- Entrepreneurs: Andrew Smith and Shane Dryden
- Designation: Co-founders, Yuppiechef
Yuppiechef was not the first eCommerce site that Andrew Smith and Shane Dryden started. At the time, they were doing marketing and development for clients, and they saw online retail as a way of putting their skills to use on something that they could fully own.
“We started small,” says Andrew. “We sold bug zapping tennis rackets, country flags and rat traps. Kitchen tools was our ‘next big idea’, although to be honest, none of them were really intended to be big ideas — we just wanted to make enough money to stop selling our time by the hour to other clients.”
The co-founders had zero start-up capital, so they did all the technical work of setting up the site themselves, and only bought stock after a customer bought from them. “This worked, but very slowly. We only made 11 sales in the first four months, and ten of them were to friends and family.”
The reality is that most businesses are bootstrapped, and they take a lot longer to build momentum and pay the bills than you’d expect. “It was five years before Yuppiechef could support our families, and in all that time we still did work for other clients. Our advice would be to spend as little as possible on the launch, and rather make sure that you give yourself as much runway as possible to keep going much longer than you initially estimate,” says Andrew.
“We kept thinking there would be a silver bullet that would catapult us into the next level — an article in a newspaper, or a new range of products, or a clever marketing technology. The reality is that nothing individually made a big impact, but collectively it must have all worked, because every year there was steady growth. It takes patience to see your vision through and achieve organic growth.”
Andrew and Shane knew that customer loyalty towards their brand would achieve organic growth, which was why they focused on adding a special touch to each order from Yuppiechef’s inception.
“We worked from my lounge and answered every phone call, packed every box and added handwritten notes to every customer who bought from us. This didn’t cost anything, except our time, which feels very free when you’re trying to get a business off the ground.”
The patience, slow and steady growth and special touches paid off. Yuppiechef has cornered a growing market that is focused on South Africa’s food and cooking culture.
“We kept thinking there would be a silver bullet that would catapult us into the next level… The reality is that nothing individually made a big impact, but collectively it must have all worked, because every year there was steady growth.”
Since its inception, Yuppiechef has been all about the personal touch — a simple but powerful differentiator while the business was being bootstrapped.