Two-in-one, the se­cret be­hind Mhaule’s juices

En­tre­pre­neur rises from rags to riches in tightly con­tested bev­er­age space

Sunday World - - Jobs - By Xo­lile Mt­s­hazo mt­s­ha­zox@sun­day­

In his teen years he sold ice cream to his peers to make a few bucks and later grad­u­ated to sell­ing live chick­ens at a street cor­ner in Te­mong Sec­tion, Tem­bisa, on the East Rand.

To­day Sammy Mhaule is the grat­i­fied owner and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the ever-grow­ing Skyrule Drinks, a com­pany pro­duc­ing sparkling fruit juice drinks with a twist.

“I don’t get tired of telling the story of how it all started. I was pass­ing a drinks shelf in a su­per­mar­ket when it crossed my mind that it would be mar­velous if there was a 100% sparkling juice with two flavours in one.

“I knew then I was onto some­thing. I then spent 18 months re­search­ing the blend Skyrule Drinks,” says Mhaule.

Con­cep­tu­alised by Mhaule in 2009, the en­tity started pro­duc­ing the juice in 2010, in time for the Fifa soc­cer World Cup in South Africa.

“We learnt the hard way be­cause we didn’t make any re­turns for our in­vest­ment.

“We hoped to cash in on the World Cup, in fact we lost money be­cause the foot­ball event has its in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cial sup­pli­ers and spon­sors.

“It was not by choice that I de­cided to sell ice cream and live chicken. I come from a dis­ad­van­taged back­ground. One of my par­ents was not work­ing while rais­ing the four of us.

“It was the sit­u­a­tion at home that ig­nited my en­tre­pre­neur­ial in­stincts. Since the ice cream was a small in­comegen­er­at­ing busi­ness I grad­u­ated to live chicken af­ter re­turn­ing from work­ing as mar­keter for Quan­tum in the UK.

“And be­ing job­less, it was a roar­ing busi­ness, espe­cially on week­ends.”

Mhaule, 39, says he used to be stuck at one of the busiest cor­ners in Tem­bisa and boys in the neigh­bour­hood would al­ways mock him for smelling like chicken. Lit­tle did they re­alise they were mak­ing him stronger, he re­mem­bers.

The engi­neer­ing mo­tor me­chanic col­lege grad­u­ate’s first

“I had no cap­i­tal. I had to sell my house and car to buy a bakkie for de­liv­er­ies. ”

job was at a BMW deal­er­ship in Kemp­ton Park. With his sav­ings he started the Skyrule Drinks en­tity, which now com­petes for space on shelves at Pick n Pay Hy­per stores, Check­ers, OK Foods, Lowveld Spar su­per­mar­kets and Tsogo Sun ho­tels. “I had to be in­no­va­tive in this space.

“I didn’t want to in­tro­duce just an­other sparkling drink into the mar­ket. That’s the rea­son why our sparkling juices come with a “Twyst”. For in­stance, the grape flavour comes with a twist of blue­berry.

“It all started when Tsogo Sun opened their doors for us to sup­ply the bev­er­age to their ho­tels. First the juice came in a bot­tle form. Later we grad­u­ated to mass pro­duc­tion cans we pur­chase from Bev­can.

“I had no start­ing cap­i­tal and no fi­nanciers. I in­vested and rein­vested what I was earn­ing. I had to sell my house and car to buy a bakkie for de­liv­er­ies.”

Mhaule, a mar­ried fa­ther of two, says the bev­er­age in­dus­try and con­sumers in gen­eral are a fickle lot. It’s dif­fi­cult to sway the pub­lic to his prod­uct if they swear by an es­tab­lished cola blend and brand.

“Last month we were barred from sell­ing in­side the venue at the DStv Food and Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Kyalami. The big guns had bought and taken over all the stalls to pre­vent us from com­ing into the venue.

“You know what we did? We set up our stalls and ta­bles out­side the fes­ti­val. We gave away the prod­uct to the thou­sands of mo­torists driv­ing to the fes­ti­val.

“We were in your face, they know us now.”

Based in the Tem­bisa in­dus­trial area, to make em­ploy­ees walk in­stead of pay­ing for trans­port, Skyrule Drinks has a staff com­pli­ment of eight full­time and 25 part­time work­ers.

/ Ka­belo Mokoena

Sammy Mhaule, the owner and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the ever-grow­ing Skyrule Drinks, honed his busi­ness skills sell­ing ice cream and live chicken on street cor­ners.

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