Leaving corporate world to become an entrepreneur

Thomas van der Linde (Supplied)
Thomas van der Linde (Supplied)

Cape Town - Thomas van der Linde left the corporate world where he was a marketing director for multinational companies to pursue his passion to be an entrepreneur.

He travelled extensively during his career and this is where he discovered Siam Botanicals in Thailand. He tells Fin24 more about this journey.
Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a passionate entrepreneur with a fire in my belly in pursuit of dreaming and building a premium brand to delight customers with fresh new invigorating products.

With a successful career in tech, IT and consumer electronics, I embarked on a journey to discern myself with the organic skincare business as the world of greenwashing in this crowded industry is rife and alarming.

I am a graduate in Applied Psychology and Advertising and have served in leadership roles with leading corporations.
Tell us a bit about your business

I wanted to offer to Africans and South Africans an honest brand and product range with substance - an award winning global successful range of skin, body and spa products that I decided to back.  

We are a company built on an ethos of trust and that our products are 100% natural and ethical, free from synthetics and parabens. Within the first month of launch we have secured a premium spa group present in a renowned global hotel chain, and several select spa’s in South Africa.
Currently our new customers are undergoing our specialist on-board programmes of our Ayurvedic and Eastern inspired principles.
How did you become an entrepreneur?

I had tremendous mentors and worked alongside top decision makers who are today captains of major industries. These foundations have served as an inspiration to open doors to start my own venture.

I firmly believe that entrepreneurs are grown into their own businesses either by economic reasons, passion, a relentless will power and a dream to succeed.
What gap did you see in the market?

The market is already crowded and congested with a plethora of personal care, medical and traditional aesthetic cosmetic providers. It started off with an idea to imagine a product offering which has solid foundations in nature as opposed to chemicals, and backed by full audits of its ingredients, including its origins, and how it was processed.
It meant researching companies across the globe with FDA and the backing of COSMOS certifications which is the most rigorous of all the certifications out there. Finding the "new kid on the block" with the right credentials was of the utmost importance.
The GAP was obvious as there is an opportunity for niche products that are 100% natural in origin. This is an emerging market opportunity worldwide with the consumer psyche drawn to products inspired by nature.

We do not use any synthetic chemicals nor do we use “nature identical" ingredients. We strive to find the best, most ethical providers and have chosen organic ingredients wherever possible.

We take our responsibilities incredibly seriously and have a stamp to prove it and protect it. We find ourselves as consumers bombarded with a great deal of green washing and many led blindly by some of the claims being made as Natural and Organic. That is the gap – let’s be honest with the consumers and allow them to make informed decisions and choices.
What were the challenges?

Time is your greatest enemy when you are a start-up in a congested, already saturated market. However, the category has opportunity.

The challenge lies in moving fast with an accurate and informed strategy, aligned resources and willing customers. Investment requirements at the onset of this operation is heavily focussed on product marketing, skills development and laying down the basics, for instance technology to drive the business across all areas of payment gateways, online e-Commerce, delivery and accounting.
What are the successes?

Securing a six star hotel group to offer our products to its patrons within the first month. Positive media coverage and a rapidly growing fan base on social media.

Being positively welcomed by spa owners and hotel owners loving the natural honest ethos and a premium professional product being used in the top spa’s and hotel groups across the globe.
Future plans?

South Africa is a country with an incredible basin of flora. How great it would be to develop our own home grown and developed COSMOS approved skin, body range in partnership with Siam Botanicals?

For now our focus is on gaining strength in educating the consumer as to their choices in skin, body and spa products, building our brand across Africa and establishing a solid supply chain.
Advice for other (aspiring) entrepreneurs?

- You will have more down days than up days;

- Keep focused and change like the wind;
- Keep moving towards your goals and remain calm in the face of adversity;
- You will win some and lose some, but make sure your sights are set on short term goals - weekly, monthly and quarterly;

- Manage your cash flow, but always be real and realise that you need to plan in advance.
Any other comments?

The market is growing and there is always an opportunity that entrepreneurs can explore. Demand is naturally created through sound strategic business principles of planning and planning and planning.

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