Where would the Richard Bransons and Steve Jobses of the world be had they not decided to take the leap and chase the opportunities they discovered?
Miles Kubheka, founder of Vuyo’s, recently released a book that tells the story of how he spotted an amazing idea in a TV advert, and turned it into a real business. We chatted to Miles about what it takes to see an opportunity and actually turn it into something successful.
What does a good opportunity look like?
Everyone’s idea of an opportunity worth pursuing will look different, depending on who you are and what your interests are. Miles saw his in a TV advert. ‘Hansa Pilsner had an ad about a fictional character called Vuyo who was
“such a big, big dreamer”,’ he explains.‘Vuyo’s business started with him selling boerewors rolls and then grew into
restaurants, and later on, multinational fame and success.’
What Miles found interesting was that Vuyo’s seemed to take centre stage, and the brand that was actually being
advertised only appeared in the last 15 seconds of the advert. ‘I kept wondering whether Vuyo’s was a real business,
so I researched the ad and eventually discovered it was all fictional,’ he says. ‘That’s when I realised I could use
a gap in the market to develop an exciting business model, and turn the fictional Vuyo’s big dream into my own
Food for thought
‘People spot opportunities all the time. The difficult part is converting your idea into a plan, and executing that plan,’ says Miles. ‘The difference between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs is that successful entrepreneurs don’t waste time just thinking about their ideas. They make plans and start working on them quickly, so they achieve results.’
It’s important to act quickly
While it’s important to move swiftly once you’ve decided to chase an opportunity, it’s even more important to act carefully and cleverly. Miles shares some pointers based on his own experiences:
Do your research and know your goals:
‘When I thought there might be a chance for me to turn Vuyo’s into a real business, I didn’t just jump in,’ says Miles. ‘I spent months researching the ad and making sure that this was a real entrepreneurial option before deciding to go for it.’
It’s important to look at your current situation and decide what you want to achieve: do you want to make more money, have more flexible work hours, be able to work from home, or do you want to be your own boss and not have to report to anyone else? Knowing what you really want at the end of the day will help you assess whether pursuing the opportunity you’ve discovered will bring you closer to your ultimate goal.
Don’t rush into it
Miles is a firm believer in the notion that while there’s never a perfect time to start your own business, every day is the perfect time to take advantage. However, he strongly advises against snap decisions like quitting your current job to pursue a venture that you aren’t yet prepared for, financially or otherwise.
‘There’s nothing wrong with keeping your “day job” while you’re working on your own business,’ he explains. ‘I’d been working at Microsoft for seven years when I decided to make Vuyo’s a reality. I had a son to support and I knew I’d need capital to make my dream a reality, so I couldn’t just give up my day job and jump straight into Vuyo’s. I worked on my business plan in my personal time and made sure I was saving enough to get the business going.’
Get your finances organised
The old saying about how it takes money to make money is true. If you’re considering starting your own business, you’ll need capital to get it off the ground. ‘This means financially investing in your own idea,’ says Miles. ‘Generally, you’d get your start-up going in one of two ways: you’d either invest a large amount of money in small instalments over an extended period of time, which would result in burning through your capital slowly and taking a bit longer to get your business off the ground. Or you’d invest a large amount of money in one or two large instalments immediately, which would result in burning through your capital quickly but get your business off the ground faster.’
You need to assess your idea and your finances, and decide which of the two options will work best for your specific business. ‘Keep in mind that businesses generally take about three years to stabilise, so it’s best practice to make sure you have enough capital to see your business through three years as a start-up,’ advises Miles.
What if it doesn’t work out?
‘When successful business owners who have already made it big write books or do TED Talks, they always have a way of making it sound like they knew from the start of their journey that everything was going to work out. But that’s just not true,’ says Miles. ‘Nobody knows for sure that their business will be a huge success from the start, so
it’s almost unfair that so many first time business owners expect to live up to that unrealistic standard.
I decided to write a book on my own experiences to date, because I’m still at the beginning of my journey, and
I’m also still learning.’ Miles has also faced setbacks during his journey, and he learned an important lesson on the meaning of the phrase ‘location, location, location’. ‘We opened our first Vuyo’s restaurant in Braamfontein thinking that the trendy location would bring in plenty of students who would become regular customers. But we found that our
vibe didn’t really resonate with this client base and our trading hours didn’t cater to their needs. When our lease was up, we decided to close the restaurant and go back to the drawing board. We later reopened on Soweto’s buzzing Vilakazi Street, and extended our trading hours, and business is better than ever!’ The biggest lesson Miles took
away from having to close his first branch of Vuyo’s is that dwelling on your failures and setbacks won’t get
you anywhere. ‘You need to convert that disappointment into positive energy spent on working out a solution to the problem,’ he says.
Vuyo’s by Miles Kubheka (Tracey McDonald), R150, is available at leading bookshops.
What about Plan B?
Miles advises against starting your business with a Plan B already in mind. ‘Never let yourself start out with the
thought that you might fail lingering in the back of your mind,’ he says. ‘If you let your focus drift from your main
idea to your Plan B, then you’re almost guaranteed you’re going to have to use that back-up plan! Give your
main vision all the attention and hard work it deserves, and then, even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be proud to
know you gave it your best and never held back.’
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