THE 1 ingredient these 3 entrepreneurs say will help you succeed
We spoke to three entrepreneurs to learn more about what it takes to make it. Guess what we learned? There is no definitive road to success and wealth, but there are some sure-fire ways to fail.
“No amount of self-help books and entrepreneurial courses can guarantee success; there are so many factors to consider and you need to learn from all the ups and downs as you go or you’ll be left behind,” says Joseph Sithole, a courier vehicle driver who has been moonlighting as a caterer in his own start-up since June 2016.
Sithole left his job as a driver a year ago to spend more time on his blossoming catering company but has since been forced to return to his job since the catering company is not yet turning over enough to support him. “I don’t want to run a survivalist company, my dream is to employ some people and grow a legacy for my son,” explains Sithole, adding that things are looking up for him since he has partnered with an investor in exchange for a 20% share in his business.
Sithole and his investment partner, a doctor from Mamelodi who will act in an advisory role, plan to use the additional capital to set up a food truck. The hope is that travelling and serving great food across Gauteng, with branding and advertising for the catering services on the food truck, will create a vibe and inject some demand for the catering service.
Sithole credits this idea to his business partner saying that he would never have thought of that, not only because it seemed out of reach due to his limited capital, but also because his thinking was stuck on more traditional advertising methods.
Maria dos Santos, ex-entrepreneur who has now returned to full-=time employment says that partnering with the wrong people can make or break a business.
“I went into business with a mom from my daughter’s school; we were friendly but I would not call us best friends. One afternoon we started talking at an event that we helped organise for the school and eventually came up with the idea of starting an event planning company,” tells dos Santos. “At that stage we were both stay-at-home moms with five kids between us. We worked together excellently and grew our business remarkably fast. Within two years we were employing 17 people full time and had 20 students on our list of performers should clients request it.”
Dos Santos says this is when things started to go wrong. Her business partner took long holidays and just in general left a lot of slack for her to pick up. “Eventually I felt like I needed to buy her out to save my sanity. Unfortunately I sold the business six months later, breaking even, and can’t see myself starting another business any time soon – it just gets too emotionally charged and personal working so closely with relative strangers.”
Would things have been different for Maria and Joseph had they considered some of their massive decisions more carefully before taking their big leaps? “Definitely,” says Sithole. “Probably not,” means dos Santos.
Willem Butler, a successful Cape Town-based advertising consultant, says that timing is definitely key. “My partner and I, both marketing majors, started our small niche advertising firm five years after graduating. At that stage we had both made valuable contacts in the industry and built a network for professionals we trusted to provide the services and products we needed for our clients so we were never embarrassed by unfortunately chosen service providers and had a couple of industry players owing us some favours,” says Butler.
Sithole agrees with Butler, adding that he still blames himself for some damage done to his brand because he leaped too early. “I struggled to meet my clients’ expectations because I simply took on too much too soon. Now my motto is that you only get one first impression, makes sure it’s an impression you want your client to tell everyone about.”
“I think that we jumped on the event planning party at just the right time. Pinterest-worthy kiddies parties were basically our golden ticket. I really don’t think that waiting would have made any difference for us. In the end I think the only thing that could have saved us is taking more time to get to know each other before starting a business together,” adds dos Santos about her own experience.
What should aspiring entrepreneurs take from the experience of these three “old hands”? Time, take your time and use it wisely. Use your time to ensure you’re partnering with the right people, and until you’ve found those people use your time to network and learn the industry, and your market’s needs and wants.
Words: Maxine Ridder