now we have a factory with screen printers, warehousing space, and lots of amazing branding machines.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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