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Lemon Décor: Brothers Kevin and Ricky Frankental

Two brothers have built a visual art business that sets them apart in a price-competitive industry.

Monique Verduyn

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Brothers Kevin and Ricky Frankental bring walls to life. They launched their business, Lemon Décor, which supplies interior designers and architects with printing products and services as well as their extensive experience in canvas manufacturing and media in June 2007.  Each invested the grand sum of R10 000 to get it going.

The brothers started running the business from Ricky’s study, initially outsourcing the printing and installation of wall coverings to other companies in the field. Within six months, however, they knew they did not want to be another ‘me too’ business offering the standard catalogue material. In addition to that, large wall coverings need to be installed professionally.

“The canvas installation industry is dominated by ‘men with bakkies’, which often results in poor work and leaves clients feeling disappointed with the product,” says Ricky. “The first big step we took was to employ our own installation team who were trained to do the job properly and be answerable to clients on site. That means that clients have one company to deal with and the responsibility lies with us to get it right.”

At the source

Six months later, they brought the production process in-house, sourcing the right large format printers and creating an infrastructure that would enable them to meet unique client needs. That meant they could provide a turnkey service to make the lives of designers and architects easier. It’s that level of service and reliability that their clients are willing to pay extra for.

“We source the artwork and design, manufacture the product and take care of the installation,” Ricky explains. “That sets our product and service offering apart. Although we charge more in what is a very price-competitive and highly commoditised industry, we offer added value that is distinctive.”

At the heart of Lemon Décor is the concept of customisation. “Designers and architects come to us with their client’s brief, detailing their taste and style, and we source the right images and graphics for them. Clients can even add their own creativity to the wall covering, which is not an option with conventional solutions.”

The business has also expanded its product range significantly. “Lemon Décor started with stretched canvases, but we now also have other products suited to a variety of interiors, such as customised wallpaper, vinyl, perspex art and fabric art,” says Kevin.

Local content

The brothers often source designs and images from local designers, artists and photographers, which gives South Africans great exposure in a market often dominated by imported material. It also helps to ensure that Lemon Décor clients get installations that are either exclusive or limited edition. This sense of exclusivity is important for a niche business and enables the brothers to further differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Another recent addition to the business is the concept of vertical gardening, one of the latest trends in contemporary design, enabling plants to grow on vertical surfaces in residential, corporate and hospitality environments.

Finding a niche market

Ricky notes that they knew they were onto a good thing from the start. “We had little to invest in the business and no external funding, but we grew the business slowly and organically. In the first three years we achieved 100% growth year-on-year. Last year, the business stabilised and we grew by about 70%, which is what we expect for 2012 too.”

Lemon Décor was not affected by the recession, or the general slowdown in spending on what are perceived to be luxury items. “When times are hard, beautiful design and décor can turn the workplace into a far more productive and inspiring environment. Our corporate and hospitality clients often comment on how much happier employees are when they work in a space that is stylish and attractive.”

Kevin says they have both learnt how important it is to have systems in place to ensure excellence, and to pave the way for product innovation. The company now employs 30 staff members, all of whom adhere to strict quality controls. “That means our clients can hand over elements of their projects and be completely assured that their needs will be met.”

Initially, with no budget available for marketing, Lemon Décor secured clients through word of mouth. “Thanks to our knowledge of the media industry we were also able to arrange barter deals with magazines in the décor and design sector, which our target market likes, rather than in the consumer space,” says Ricky. “Today we continue to advertise in specialist publications, but we also have a large number of repeat clients. We have proven that price is not an obstacle for clients looking for quality.”

Learning to let go

Several years down the line, Ricky and Kevin Frankental are ready to do what many entrepreneurs fear the most – let go. Not of the business, but of the day-to-day tasks that typically consume the energy of the founders of a successful business. One of the ways they’re doing that is to appoint an MD, which will free up their own time to focus on what they are really good at – finance, marketing and developing creative new solutions for their clients.

They both admit to being hesitant to delegate. “There is no doubt that we often feel that no one can do what we do as well as we can,” says Kevin. “And our reputation is tied to the success of the business, but we have to acknowledge that at some point, to enable growth, the business cannot be solely reliant on us.”

The solution they’ve opted for is to seek out an MD with the requisite skills, experience and industry knowledge. They also provide proper training for all employees, and give clear expectations for performance. Developing a clear and detailed plan that includes what needs to be delegated, who should be assigned the task and what needs to be done to ready employees for their responsibilities are key tasks for every entrepreneur.

“At some point you have to learn to let go and delegate so that the business itself can move into the next stage of development,” says Ricky.

Vital stats

Players: Kevin and Ricky Frankental

Company: Lemon Décor

Launched: 2007

Contact: + 27 (0)11 540 0177; lemondecor.co.za

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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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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top-black-entrepreneurs-to-watch

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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