All Good Things Must Come to an End: Leaving Cape Town and O’live

January 16th, 2019

Our final few days in Cape Town were hectic. They were filled with late-night work sessions, internet cafe hopping, and COFFEE. In fact, we became known as “The Laptop Girls” in the cafes and restaurants of our neighborhood! We were busy putting all of our research into a cohesive presentation and report for Sipho and Zikhona. Since our growth strategies for O’live explored 3 different and equally complicated paths– retail and e-commerce expansion, contract/private label products for businesses, and acquiring a competitor, it was sometimes difficult to consolidate our information into a concise report. Especially because we had the privilege of speaking with industry professionals, target consumers, and O’live competitors, gaining more and more relevant information. The first iteration of our presentation was well over an hour!

Chad explaining something to Jamila. Probably related to peas and why he thinks they are the ultimate food.

With the help of our incredible team leaders, we were able to pinpoint what information would be especially relevant for O’live. We learned how to develop a report for a business, rather than a class. Our presentation included “how-to’s” for cutting costs, strategic social media use, Search Engine Optimization, inventory management, and other processes relevant to our growth strategies. We chose to not only present research and recommendations, but provide The Tefus with tools to enact the recommendations themselves, if they choose to do so. For example, Jamila set them up with a Google Sheets inventory document that will help them keep track of supplies and order on time. Niagara not only created financial reports, but gave them the information to manage and predict their production levels. Similarly, Ayan reported on O’live’s web analytics and showcased SEO tools that they can easily integrate to monitor and increase traffic for e-commerce.

Niagara going over finances with Sipho. She was our incredible finance queen!

The Tefus were pleased with the presentation, telling us that we verified all of their ideas and plans, giving them the confidence to take risks to grow. After the presentation, we all celebrated together. Sipho ate his first taco and Chad ate his first bunny chow (which does not actually contain bunnies). It was a great time! Sipho and Zikhona are truly hilarious and accommodated all of our questions, telling us more about them, their family, and their country. 

The two that made this all possible! (Also, that is what bunny chow looks like– it’s a curry in a bread bowl).

Working with The Tefus taught us a lot about drive, passion, and creativity. They are extremely well-versed businesspeople that stick to their morals, ensuring that their products are made with real ingredients from farms that they know and trust. This dedication is extremely difficult to find, even in the “all natural” market. They are aspirational, and it was a joy for us to join their business for 10 short days. While our stay in Cape Town may be over, our work and relationship with O’live will continue. Next week we will be sending an Investors Pitch to The Tefus that they can hand over to potential business partners or financiers. Then, the Case Study process begins!

The dream team.
A final picture with the brainstorm-mirror before we had to take it down.
Since we were too busy to go to the beach, it was our FIRST stop after the presentation was over.

And finally, a BIG THANK YOU to O’live. You provided us with a valuable experience that will help us more than you know.

Us looking like a family portrait from 1960.

Progress Report: Halfway Through Our Cape Town Trip!

These past several days have been hectic as the team has discussed and planned the best ways for us to help O’live. After a late-night brainstorming session with Post-It Notes stuck on the mirror, we have decided to develop an investor’s report for Sipho and Zikhona to use as a quick company overview with key financials and marketing descriptions, that can be used for applying for funding or for expansion projects. We will also be developing a cost-benefit analysis for the 3 growth options they have for O’live: furthering their brand by growing their retailers, developing private label products and selling to businesses, or acquiring one of their major competitors, Rondavel. We hope that these two items will help Sipho and Zikhona strengthen their business position and choose the best strategy for growth.

While planning our project overview, we have also had the opportunity to visit several important locations to gain a better understanding of the farmland surrounding Cape Town and the production process of the natural products used in O’live Soaps. We met with Stephen Hobson from AgriFusion, a company that works with businesses in achieving their “Black Economic Empowerment” (BEE) certification. This certification is a government program aimed at helping black individuals in South Africa become more involved in the economic system since historically they have faced many structural disadvantages. This certification encourages companies to implement programs that support black employees through training. These actions then increase the company’s BEE standing, which improves their image amongst consumers while also helping society. This fascinating meeting inspired us to research the ways a BEE certification could help O’live gain access to resources they currently need. We had the opportunity to learn about the importance of branding and the essentials of developing a strong brand from a key expert in the field. 

Finally, we met one of the owners of a larger essential oil company here in Cape Town, Still Pure. This company originated in a similar fashion to O’live, yet it has grown to have its own factory and successful retail lines with several locations. This meeting gave us an idea on the direction that we could help O’live move towards. We also visited an essential oil production farm, where we saw the complex process necessary to develop the oils.

In the middle of our work, we had some time to see the beautiful city around us. We explored the farmlands of Stellenbosch and took a few moments of our days to try some of the famous wines from the area. We also have found our favorite cafes around the city which we frequent on a daily basis, including a small bistro called Salisbury’s and a fun dinner restaurant called Jamaica Me Crazy.

The last part of our time here will be focused on creating a great presentation and investor report for O’live. We are excited to see the result!

First Day in Cape Town with O’live

Our team arrived in Cape Town yesterday on January 6th, 2019. We arrived at different times meaning that some of us were able to sight-see; encountering Cape Town’s vast and beautiful mountains such as Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, touring Indonesian mosques in Boo-kaap, and visiting the farmers markets which will prove to be intricate to our research into the natural soap company we are working with. That night we joined together for dinner and discussed our varied experiences of stepping foot in Cape Town for the first time. Jet lag was already affecting us all but the excitement was clearly the overwhelming force. The plans for the next morning were to visit our partners for the project: O’live Handmade Soaps!

Prior to starting the project, the team learned about O’live from our advisor and social media, they seemed like a lovely, dedicated, and passionate family-owned company. Their background story propels them having gotten into the business of soap making in order to help cure their daughter’s eczema. When they saw the benefits of natural soap and other body products, they went full force into the business of production. We learned this and more when we were finally able to meet with them this morning. They were exactly as welcoming and passionate as we had expected from distant, third party communication. We thought the meeting would last for an hour but it lasted 3.5 hours. Not only did we hear their story but we received imperative information about their goals, challenges, and expectations from the team. We also got a tour of their headquarters and soap making processes.

The team left the meeting knowing that there was still much to tease out. We still needed to gather an understanding of what exactly we could provide the organization as a deliverable. We know it needs to be realistic but they mentioned a number of different areas where they could use assistance. After the meeting, the team sat down to debrief. We reflected on the information we gathered- because it was A LOT- and we agreed on a course of action. The next time we meet with O’live will be on Wednesday which is 2 days from now. We plan on presenting them with our ideal plan which is an analysis of two different prospective directions that they are considering for their business. This framework will also allow us to discuss the different, smaller challenges existing within the company.  

Until then, there is more field research to be done. We want to make sure that we have sufficient contextual information to support our direction, research, and therefore recommendations to the company. Tomorrow we will drive to Stellenbosh in the morning to meet with Stephen Hobson from Agriventures, then Elsenburg to meet with APFP fellows. Wednesday we meet with O’live again, then visit the Kristenbosch Botanical Garden. That night we’ll have dinner with Cape Town historian Tauriq Jenkins in Observatory. Much more unforeseen progress down the road. But we’ll leave that for future blog posts. All in between we’ll be researching, writing, and gathering footage. The team is most excited about meeting people on the ground and picking their brains. We’re excited to learn and discover more about Cape Town, South Africa, and establishing a productive working relationship with O’live. Stay tuned!