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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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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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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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