Earlier this year, the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge emerged following a tight competition between South Africa’s boldest and brightest young businesspeople to win business support from the award-winning brand.
Second-place winner Zethu Nyali, Founder of Zee Organics and third-place winner Phumzile Mthembu, Founder of Ingcweti Pty Ltd, look back on their journey and share advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs.
“The purpose of running these initiatives is not to hand out a once-off prize, but rather reward with long term, sustained development. This helps to build a more solid foundation for business success and community support”, says Pierre van der Westhuizen, Brand Manager, Firstwatch.
Zethu Nyali, Founder of Zee Organics, founded her business for personal reasons, hoping to help her sister and other people living with cancer in her community and beyond address hair loss by formulating her own natural hair growth formula.
Zethu, who majored in microbiology and biochemistry, combined traditional remedies and sound scientific formulas to create her range of all-natural hair and skin care products. In 2020, during the lockdown, Zethu found herself unemployed.
So, with R 500 to her name, she ventured out to collect natural herbs and formulated her first organic remedy.
The power of word of mouth
Zethu looks back on her journey: “When I formulated my first hair loss treatment, and it showed results, I started by giving out samples to people in my community for free, and through word of mouth, the demand grew.
“I saved up some money to buy a few more containers and started selling my oil. It kept growing from there. I had to use what I had at the time, which was very little and invested the profits I made back into the business.”
Lack of funding should not discourage you
Zethu offers a few sage words of advice for young entrepreneurs looking to get into businesses of their own: “The best advice I could give aspiring business people is that they need to start by using what they have.
“Funding is not always available, and we must make the best of what we have. A good idea will always grow itself. The journey is never easy, but you need to stick to it.”
On competing with SA’s most ambitious young entrepreneurs in the challenge, she adds, “The competition was extremely tight, right from the moment Firstwatch Whisky flew me out from KZN to Gauteng. But we all had significant input from the team, who helped us all prep for the final pitch.
“We all learned valuable things from the panel and our mentors, and now we can pay it forward by sharing our knowledge and experience with other entrepreneurs. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have been provided and look forward to continuing my business journey with their support.”
Believe in yourself
“Passion should drive everything you do. You have to know what you want and believe in yourself. Belief in yourself and your idea is the key to success.”
Following her success in challenge, with the support of Firstwatch Whisky, Zethu has set her sights on the national and international markets, aiming to grow Zee Organics beyond South Africa’s borders and take her brand of healthy hair and skin care products all over the world.
Zethu encourages young entrepreneurs: “You can do anything you put your mind to. Effort leads to results, and giving up should never be an option.”
Meet or solve a real need
Phumzile Mthembu, Founder of Ingcweti Pty Ltd., created her range of natural skin care products to deal with her baby son’s skin irritation. Phumzile began her career manufacturing perfumes but now works full-time on Ingcweti.
She comments: “After trying several remedies for my son, nothing worked, so I did a lot of research and decided to formulate something for him. It turned into a business venture through word of mouth, beginning with people I know who tried the remedy for themselves – with great results.
“Mothers began to ask about the ointment, and it grew organically from there. I was able to help my son and am now able to help other people too.”
Find cost-effective, creative solutions
Phumzile discusses some attributes she believes make a great entrepreneur: “Building a business is an ongoing creative process. I started my business by packaging my ointment in honey jars, and today, we are launching products with beautifully designed packaging.
“You must always think about creative ways to improve your business and product. You must think about strategies to create other income streams and new marketing ideas. When you start a business, one of the most important things is to just do it. We must use what we have and grab any opportunity we have with both hands.
“Thank you to the Firstwatch team for all the help, guidance and mentorship. Competing in this challenge has been a life-changing experience, it has been so rewarding. I am excited about continuing to work with them and very grateful for the network of support I have built because of the competition.”
Nurture your business
“A business is like a child. When you decide to have a child, you may not be confident that you have the resources to support it, but you find that you do everything you can to make it work when the child arrives.”
Phumzile is now launching a nationwide drive to get her products into stores and establish kiosks in various sites around the country. She plans to grow the business both locally and internationally.
Phumzile Mthembu – founder of Ingcweti (Pty) Ltd]
Zethu Nyali, Founder of Zee Organics