‘A failed busi­ness ven­ture brought us closer to­gether’

Essentials (South Africa) - - YOUR LIFE | WOMEN LIKE YOU -

Ni­cole Phi­lan­der, 28, owns Koinonia Cof­fee Shop in Ron­de­bosch with her hus­band Lester, 30, who also runs a con­sult­ing com­pany. They live in Vier­lan­den Heights and are foster par­ents to Ni­cole’s niece Cait­lyn, two.

After at­tend­ing a busi­ness sem­i­nar hosted by mo­ti­va­tional speaker Robin Banks in 2013, my hus­band Lester – who was then work­ing as a busi­ness an­a­lyst – set his sights on be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur. He was so in­spired by how Robin said he’d gained fi­nan­cial free­dom and flex­i­bil­ity by work­ing for him­self that he was de­ter­mined to do the same. A few months later, Lester told me he’d spot­ted a gap in the mar­ket for a busi­ness sup­ply­ing ho­tels and restau­rants with can­dles. I sup­ported him when he said this was an op­por­tu­nity he wanted to pur­sue.


In 2013 he set up Es­sen­tial Can­dles while still work­ing full time as a busi­ness an­a­lyst. Over the week­ends we’d set up shop at lo­cal mar­kets sell­ing our wares. De­spite all the hard work Lester was putting into the fledg­ling com­pany, sales were very slow. I re­mem­ber sit­ting at one par­tic­u­lar mar­ket for 12 hours and sell­ing only two can­dles – it was in­cred­i­bly de­mor­al­is­ing.

We spoke about it and de­cided that if the busi­ness was to get off the ground, Lester would need to fo­cus on it full time. It meant that I was sup­port­ing both of us on my salary, which was fine at first be­cause sales ini­tially picked up. But a few months later Lester was hav­ing a hard time shift­ing his ex­ist­ing stock and be­gan hav­ing cash-flow prob­lems.

Things only got worse that Novem­ber when I was re­trenched. Although I was given a de­cent pack­age, it only kept us go­ing for so long and our fi­nances were al­ready a mess. I have to ad­mit that we didn’t have the best fi­nan­cial habits ei­ther, so when it came to sav­ing that last R100 or putting it back into the busi­ness, we’d much rather spend it on some­thing like a night out at the movies. Things got so bad that we ended up sell­ing our fur­ni­ture.


Even­tu­ally, Lester closed Es­sen­tial Can­dles, I found an­other job, and things set­tled down. After ex­plor­ing other busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, by 2015, Lester re­alised that his failed ven­tures and all the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence he’d gained through them, could ac­tu­ally be used as an op­por­tu­nity. He set up Phil- Con, a com­pany of­fer­ing oneon- one con­sult­ing ser­vices to small busi­ness own­ers who are strug­gling.

The busi­ness has grown steadily and he has been able to put us in a much bet­ter po­si­tion fi­nan­cially. It’s a re­lief to know that we’re not sit­ting in the red on our credit cards and that there is ac­tu­ally money in our bank ac­counts again.

NEW OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES Last year, a friend who Lester had done some con­sult­ing with, told us he was look­ing for some­one to buy his cof­fee shop. I can’t ex­plain why but I loved the idea of hav­ing, and run­ning, my own cof­fee shop, and I wasn’t happy in the job I had at the time. I had my doubts, though; my par­ents had run a busi­ness to­gether and, when it failed, so did their mar­riage. I didn’t want the same thing to hap­pen to us. But Lester re­as­sured me things would be dif­fer­ent this time – and with ev­ery­thing we have been through over the years, and what we’ve learnt, I knew it would be. We took over own­er­ship of the cof­fee shop in 2017 and are very happy with how things have turned out.

Be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur isn’t easy, and it’s not some­thing I’d rec­om­mend other cou­ples do but the failed busi­ness – and our de­ter­mi­na­tion to make this one suc­ceed – has some­how brought us closer. I love Lester more now than I ever have. There was some­thing about the suf­fer­ing and long, hard road that we’ve both trav­elled that’s helped us to learn a lot about our­selves, and each other. We’re also a lot more fi­nan­cially savvy than be­fore, and we’re ready to tackle what­ever the world throws at us.

Things got so bad that we had to sell most of our fur­ni­ture

✱ For more info, visit koinonia.co.za

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