‘Many entrepreneurs spend too much time planning, and not enough doing’

Describe an average work day for you?

It begins early so I can reply to emails in “dead” time, freeing up my nine to five to concentrate on growing the business. In the mornings I do all my sales calls and meetings to make best use of those high energy levels, and the afternoon is dedicated to conceptualising events, internal meetings and strategy sessions.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Employing Kuda who was begging on the side of the road, as he had no arms. He was so enthusiastic, passionate and fun loving; making jokes with commuters despite his situation. Today he manages the office, works on a computer and his phone of choice is a BlackBerry touch screen. He has taught me that anyone can achieve anything they want, as long as they set their mind to it.

Tell us about the strangest thing you have ever done as an entrepreneur?

My first business as the ‘Breakfast Boy’ is definitely the strangest thing I’ve ever done. It started on the corner of [Johannesburg’s] Jan Smuts Avenue and Conrad Drive.

At 3am every morning I began baking muffins, so that by 6am I could be on the road at the intersection I had selected. My outfit included a chef’s hat for easy identification and my signature basket with 10 breakfasts, enough to service every robot change.

For R10, commuters driving to Sandton would get a breakfast bag containing a muffin, fruit, yogurt, Snickers bar, mint and a napkin. But having a great product wasn’t enough, as all good entrepreneurs will know; you need something that sets you apart and communicates directly with your target market.

So I made a fold over pamphlet, telling my story and giving weekly updates to the lessons I was learning while trying to run a business of my own. The standard opening line was: “I am a first year BCom Entrepreneur student at RAU [Rand Afrikaans University] and I believe only so much can be learnt in the classroom without firsthand practical experience. My mobile number ended the week’s learning, and allowed Sandton’s commuters to communicate directly with me for pointers, advice and new opportunities.

Within two months I was at maximum capacity selling 60 breakfasts a morning. The R300 per morning I was making made me a millionaire in student terms, but I found myself loving the interactions even more, as daily messages flooded in from both those who purchased and who had just received a pamphlet.

I will never forget the morning my former high school headmaster pulled up at the intersection. I greeted him with a cheery “Good morning, Sir” and what I got back was a look that seemed to read as: how can a private school education amount to selling food on the side of the road. But I was just beginning, and I never let those disapproving looks get to me. By the end of the fourth month, four other students were employed and The Breakfast Boy could be spotted at crowded intersections across the Northern Suburbs.

The Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year winners will be announced on 6 September 2012. Over the next few weeks How we made it in Africa will feature interviews with many of the finalists.