Anat Apter

When you’re on a smaller scale, having the chutzpah to get recognized can be challenging. I was at the end of a very long line of people who wanted to sell their wares at the Bruma flea market, and we were all competing for the same space. Consequently, I got up on my tiptoes and shouted, “Excuse me, Would you like me to advertise falafel here?'” The man working the counter motioned for me to come to the front of the line.

The Franchise That Serves Falafel and Schwarma Was Established by Anat Apter

Apter made her initial investment of R600 in a food trailer, which she paid off over six months. Initially, she only sold falafel as it was the food that she was most skilled in preparing and she wouldn’t sell anything that wasn’t of the highest possible quality.

She gradually introduced shwarmas for meat lovers in South Africa once they had been refined and the food was excellent. South Africans are known for their love of meat. Because the schwarma was such a successful moneymaker for Apter, she decided to open her shop in the industry two years later. As the demand for her products began to decrease, she relocated to Sandton City to broaden her customer base.

This accomplishment took two years to complete, but the risk paid off: two years later, she franchised the business and is now using the capital invested by franchise owners to help her develop the brand to 26 stores across the country. All of this is a direct result of the decision to begin on a modest scale, to provide only the highest quality of service, and to maintain the lowest possible prices while maintaining the highest possible value.

Wally and Debbie Fry

“There is a procedure for how you stroll into my factory, and if you walk in the wrong way, I’m going to figuratively klap you for it, because that system is there for a reason. It is built on the foundation of the errors that we’ve made and the answers that we’ve discovered to problems that we’ve encountered. Wally and Debbie Fry are the founders of the vegetarian food company Fry’s Family. They went from not eating meat and cooking in their home kitchen to exporting over 6,000 tons (or 27 vegan products) annually to 20 different countries.

Wally Fry never dreamed that he would one day start his own business. After he stopped eating meat and realized how much he missed it, he experimented in the kitchen to come up with a convincing substitute for meat that he and his family could enjoy. After starting the company by personally performing every function, from production to funding to advertising, he was well aware that the only way the company would be able to expand and that he would have more time to devote to strategy and the expansion of the business was to implement systems and processes.

He ceded control of each function gradually and did so only after he was satisfied that he had hired the right person with the appropriate experience and education to run things in the manner in which he believed they must be run. Being such a stickler for detail, system, and process has helped the brand acquire all of the appropriate food safety and quality stamps, and accreditations as it has grown. This has enabled the product lines to find their way into the refrigerators of major retailers in South Africa as well as international markets.

Rob Stokes

Quirk: There Are Times When You Simply Have No Choice but to Wing

“I’d like to be able to tell you that it all occurred by some long-term vision or some grand plan – but to tell you the truth, it didn’t. It ended up taking the market seven years to latch on to what we were providing, and it took me six weeks after quitting my job as a waiter before I ran out of money. Rob Stokes is the founding member of Quirk Digital agency, an idea that was conceived on a couch at 3 a.m. and has since grown to the point where in 2014 it topped R140 million in total revenue and was sold to the international giant WPP.

Rob Stokes is very forthright about the seemingly random nature of some of his achievements and successes. He recalls the early days of his marketing business as being a period in which “we purchased and sold operating systems, did some network stuff, and made bad webpages.” After that, they gave up on the hardware, gradually stopped caring about the networking thing, and focused on getting better at the website thing. Quirk Digital Agency was learning how to execute digital advertising campaigns long before enterprises realized the importance of showing up at the top of a Google Search.

When you’re at the cutting edge of a brand-new market, you’re the pioneer, and there aren’t any tried-and-true businesses that you can model your company after. This requires a strong stomach for acquiring new knowledge, making rapid course corrections, and honing one’s skills to become the best in one’s field so that when the industry is ready, you are the obvious choice.

George Sombonos

Chicken Licken: Discovering Your Special Sauce

I changed the coating on the chicken without telling my father, and I used an untested recipe that I had purchased in the United States for a thousand dollars. The number of sales went up, which resulted in a monthly turnover of more than R200,000. During the 1980s, that was a very big deal. Chicken Licken is a fast-food company that was founded by George Sombonos, who is also the franchisor for the company. Chicken Licken currently has 240 locations across the country and had a revenue of R1.3 billion in 2013.

At the beginning of the 1970s, George Sombono offered his assistance to his father in the management of the Dairy Den, a roadhouse restaurant located in the southern part of Johannesburg. Sombono was dispatched to the United States in 1972 on a mission to gain a deeper understanding of the industry. During his time there, he sought out chicken and hamburgers throughout every restaurant and chain he could locate. He was in Waco, Texas, when he came across some incredible chicken, but the formula would set him back $5,000.

He used the last of his $1 000 in traveler’s cheques to barter for a different recipe that hadn’t been tried before. After all, is said and done, the taste test is the only one that matters, as evidenced by the fact that sales skyrocketed after the new recipe was covertly introduced. He was able to secure a constant supply from Rainbow Chicken, but there are times when the demand is so high that he must purchase wings from Brazil. The takeaway from this anecdote is that quality of flavor and affordability are of the utmost importance in the quick-service restaurant business. If you can get that right, you’ll be sitting pretty.