After working in a small workshop for many years Frank Naidoo decided he was ready to take the leap and start his own business. He’s the owner of a tyre fitment centre in Johannesburg and has geared himself up for a busy festive season and the Black Friday crowds with R500 000 in funding, ensuring he can meet the surge in stock demand.
We chatted to Frank about some of his biggest learnings over the last seven years, what his new business mantra is, and how Lulalend has been a true Friend in Funding to him when he needed one.
What scared and excited you the most about starting your own business?
When you work for someone else, you know you’re going to get a salary no matter what. When you do your own thing, it doesn’t work like that. You worry about things working out, or if something out of your control could happen in the market that could close you down. But it’s also very empowering to know that you’ve got the freedom to make the choices you want and have control over the direction that your business goes.
What are some of the challenges you face as a South African SME?
As a small business you’re already in a competitive market, but one of the biggest challenges I face is the growing emergence of informal businesses which are taking market share and having a negative impact on the industry. Unlike us, these businesses are not regulated, have little to no overheads like insurance, premises rental or department of labour fees and can thus offer prices that we struggle to compete with.
What makes all the hard work worth it?
The pleasure of running this business is that we get to help people. There’s nothing worse than having your car break down, or needing to replace a tyre. We’re all busy people and all we want is to be able to get back to work or our families. Making that experience easy and fast for our clients and delivering excellent customer service at the same time is what makes me feel good about what I do.
It’s that very same reason that I applied for funding with Lulalend. I found I received the kind of experience to what I try to instill in my own business’s customer service.
What was your funding application experience like?
It was fast and easy and I was kept in the loop every step of the way. While I appreciate the speed that my application was processed, it’s not that I necessarily needed the funding urgently. I just really value the service I received which was ultimately the deciding factor for me. I never felt as though I was just an application; each interaction felt personal and I felt took my unique business needs into consideration. It made me feel really good to know that the time was taken to do the relevant credit assessments and that ultimately, Lulalend had faith in me and my business; enough to give me R500 000. That made me feel really good, and like I was more than just a business transaction.
What did you need the funding for?
It’s Black Friday and festive season coming up and so I wanted to be able to make bulk stock purchases in order to get better prices for my customers. It was about being able to meet the seasonal demand, but to also make sure that we are delivering on the absolute best prices we can for our customers. I needed funding to be able to do that, and I believe it will have a huge impact on sales and the relationships with our customers over the next few months.
What advice do you have to give to other small businesses?
You don’t pay salaries; your customer pays salaries. Customers have so much choice as to where they spend their money, make their experience worth it.
Pay close attention to your overheads. Take the time to find the right pricing on things like premises rentals. And have clear sight of what all of your expenses will be. Often you don’t think to factor things like SARS, health and safety inspections or insurance when you first start out. Those are the things that really add up and over a few months could make your current business model unsustainable if you aren’t careful.
Be on the ball and watch your pennies. Stay involved in your business and your finances so that you can quickly pick up if something doesn’t look right.