I TOOK THE LEAP Four women share how they over­came their fears to try some­thing new

These four women share how they over­came their fears to try some­thing new, with life-chang­ing con­se­quences

Essentials (South Africa) - - LETTER -

You don’t need a lot of cap­i­tal to launch a busi­ness, start small like us

‘We stepped out of our com­fort zones to open our own busi­ness’

Yolanda No­moyi, 33, lives in Broad­acres with her son Mlibo, four. To­gether with Mathapelo ‘ Thapi’ Montsho, 30, she is the co- owner and founder of Why Cook, a pri­vate and cor­po­rate cater­ing com­pany which they started in 2014. Be­fore Why Cook, Thapi had been work­ing in cor­po­rate cater­ing, while Yolanda was a stay-at-home mom who would oc­ca­sion­ally cater for friends’ events from her own kitchen.

Most peo­ple know each other for a long time be­fore de­cid­ing to go into busi­ness to­gether, but that’s not how it worked for the two of us. When we met at a friend’s birthday bash and dis­cov­ered our shared love of food and cook­ing, it felt like the stars had aligned. We both had a vi­sion of run­ning a cater­ing com­pany that would cater for cor­po­rate events, as well as small, pri­vate func­tions like din­ner par­ties. The more that we talked about it, the more our busi­ness idea made sense – and we came up with the name Why Cook. Nei­ther of us would have had the guts to ven­ture out as en­trepreneur­s on our own, but to­gether we gave each other the con­fi­dence and sup­port to make it hap­pen.

Taki ng the leap

We were lucky that we had a small client base to start with, thanks to a net­work from Thapi’s cor­po­rate cater­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and we ex­panded our base by ask­ing our fam­ily and friends to get the word out. Our over­heads were low in the early days – it would just be the two of us cook­ing in our home kitchens and we’d load the food in our cars to take to our clients our­selves. But within a few months the de­mand for our cater­ing had grown, and work­ing from our homes was ac­tu­ally hold­ing us back – our do­mes­tic kitchens just didn’t have the space that we needed to keep up with the quan­ti­ties our clients wanted.

So in 2017 we moved the busi­ness to a big­ger space at the River­sands In­cu­ba­tion Hub in Midrand. It was a big shift for us; overnight we went from just us­ing our small ap­pli­ances at home to cook­ing with pro­fes­sional, in­dus­tri­al­grade equip­ment in a busi­ness park – we were even able to hire staff to help out in the kitchen. Al­though we had ex­panded and were do­ing well, we did ev­ery­thing in baby steps – we re­minded our­selves that busi­ness is about client sat­is­fac­tion and sales, not about hav­ing a fancy work space or the lat­est equip­ment.

Just like any busi­ness, we’ve had to deal with set­backs. Find­ing and keep­ing good em­ploy­ees is an on­go­ing strug­gle, even if it’s just de­pend­able tem­po­rary staff. We’re al­ways look­ing for new ways to keep our staff mo­ti­vated and en­er­gised to give their best in a fast-paced en­vi­ron­ment.

We’ve also had to learn about time management, from su­per­vis­ing staff to the plan­ning and or­gan­i­sa­tion of events and even meal prep – a large por­tion of our suc­cess comes down to mak­ing sure our time is man­aged ef­fec­tively. And as our hours are not al­ways reg­u­lar – par­tic­u­larly when we have events at night and on week­ends – it has been dif­fi­cult to bal­ance fam­ily time with our busi­ness com­mit­ments, es­pe­cially for Yolanda as a work­ing mom. Mlibo has had to get used to not al­ways hav­ing his mom around when he wants her, which can be tough.

We don’t al­ways get things right – we’ve had to ex­per­i­ment with some of our ideas that sound great in the­ory but don’t work in prac­tice. It’s hav­ing the will­ing­ness to try again with a dif­fer­ent strat­egy and learn from mis­takes that help the busi­ness – and our­selves – grow.

What we’ve learnt

Run­ning your own busi­ness is hard work; it re­quires long hours and mak­ing sac­ri­fices, but we don’t re­gret a thing. These days, Why Cook is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the small home- cater­ing op­er­a­tion we set up five years ago, and watch­ing the busi­ness grow has been re­ward­ing – we took the leap from hav­ing a steady in­come to be­ing re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing our own salaries, and those of oth­ers, and we made it work.

Many peo­ple fo­cus too much on the fund­ing as­pect of be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur, say­ing they need a lot of cap­i­tal be­fore they can start their own busi­ness, which is not nec­es­sar­ily true. If you’ve got the drive and are will­ing to put in the time, the rest will fall into place. It won’t be easy, but you just need the courage to grab the bull by the horns and the per­se­ver­ance to fol­low through with your idea; we re­ally feel this is the time for en­trepreneur­s.

For more info, see why­cook.co.za

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