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Tevo: Patrick Bennett & Robin Read

A small start-up shakes up the direct response television marketing sector

Juliet Pitman

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Patrick Bennett & Robin Read of Tevo

When asked how they define innovation Patrick Bennett and Robin Read, co-founders of Tevo, have a ready answer: “It means bringing something truly new to the market, something that customers have never seen before.”

That’s the foundation upon which their business is built and it’s what they claim has allowed them, after only 22 months of operation, to take on industry big guns with a 25-year history in the direct response television (DRTV) market.

Read hails from a financial and systems background and was a partner at Deloitte & Touche before joining M-Cubed Holdings to turn around its ailing wealth management division. Bennett was previously managing director of Verimark and marketing director for Massdiscounters’ Game and Dion stores.

But as he is quick to point out, Tevo has had to fight for every inch it gained. Launching a start-up against such strong, well-established competitors meant the battle was always going to be tough. The partners left lucrative careers and pooled their substantial business experience to build Tevo.

The first year was tough. “We had to weather an in-depth seven-month planning process prior to operation. Neither of us had any income, but we knew that research and planning was vital to build a business that could absorb rapid growth in its early stages,” he says.

Next came the challenge of establishing a toe-hold as a fourth industry player. “We had to fight for our space,” says Bennett. “No one laid out a red carpet for us, but we had good products and were able to hang our hat on innovation.” The planning and research paid off.

“Our competitors were all in the copy game. As soon as one company had a product, the rest would follow suit. Our promise to retailers was that Tevo would never be just another industry player. We guaranteed we would bring innovation to an industry that had gone stale and that we would never supply them with even one product their stores already had,” Bennett explains.

Staying true to their word has meant extensive travel to all parts of the world to source unique products. Tevo also works with local developers to bring new products to market. “Our first criterion is innovation.

Secondly, the product must be of excellent quality because if the perception you create is not congruent with the customer’s experience of the product, you’re in for a quick industry exit. Products sell if you can tell a story about them, so that’s another criterion. And the product must sell at an appropriate price.”

Bennett highlights the importance of balancing gut feel with a tried and tested process of selection, saying, “More heads are better than one. You have to get input from others.” In keeping with their promise, each of the nine products Tevo has launched, from the Slinky Hose to the Rapid heat reflecting ironing board, has been new to the South African market.

They point out that many of them have already been copied by competitors. The sales generated from these nine products have managed to secure Tevo second place in the market, but their appetite for new territory isn’t showing any signs of abating. “We’re chasing the market leaders now and they’d better know it.”

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dusty

    May 4, 2016 at 10:40

    I know that this article was written some time ago but as i do not have the email or Facebook addresses of these 2 gentlemen (whom i would like to have contacted directly) i trust that the message i am sending will get through to them via your magazine. As Entrepreneurs an reading your article above i would like to congradulate both of them on their achievements. However, in this day and age there are many of us that when we have a problem with a company’s after sale service we tend to ignore the problem and don’t bring the issue to the attention of the people whose company’s livelyhood is at stake as a result of “Bad Service”. For the record, I am not one of those people who ignores Poor after Sales Service from any Company. Whilst TEVO has great products, there is still a lot to be desired regarding there Customer Call Centre and there After Care Services especially with regard to obtaining new/repacement Parts for their products. I purchased 2 vacuum cleaners from Makro Cape Gate branch and as a result of damaged parts i have been trying to source these items without any success. After numerous calls to their Call Centre (which directed me to an answering machine each and every time i called) and leaving voicemail messages with my name and phone number, i have not yet received any return calls. Why have a Call Centre? I contacted the person at Cape Gate thru whom i had purchased these items and she was very helpful. She gave me a contact name and number of a person at their local office in Airport Industria Cape Town with whom i could make contact. I have been trying for 2 days now to get thru to this number without success. When i call the number is either engaged or when i do get thru it rings but after holding on for up to 4 minutes i receive no answer. Again there appears to be someting horribly wrong with their “Communications” set up. So if this message does somehow get thru to Patrick Bennett or Robin Read, could either one of them contact me at my email address “genelauraine@iburst.co.za” if they need any further clarifications regarding my frustrations with their company’s “Customer After Sales Communications and Services”. Thank you……Eugene Ricketts.

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