02. how it happened – 2009 – 2011
When Eben took over the brand from Hans and Cilliers in January 2009, he did not have the cash required to float the company. He contributed 60% of the capital required and a close friend of his, Dawie Hyman who livs in the USA, assisted him with the balance required.
Manufacturing was set up in Cape Town and supply was limited to the Western Cape market.
Eben did not fully understand the broader pork-industry yet and the Woody’s strategy was in its infancy. With a lot of enthusiasm and enough ignorance not to loose heart, Eben launched my Woody’s Traditional Bacon range of products and stop trying to sell the bacon frozen.
Woodys was constantly out of stock with demand far greater than they could supply.
Eben had one sales rep working for him, Ehrardt Meyer and a handful of in-store promoters who rotated between the stores, doing in-store sampling on the product range for most of 2009.
They had a sales meeting every morning at Pick ‘n Pay in Claremont, Cape Town. Many cold and raining days Eben did not even have enough money to buy everybody coffee.
Some days he had no transport money for the promoters or petrol money for Ehrardt. He would empty out all his pants pockets at home to get transport money for the promoters and at the sales meeting would ask Ehrardt when last he went to the gym. He would suggest that Ehrardt go to the gym and wait for money to come in again before he goes back to work.
By the end of 2009 Eben realised that he had to move the manufacturing to Johannesburg. He was on a trip to the north, trying to make contact with pork farmers from Johannesburg when he re-connected with a previous business associate, Oscar Klynfeld.
Oscar is the Managing Director of a distributions company Transwest Distributors. At Goosebumps Eben used Transwest as the distributors to the North West province.
He met with Oscar and Anton van Rooyen, one of the shareholders in Transwest in a hope that they would put him in contact with pork farmers to try and procure pigs.
He knew that they were heavily involved in the agriculture and that Anton is the co-owner and founder of the 2nd largest fertiliser company in South Africa, Profert.
Anton van Rooyen
At that first meeting they expressed interest to become partners in Woody’s.
In January 2010 Eben migrated the Woody’s brand to a new company that we created called Woody’s Brands (Pty) Ltd.
Dawie wanted to play a role in the company by looking after the marketing aspects and web presence from the USA.
Eben and Oscar became the driving force behind the company.
It took them from from March 2010 to the beginning of 2011 to completely re-vamp all aspects of the company and launch a national business strategy.
Woody’s new home in Potchefstroom
Bacon became the business. The complete focus on one product-class suited all of us. The other product ideas that I developed with Hans were shelved for the time being but remains looming in the background. Their time will come!
Woodys Brands was created in January 2010 in Potchefstroom to trade the Woodys products. The implementations team held its inaugural meeting on 5 February 2010 at the Palazzo Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg.
This first meeting of the executive committee of the company remain a pivotal meeting.
A brilliant corporate consultant, Sophia Krone facilitated the meeting and the points that was put on agenda remained on the agenda.
Woodys vision was clear. It wants to be the number one supplier of bacon to the retail market in South Africa by 2015.
It had to create the manufacturing, funding and management infrastructure to deliver on this vision.
Above – Planning session between Woody’s and Profert
Eben and Oscar decided to stick to the basic mission statement of the company of providing the best quality bacon on the market at the lowest price. From day one it achieved this by integrating all aspects of the product supply chain. From the farmer to the retailer.
This “integration” proved to be very challenging. The individuals in the meat industry in South Africa have been around for many years with businesses which they are proud and very protective over.
It proved to be a challenge of note to manage the relationships with these individuals. Especially since most of the biggest players all know each other very well, all do business with each other and strangely enough – don’t like each other! As a result of this, whenever anybody finds out that you are in negotiations with one of their old friends, they would become very suspicious.
The issue that Eben and Oscar continued to grapple with is how much we take the problems and challenges of other people on ourselves.
For Eben and Oscar, business is very personal. We forge personal relationships as much as we try and integrate pork supplier, processing company, distributor, sales agent and retailer. The reality is that few pork suppliers and processing companies can accommodate the volumes that Woodys demand. In order to supply the volumes required, these partners must in almost every case grow their businesses substantially or at least aspects of their business.
What started to happen was that as Eben and Oscar are engaging with these parties to grow, we would be pulled into their world and we would start taking their problems on ourselves to solve.
We had to learn the hard lesson in terms of business that Sophia has been helping Eben with personally not to see ourselves as the saviour of anybody and to allow each company we work with to be their own saviours and solve their own problems.
This does not mean that there are not appropriate ways for us to assist them. We can for example offer to buy shares in their businesses or give them better payment terms. But almost any other form of help that is too close and personal is probably inappropriate.
We learned to keep on focusing on being our own saviours. Solving our own problems and if one of our suppliers cant solve their problems, then the best thing for us is to set up more suppliers and not to get involved in the problems of any one of the suppliers.
This is true for pork farmers, my previous advertising and funding partner in the USA and processing plants.
We realised that the best thing we can do is to focus on our own journey. Solving our own problems. Ensuring we can meet our own financial and supply commitments and if a company or a person is not able to support us in this at the level that we require it right now, that it may be time to move away from that person or company in part or in some situations – completely.
We re-shaped the Woodys shareholding for example and we ended the relationship with the US team.
So it happened that we started to develop our own company value system.
We have a clear vision of becoming the largest supplier to retail in South Africa by supplying the best quality products at the lowest price in the market.
We have clear objectives of how we are going to achieve this by integrating the right financing partners, the right suppliers and processors and the right management infrastructure.
In addition to this, we are now developing our own and very clear value system and the first value that we have incorporated into our thinking is to allow each person to solve his/ her own problems.
If a company or a person can not solve their own problems, then we will find someone who can supply us what we require, when we require it or set up a number of suppliers who jointly can give us what we require.
But, not all went as planned in 2010.
In September 2010 we launched our value-added range of bacon.
We now had products and concepts that nobody else in the country has. We have newly emerging categories in our sights that we will own over the next few months!
The product did not go as smoothly as we planned. At the end of 2010 we had to put the roll-out of the new range on hold and we are back at the drawing board, redesigning and re-formulating the product range to compensate for elements that we were not able to manage.
Even this added to our values as a company. The value is our willingness to experiment and develop new ideas and to fit all this into our mission and vision of where we are going with the company and how we are getting there.
Eben, Oscar and Anton realise that Woodys is still in its infancy. Much work remains!