10 business lessons from some of SA’s leading entrepreneurs

November is Entrepreneurship Month and a good time to share these 10 lessons from leading entrepreneurs. It is not easy to be an entrepreneur, but with a clear plan, passion and hard work you can achieve a lot.

Hear what these entrepreneurs from different fields and industries have to say about their success and share their key tips on achieving greatness. From Ignite Fitness’ CEO, Schalk Hugo and internationally acclaimed interior designer Tammy Holmes, to the founding owner of Just Breethe, Marc Barnfather, as well as the innovative founder of Sloom, Rudo Kemp, you will be inspired.

Schalk Hugo, founder and CEO of Ignite Fitness

His main entrepreneurial mantra is “to get more time on the clock than others”. “I typically start at 3:00 and finish at 20:00 or 21:00, five days a week. This means that you cannot approach entrepreneurship with a mentality of effort as it requires super efforts and consistent time. Never stop pedalling.”

Hugo says there will be times when it is tough, times that your “speed bumps” seem like the Himalayas. Other times you may feel trapped as if you might not have the answers. “Go back to riding your bicycle, regardless of how fast the downhill seems or how severe the climb of the hill. If you stop pedalling, you will fall off and fail.”

Never stop pedalling, he says, no matter how hard. “Just focus on the next stroke. You never know when the next learning opportunity avails itself, but to catch it, you must be looking out for it. Listen to others with your eyes and your ears.”

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Tammy Holmes, founder, CEO and head interior designer at Ivy Décor & Design

“Embark on a business idea that fills you with passion and excitement and that you really believe in. You will need this to fuel you when you get told no or are pulling all-nighters. Also, understand that you will work harder for yourself than you will for someone else, if you wish to be successful.”

However, she points out you cannot do it all and therefore you must consult with or hire experts on areas of your business or industry that you do not understand or are not good at. “You are not expected to know everything, so do not assume you are.“

Monique Spaltman, formulations specialist and original co-founder of Lulu & Marula

“Be authentic. Tell your story as it cannot get more authentic than that. You became an entrepreneur for a reason. Your truth will resonate with the people you reach and connect with. To add to that remember your customers are the reason you have a business and you must treat them like gold.”

She says everyone makes mistakes but keeping communication lines open and actively correcting an error goes really far in leaving the customer satisfied and hopefully becoming a returning customer. 

ALSO READ: Four challenges to growing your small business, and how to overcome them

Marc Barnfather, founder and CEO of Just Breethe

“Success is measured in many ways, but mainly in materialistic goods. To me, it is more important to measure success through happiness and the joy of doing what you love most. If you follow your passion and work hard, success and all that comes with it, will follow you.”

Barnfather’s advice is to live life to the fullest every day and ensure that you live your passion as an entrepreneur. “Always take pride in what you do, no matter if it is work, family, or play. What you put in, is what you get out.”

He says if you start with a solid foundation, the rest will go smoothly. “Never forget, life is about relationships. Spend time meeting and talking to people from all walks of life, whether it is about you and your business or not, it is about the time spent connecting. Building relationships with many people and helping where you can, will give you the energy to move your thoughts and ideas forward.”

Rudo Kemp, founder and CEO of Sloom

“Learning creates earning. It is important for the founder of a business to become an expert in your field, to know your product backwards. From experience to research, everything you do to grow and understand your industry has a purpose and a lesson.”

He says he started his career in the mattress industry as a salesperson in a bed shop and he soon realised how important sales skills were to further his position in the industry. “I made it my mission to learn the jargon and technical specs of the products so that I could accurately guide the customer to make an informed decision.”

Kemp says he was never one for sales theatrics or marketing gimmicks to persuade someone to buy. “I always prided myself on my knowledge of the products and this allowed me to advance to securing a job at a mattress factory as the foam plant manager. “My time was spent researching and developing new foam formulas.”

ALSO READ: How to mitigate rising operating costs in your small business

Stephan Helary, founder and CEO of luxury skin and body care brand, Terres d’Afrique

“Whatever you sell, whether it is products or service, make sure it fits the market before spending too much money. You have to know all your competitors in detail and make sure that what you offer is different or has an edge the others do not have at the time you start.”

Helary says you should also test your product in the market first to make sure it has interest, meaning people want to buy what you are selling. “Whatever you estimate you need to get your business off the ground, multiply it by two. It will always cost a lot more than you anticipated, so make sure you are properly capitalised.”

He adds whatever you estimate your revenues will be, also divide it by two. “People always over-estimate their growth. It will be harder than you think but push forward and keep in mind that distribution is key. Today, people want brands that sell more than just a product. Gen-Z and Millennial consumers demand change. They want companies led by people who really listen, with ethical behaviour and accountability so that we can create a better future.”

Jana Leonard from The Baskiti Co.

“Being an entrepreneur seems very glamourous but it is hard work and lots of sacrifice but also great rewards. Understand your market, be flexible in your approach in reaching your goals and importantly, congratulate yourself on small successes.”

She says her biggest tip is simple: always be kind, listen, care and build relationships, because at the end of the day, that is what business is all about: relationships.

ALSO READ: Seven tips to save money while growing your small business

Chrizanda Botha, owner of Summerhouse Fabrics

“The best plan for an entrepreneur is to never run out of plans. While there is a plan, there is hope, there is a future. Always be one step ahead: wake up early, put in the work, invest in yourself and your goals and you will reap the rewards!”

Alana Groenewald, co-founder of GROEN Wallpaper

“Start a business or venture which speaks of your authentic personality, which makes you feel genuinely excited and passionate. Be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined and never pass on the opportunity to learn and grow.”

Alistair Holmes from Signature Furniture Design

“If you are not happy to stamp your name on the piece or the service you are providing, then it is not finished just yet. Polish or fine-tune it some more and deliver it at your highest standards. At the same time, you need to make sure you keep raising the bar of your standards. Try new techniques and push your abilities to evolve in your trade and keep fresh in the market. Do not take your foot off the accelerator when the inevitable bumps in the road come your way.”

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