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Ecommerce

4 Ways to Fast-Track Your Start-Up Success

Greg Tinkler shares his lessons in launching and scaling a new product-based business in a short time frame.
4 Ways to Fast-Track Your Start-Up Success
Image credit: Devin Lester
Entrepreneur Staff
Editor-in-Chief: Entrepreneur.com South Africa
7 min read

You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Vital Stats

  • Player: Greg Tinkler
  • Company: Slender You
  • Launched: 2017
  • Visit: slenderyou.co.za

Entrepreneurship teaches you how to persevere and build businesses. This is one of the reasons why many business owners either pivot or launch second or even third businesses based on lessons they’ve learnt, contacts they’ve built up and industry and market changes they’ve observed.

Greg Tinkler launched his latest brand, Slender You, based on the principles he learnt through eight years as a business owner. Here’s what you can learn about start-ups from his experiences. 

 

BUILD ON YOUR DOMAIN EXPERIENCE

What it is: Doman Experience Is actual experience in an industry or field. While this is not essential for start-up success, it will give you key insights into the market you’re targeting, competitors and what key pain points you can solve.

In action: Greg has been in the sports supplementation industry for eight years, primarily on the marketing side. “This has given me invaluable contacts and expertise within this industry,” he says. “I understand the market, what’s available, where the gaps are and what consumers are looking for.”

While Greg understood the end-user of the industry, he needed to research emerging trends in supplements and slimming products. “Safety and transparency are important — in fact, consumers demand both.

After extensive research, we chose to base our products on vegan-friendly ingredients, not because we want to be a vegan brand, but because there are so many advantages to plant-based protein and herbal ingredients for the body and the environment, both of which our target market care about.”  

Working with some of the biggest brands in South Africa from an agency and marketing perspective has given Greg an unparalleled view of what does and doesn’t work. “I’ve experienced these things first hand. I’ve seen bootstrapped start-ups thrive and multi-million-rand campaigns fail.

“This experience played a key role in the immediate growth of our brand once we launched, because we had already developed a playbook to follow. I’m also lucky to be surrounded by professionals in every aspect of the business, from our graphic designers to our digital marketing, logistics and promotions teams.

That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. This landscape changes daily and consumers are spoilt for choice, so we need to continue innovating every day, especially on the eCommerce and social media front.”

 

HAVE A PARTNER

What it means: Most successful entrepreneurs agree — partnerships tend to be more successful than entrepreneurs who launch and run businesses alone. The reasons? First, no entrepreneur has all the skills necessary to make a business successful.

You either hire the right skills or partner with someone whose skills complement your own or fill your gaps. Second, you share the risk and have someone to discuss ideas and strategies with.

In action: Greg has expertise in marketing and vast domain experience in the sports and supplements industry but doesn’t have product manufacturing experience, so he partnered with someone who does.

“My business partner, Jaco Serfontein, is the owner of South Africa’s top manufacturing facility, which means we can do everything in-house, from the physical product to packaging and labels. In addition to the cost benefits, we have tighter control over quality and innovation.” 

 

GO-TO-MARKET STRATEGY

 

What it is: A go-to-market strategy is an action plan that specifies how a company will reach target customers and achieve competitive advantage.

In action: To achieve competitive advantage, you need to understand your target market. From there, you can develop a solution that meets their needs — and that they will pay for.

In Greg’s case, experience had taught him that the average corporate employee, working mom or entrepreneur doesn’t have the time to prep six healthy meals a day or go to gym five times a week — and yet they still want to be slim and healthy. 

“Based on this and people’s willingness to spend money on diets and weight-loss supplements, we developed a range of healthy, 100% natural weight-loss and weight-control supplements and meal solutions. Our core principle is convenience. Taste is also a factor in the development of our products.”

From there, you need to reach your target market. “Our aim is to become the ‘go to’ resource in South Africa for a healthy lifestyle, weight loss, exercise, diet and recipes. To do that, you need to provide your followers with excellent content, not just products or product-pushes.

We have combined influencer marketing, paid media advertising and content creation to build a database and follower base of authentic customers and leads. Telling people what you do and what your products are isn’t enough. You need to become an expert that offers valuable advice, over and above your products.”

 

BLEND DIGITAL WITH PHYSICAL STORES

What it is: Products can be sold through physical stores or online, or both. 
In action: “From day one, our focus has been on becoming an eCommerce-first brand.  I believe the future of retail shopping is online and all brands should have a strong eCommerce presence.

“In South Africa, eCommerce is still growing trust among consumers. So, it was essential for us to gain listings in physical stores to become profitable, scale and get our products into consumer hands. Shoprite, Wellness Warehouse and Dis-Chem stock our products.

“On the other hand, unless you have investment capital, keep lean. With eCommerce you can be up and running within a few hours and making sales for a small cost of entry.” 

 

TOP ADVICE

 

1. START WITH A GOOD PRODUCT

Experience, expertise or budget will not make a bad product tick and scale. Run a few tests, chat to people about the brand, do some surveys. Find out if there is interest in your product, does it solve a problem and see if people like or need it.

 

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Make sure you’ve done your research, figured out who your exact target market is and what currently holds their attention. We found that our target market (women aged 25 to 40) were spending most of their time on Facebook and Instagram, but also searching Pinterest and google for recipes, workouts and advice. 

 

3. KEEP UPSKILLING YOURSELF

I built the first Slender You Shopify store myself by watching tutorials online. I was up and running and making money in a week, without outsourcing the site’s development.

The Internet has everything you need: You can learn about Facebook and Instagram ads, how Google Adwords work and how to tap into influencer marketing strategies just be googling them. Learning these skills will help you enormously and save you a ton of cash. You can also listen to blogs like the Shopify Blog for eCommerce tips.

 

4. BUILD FOR ECOMMERCE

Retail is a beast. Build a strong online brand, create loyal customers and physical stores will follow because you can prove you’ve already got a captive market.  If you approach stores first, you have to accept their trade terms. If you create a demand before going to stores, you have more room to negotiate.

 

5. THE STRUGGLE IS GUARANTEED, SUCCESS IS NOT

Don’t give up. It took me nine months of weekly meetings, calls and back and forth communications to get Slender You listed in Shoprite. It’s not easy starting your own brand. My philosophy is simple: If you spend most of your day and life working, you might as well be working on something that you enjoy and that makes you want to wake up each morning.
 

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