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It’s been a year since winning the inaugural 2016 PnP Boost Your Biz competition and walking away with recognition for “The Most Innovative Product”. A roller-coaster year of learnings and lack of sleep which has finally culminated in our first orders setting off for PnP shelves today!! We therefore felt it apt to reflect on our Boost Your Biz journey captured by Pick ‘n Pay- we hope in a small way that it fans the flame within you…
BOOST YOUR BIZ PROFILE: RUSH NATURAL NUTRITION
As a busy mother of one, Lara Mare’ van Niekerk knows all too well the allure of convenience foods that are quick and easy to eat on the go. However, as many of these snack options are packed with sugar and other preservatives, they’re not the ideal option for growing minds and bodies. Desperate for a healthy alternative three years ago, Lara partnered with school friend and chef, Gavin Memper, to develop the RUSH range made with wholesome ingredients free from toxins. Gavin’s interest in sports nutrition developed when he returned from a stint working on yachts, and realised that he needed to change his lifestyle to improve his health. This dovetailed well with Lara’s approach to clean eating. The duo also wanted to offer a product that supported local suppliers and farmers. RUSH offers natural health bars tailored to support an on-the-go lifestyle in as environmentally conscious a way as possible. The range has something for athletes, people too busy to eat, pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children who need natural energy for their lively minds and bodies, and some of the novel functional ingredients include chia seeds, baobab, hemp protein powder, quinoa and spirulina.
Lara says gaining access to the retail market has been particularly challenging for the business. “The gatekeepers for us have very much been retailers. You underestimate what a great responsibility they have in driving both the economic growth of this country (by supporting local small business) and the health outcomes of its population (by guarding what is placed on shelf and ultimately on our dinner tables).” When Lara entered Pick n Pay’s Boost your Biz competition in April , she says she soon realised that the retail giant was committed to supporting small businesses using wholesome products. More than 500 businesses took part in the competition, and RUSH Natural Nutrition was one of 24 winners announced in June , walking away with the award for most ‘Innovative Product’ for their unique first to market solutions. Each of the winning businesses will have direct access to Pick n Pay’s shelves, with preferential trading and payment terms, as well as packaging development and design, guidance and on-going expert advice in all aspects of business such as financial planning, strategy, mentorship and distribution. “By giving these start-ups access to training, funding and opportunities to become part of our national supplier network, Pick n Pay is helping to develop a new generation of entrepreneurs,” says Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Pick n Pay Director: Transformation.
The finalists took part in a six-week intensive training programme, that included expert advice on financial planning, strategy, mentorship and other important aspects of supplying Pick n Pay and the retail sector in general. “We were delighted with the high standard of entrants and we’re looking forward to having their products in stores. We want to ensure we create new jobs, teach new skills and share our knowledge and experience with more small business owners,” says Ackerman-Berman. Lara says the entrants saw first-hand Pick n Pay’s commitment to the development of small business. “There was phenomenal support from Pick n Pay’s top leadership throughout (the competition),” says Lara. “I was also inspired by the number of women taking part in the competition,” she says. More than half of the 24 finalists were women- mostly mothers- and Lara feels that this speaks a great deal to the need to leave children with a world just a bit better than they found it. Lara says the group of winners has formed a close bond and remain in regular contact since the competition, offering each other advice, support and encouragement.
Her advice to businesses starting out is: “Do not create for the masses. Create for just one person. Make something amazing for just one person. Make it so special that they can’t help but tell just one other person. The rest will take care of itself” She also cautions against rash decisions, and letting one’s ego run unchecked. “Don’t be too busy making a living that you forget about actually living.” There will be the late-night emails, the struggle for compliance and the frustration associated with the red tape of starting a business, she adds. “You really have to be passionate about what you are doing.” She emphasises that because of South Africa’s high unemployment, more people need to be encouraged to live their dreams. “We need to encourage dreamers and build confidence in the fact that failure is okay and forms part of the journey. There is no such thing as an overnight success. But when you push yourself beyond your comfort zone; that is when the true magic happens.”
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