The sweet taste of success

Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Elizabeth Thabethe (left) congratulates  Anita Labuschagné on winning as an entreprneur champion. (Supplied)
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Elizabeth Thabethe (left) congratulates Anita Labuschagné on winning as an entreprneur champion. (Supplied)
Anita Labuschagné of Sweet Temptations Toffees in Somerset West was recently honoured by the National Small Business Chamber as an entrepreneur champion.

Fin24 found out more about how she got started and what advice she can offer other (would be) entrepreneurs.

How did the company start?

It all started in April 2010 when the kids wanted something sweet and I didn’t feel like going out in the wind and rain.

I tried my hand at making old fashioned "tameletjie" (home made toffee), which wasn’t a success, so I added some ingredients to try and save the day.

The end result was a toffee like texture. I took some left overs to the office and shared with my co-workers.

They placed some orders, but I wasn’t happy with the recipe and started doing some research into the chemical reaction of heated sugar.

I also studied the need in the market for handmade gourmet confectionery products.

After loads of sugar down the drain and a few extra kilos on the hips, I was finally happy with the product and launched an old fashioned looking gourmet toffee in August 2010 at Lourensford Farmers Market.

What were the challenges?

The initial challenge was to make a decision on when to leave my corporate position.

I was working as head of the service division in an IT company. I was very passionate about my job and it was difficult to let go of a steady paycheck.

I had to make sure I could support my family and the small business before I took this huge leap of faith to make toffees my fulltime business.

The next biggest challenge was the move from working from home to a factory that complied with all the health and safety regulations of the department of health and also to get the factory ready for our food safety audit.

Even though we followed good food safety practices whilst at home, it was a huge challenge to change to a factory and get all the supporting documentation as well as the infrastructure and environment in mint condition to pass a food safety audit based on HACCP and ISO22000 principles.

I didn’t want to take chances with this as delivering a quality product that is also safe to the consumers was of the utmost importance to me.

What makes a good entrepreneur?

In my opinion you have to have lots of guts and you need to take some risks.

An entrepreneur is that person who is prepared to sacrifice personal time, family life in the initial stage and pours his heart and soul into what he is doing without any hesitation.

Someone who doesn’t crumble when rejected the first time, someone who keeps going and stays positive no matter what.

Someone who looks at each and every moment, event, tv programme and even song as a possible opportunity to make his business work.

If it fails in round number one, dust yourself off and try again.

An entrepreneurs is someone who spends his free time to analyse market and consumer trends.

Someone who is more than prepared to work 18 to 20 hours per day and get up and look refreshed and positive and still motivates his staff with a smile. Now THAT is an excellent entrepreneur to me.

How do you handle local and international competition?

You have to ensure you know what the competition is doing and respect them in the market place, but don’t focus on them.

Focusing too much on the competition is a waste of a very valuable resource – time.

I regularly review local and overseas trends in the confectionery market as a whole and not only relating to toffees.

You have to protect your intellectual property rights and we register each and every version of our business to protect ourselves from being copied on new ideas.

The international market is more complex as the choice available is just so much bigger.

You have to offer a product for a niche market and not try and compete with the already huge corporations with the more commercial products.

Do you export? If yes, where to and what makes it successful?

We have been exporting smaller orders to the rest of Africa as well as St Helena Island for quite some time and the single most important factor is to deliver excellent service and quality products.

Our first huge export order was from the UK to be distributed to branches in Poland and Germany.

We’ve also had huge interest from a US company with 276 branches around the US as well as a company in Seychelles.

It helps to be up to date with the labeling requirements and the import regulations of each country that you plan to export to.

Any other “words of wisdom”?

Keep your promises to your customer. The old cliché “customer is king” is true. Treat them as such.

Make sure you stay above the law, register at your local authorities for whatever you need to and pay your taxes.

If you think being your own boss is about having more time for yourself and your family, think again.

You have to work extremely hard and sacrifice so many things on a personal level that it will push you to a breaking point.

Keep it simple in the beginning. If you can’t afford that expensive software, don’t buy it. Do it the old fashioned spreadsheet solution way.

Be conservative when spending money and keep costs to the minimum. Working from home until you can absolutely no longer do it, is a wonderful way to save.

In general

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a wonderful family and great friends.

My whole family and some relatives are now permanent employees of the company. The head chef and my future son in law CR Reyneke and my daughter Rosetta (both professional chefs) manage the kitchen and come up with great new flavours and products.

My youngest Susan is in direct contact with our customers and also doubles as sales lady. She is in control of the production environment and expediting orders on time to keep our customers happy. Quite a challenge.

My husband Frans is responsible for packaging development and also maintains not only our factory, but also the equipment and machinery.

My niece Mari Grobler works closely with me on marketing, events co-ordination and logistics.

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful group of people from our own community that works with us to help create beautiful products and hand-wrap and decorate the majority of our products.

We currently have a staff compliment of 15 dynamic people who make everything run as smoothly as possible at Sweet Temptations Toffees.

We have won eleven awards in 2012, amongst others the DSTV Food Network Eat In Competition for best small producer of confectionery.

A Further five awards followed in 2013, with the main one being The Africa Growth Institute SMME Best New Business in Africa award.

This is quite an exciting award as it recognised the business performance overall.

- Fin24

* Share your experience of setting up a business or simply ask a question. Our business panel can put you on the right path.

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