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Women Entrepreneur Successes

How A Serious Car Accident Led Founder Relebohile Moeng To Starting Afri-Berry

The idea of controlling her own destiny and leaving a lasting legacy for her children became a compelling force that gave her boldness and determination to enter an industry she knew nothing about. A year later, Afri-Berry was born. This is her story.

Diana Albertyn

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Relebohile Moeng
  • Position: Founder And Director
  • Company: Afri-Berry
  • Established: 2011
  • Visit: Afri-berry.co.za

Shortly after a car accident left Relebohile with over 150 stitches on her face, her search for affordable solutions to cure her scars led to the launch of her first business.

“I had experienced the amazing healing power of the organic cold pressed argan oil on my face and understood the growth of the middle class and increased spending power across many socio-economic groups in our country. Based on this, I had a strong conviction that not only should organic products be available in speciality stores or organic markets but also in our regular retail stores where we do our day-to-day shopping,” she explains.

“We wanted Afri-Berry to have a share in the R4,3 billion of annual sales that were being made in this market.”

Following her retrenchment in 2010, she and her husband Fabian decided the time was right to do some research into organic skin and hair products. This led to the launch of Afri-Berry in 2011.

What were some of the key challenges that you faced before and during the process of launching Afri-Berry?

As a new player in the beauty sector, developing our business idea in a way that was attractive to retail was our first major challenge. And because the beauty industry has such high barriers to entry, our second major challenge was gaining market share amidst international cosmetic brands.

When you start a business, you must keep overheads down, so initially we built 80% of our team around intern graduates fresh from school, with no work experience. We underestimated the value of hiring experienced employees. This was the most trying time for the business because you may have great employees but if they’re not a team, they will yield nothing but stagnation.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

How did you overcome these challenges to build your business to what it is today?

afri-berry

The key to our success was the advantage we enjoy in our home market. Mzansi is a great place to do business in because we understand the lingo and the culture. This enables us to compete with aggressive and well-endowed foreign competitors.

We often fine-tune our products and services to the unique needs of our customers. We’ve had to resist the temptation of reaching out to all customers or imitating the multinationals. We believe that we’ll continue to do better by focusing on consumers who appreciate the local touch more than global brands.

When it comes to hiring we’ve learnt that HR can either make or break a business. We’ve learnt to not only hire for skill and experience, but also for culture. We continuously raise the leadership lid on each of our employees and create a conducive atmosphere for them to blossom.

What do you know now that you didn’t know when Afri-Berry was starting out?

Start now — you don’t need funding. Watch out for when you want to do something big but say you can’t until you raise money to fund the idea. It usually means you’re more in love with the idea of being big than with actually doing something useful.

For an idea to grow, it has to be something useful — and being useful doesn’t need funding. If you want to be useful, you can always start right now with just 1% of what you have in your vision. It’ll be a humble prototype of your big vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest because you actually started, when others waited for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.

Why do you believe Afri-Berry has reached the level of success it has achieved?

  • We have built a strong team and that has cultivated a culture of positive results and innovation in the business.
  • As a small business we have leveraged our impact by supporting community events and this has allowed us to be a powerful force within our community and gain market share.
  • We have tried our best to be accessible by partnering with some of the major organic stores as well as supermarkets and retail stores. We will soon be listing with Massmart and Clicks stores so that we are there for more of our aspiring customers when needed.
  • We make use of hair and beauty bloggers as well as beauty editors of popular magazines to try our products and endorse them in the public domain. This has given the brand great traction.
  • We continue to share our brand story with South Africans through local magazines and radio platforms offered to us. This has made it easy for them to buy into the brand.
  • We nurture and invest in positive relationships with our stakeholders.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

What’s your top advice for other start-ups embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, hoping to achieve your level of success?

Build a business around a problem that you know needs to be solved and that you are passionate about fixing or making better. There will be many long nights and stressful situations ahead but having the passion to fix the problem will get you through every time.

If you have an idea for a start-up, go ahead and start it. The more research you do upfront as to how much work is involved and how much you need to learn could easily put you off. I had no idea when I first started and I’m glad I didn’t! It’s much easier to tackle new tasks once you’ve already got things going.

Diana completed a BA in Journalism in 2010 and has honed her skills as a newspaper reporter, senior communications specialist and most recently worked at a weekly magazine as a writer. She joined the EMTS Group in 2016 as a writer for Entrepreneur magazine and SmartCompany Networks. Passionate about honing her writing skills and delivering exceptional client results, Diana continues to keep a finger on the pulse of industry news and insights.

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Company Posts

Designing Her Destiny

Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.

QuickBooks SA

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In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.

“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!

I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.

Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items.  Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.

I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”

Less admin, more of what you love

quickbooks-business_emmerentia-van-den-hoven

When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.

“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.

Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.

I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.

Diana Albertyn

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business

Embrace technology every chance you get.

Nadine Todd

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A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.

The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.

In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.

More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.

“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”

Innovation drives growth

Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.

In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.

“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Innovation enables sustainability

Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.

“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”

Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.

“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn

The role of disruption in creating value

A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.

The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.

Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm

Collaboration

Team up with customers and competitors.

There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.

Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch

PR

Know what your audiences are interested in

As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.

One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.

Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management

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