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So!Go: Francois Te Water Naude

It Took An Astute Eye To Spot That There’s More To Cape Wine Farms Than The Grape Harvest

Monique Verduyn

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It was his frustration with the corporate world that led François te Water Naude, a mechanical engineer by profession, to experiment with condiments. Today his company, Cape Town-based So!Go, has won numerous local and international awards, and its products are known not only for their superior quality, but also for their eye-catching package design.

The company sells over 4 000 bottles of olive oil alone every month and exports 30 different products all over the world.

“I’m a non-conformist, and after 13 years Ihad had enough of the rules and regulations of the business world, so I formed my own engineering consulting firm,” Te Water Naude recalls. Much of his work experience had been in multi million- rand engineering projects with Cape wine farms, where he also gained insight into the importance of trademarks.

As he started to recognise the power that lies in a brand, he also realised that while people raved about South African wines, little was mentioned about South African olive oil – despite the fact that many wine farms in the Western Cape grow olive trees.

“The problem was in the presentation,” he says. “Olive oil is usually plonked on the table in a greasy and unattractive bottle, or it’s decanted into an equally messy pourer. I wanted to make a product that could go from the store to the table and complement any table setting.”

He experimented with a few bottles but decided to shelve the idea while he was growing his consulting firm. When the economy entered a bit of a slump, he decided to take a chance.“I took R3 000 and a box of 100ml bottles to a graphic designer and asked her to come up with something,” he says.

“She informed me that she was in the business of brand development and design. R50 000 later, we agreed on the packaging design for a balsamic vinegar and olive oil set.”Te Water Naude says his engineering background came in handy during the conceptual phase. “The opaque bottle, the silver cap and the logo gave the product upmarket appeal. There’s no doubt that years of experience in engineering design and project management were very helpful.”

His first clients included Giovanni’s Deli, Melissa’s and Spier Wine Estate. It was a hard sell at first – he was peddling a product that everyone already had. “But I had a unique selling proposition,”he says. “So!Go was the first in the world to produce a designer branded olive oil and vinegar set that could be bought in-store and used to dress the dinner table.”

Armed with product samples and top quality photographs, Te Water Naude took the concept to local magazines. This initial legwork resulted in free advertising for So!Go.Being a firm believer in marketing, he incorporated this into a multi-faceted campaign that has seen the company enter and win many competitions.“I visited every radio station I could to talk about the awards and promote the concept. I have also done many talks and participated in many business networking events.”

Sophistication, indulgence and innovation are watchwords of the brand. Te Water Naude notes that around four to eight new products are added to the range every year, taking advantage of new trends in the food sector. “It’s vital to launch fresh products every year to prevent a brand like ours from becoming stale,” he says.

It is this approach that has seen the company expand into the European, US, Canadian and New Zealand markets. “We have dedicated importers in each country so that if we have one hiccup it does not affect the entire export business.”

So!Go has had year-on-year growth of 80% and sales have doubled in 2007. Te Water Naude says it was important to restrict volumes in the beginning, to ensure the product set retained an air of exclusivity. “We would have lost the deli sector if we had also gone straight into supermarkets, but now that the brand is older and well established, we have earned the right to do more with it.”

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.

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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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