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Meyer le Roux is the co-founder of the Buffelsfontein brand. Buffelsfontein started out as a producer of beard oil, but quickly grew to a much larger business. Nowadays they also organise adventure tours and they look forward to their restaurant opening March 2017.
Meyer used to work for an NPO, the Widows and Orphans Fund for the SAPD. The idea of a beard oil came about when he was using another company’s beard oil, but wasn’t particularly fond of the scent. His business partner, Mark Eybers, suggested they mix three scents together. They ended up liking the smell more than the other beard oil. Meyer suggested they sell it online. Adam Tas helped them film a short advertisement which went completely viral overnight. In a short time span, Buffelsfontein Baard-Olie created a tribe, where it seems like men were starting to grow beards just to use the beard oil.
Official start of the business
They sold their first bottle of beard oil in August 2015. Shortly after that, in December 2015, they started selling their craft beer, Lewer-Olie. To this day they work very closely with Brouer Broers, the brewers of the beer.
Initially, it was a challenge to produce the beard oil itself. Once they employed people to help with production, they could focus on other parts of the business. These days they rarely occur such challenges, except perhaps to a lesser extent their cash flow management.
It wasn’t easy leaving their jobs to work on Buffelsfontein full time, but there came a time when they got too busy to divide their attention between the two.
Additional product lines
Meyer and Mark think the same, and they believe their customers will enjoy the same products that appeal to them. So far they have made the right choices for their brand by adding the Lewer-Olie craft beer range and adventure tours to their brand. Meyer suggests setting up your contracts correctly right from the get-go, getting legal help where needed.
They have partnered with bigger companies in the past, but nothing will take away from the personal relationships they’ve formed by doing business with individuals or smaller companies. Instead of trying to partner up to make their products available commercially they have decided to keep their product exclusive and the business boutique.
The next five years
Buffelsfontein would like to diversify their product lines even further. Perhaps as fashion trends change, their beard oil will take a back seat. They would like to open up more restaurants and produce more Lewer-Olie beer. They also plan on growing the tour company leg of their business.
How did you start a restaurant?
Meyer and Mark both wanted to open a bar. The idea later changed to a restaurant as Mark has many years experience in the industry. The restaurant business seems to be one of the toughest industries and experience certainly counts in your favour. It also helps that both Meyer and Mark like people.
What makes this restaurant different?
They’re starting with a small menu offering premium cut beef dishes. The restaurant will have its own onsite organic vegetable garden where they will encourage children to go pick vegetables for their own consumption. Lewer-Olie craft beer will be the only beer available on tap.
As part of the Buffelsfontein brand they wanted to offer their customers something different. The tours they promote aren’t for the faint-hearted, they’re quite “rough and tough”, and therefore fit their target market perfectly.
Meyer suggests that you surround yourself with fantastic people for your business to be successful. Employ the best person for the job, but also a person with whom you get along well.
Managing a business as co-founders
Mark is English and has financial and business experience. He uses this skill set to manage all of the English communication whilst Meyer focuses on the Afrikaans message. Meyer is also responsible for all of the marketing aspects of their business. In this way they complement each other by having different skill sets and strengths. This is important to keep in mind when starting a business – if necessary you should find a partner with additional skill sets to your own.
Videos and social media is their main focus for marketing the Buffelsfontein brand. It’s cheap, if not completely free. Meyer mentions radio and television advertisements if you have the funds available, as well as billboards. According to him one should not waste your money on pamphlets and business cards. When creating a video, focus on visuals with minimal amounts of text as people have become lazy to read.
They have utilised radio as marketing medium, but television advertisements are too costly at the moment. If you can identify a specific location for your market, you may decide to invest in a billboard there. Carefully consider the placement.
Consider the difference between the end user of your product and the target market to which you need to advertise. These are not always one and the same.
Learn how to target Millennials specifically. Realise the importance of return business – if you want your customers to tell their friends about your product, make sure that it is of high quality. This is also how you create brand advocates and subsequently get your message spread by word of mouth.
Read to grow
Meyer utilises Google as a tool to grow his knowledge about business. He also enjoys reading up on marketing research which helps keep him up to date with the latest trends in the field. Consider attending symposiums and media marketing courses to invest in yourself as your business’ biggest asset. Those are also great opportunities to network and meet new people. Symposiums enable you tap to into the brains of industry leaders and learn from their wealth of knowledge to grow your business.
The Buffelsfontein brand is involved in charitable causes, especially Helpende Hand. It is genuinely a cause close to Meyer’s heart, especially considering his NPO work in the past. They also recognise the value of participating these social projects and how it can help build a brand image.
Starting your own business vs working in corporate
It is somewhat of a dream come true for Meyer to have what he calls “the best job in South Africa”. He spent close to 15 years behind a computer, working for someone else. To do what he likes and to work for himself is fantastic, he says.
Having all the knowledge that he has now, Meyer would absolutely start another business.
Your online presence must be spotless. Ensure that all your contact details are clearly displayed on your website or social media pages.
Marketing should not necessarily be difficult, just utilise the wealth of knowledge that is available to you on the internet. Don’t forget that Facebook is an excellent platform for you to market your products or services at no (or minimal) cost to you.
Surround yourself with fantastic people.