- Entrepreneur: Albé Geldenhuys
- Designation: Founder of USN
- Visit: usn.co.za
Like any truly successful entrepreneur, Albé Geldenhuys is a consummate salesman, and he understood from the get go that businesses need to be trading. “At first, I wasn’t even thinking about launching a product line, or even a business. I just wanted to be selling product and making a small profit.”
He had spotted a gap in the sports supplement market for good quality but affordable products. He researched formulations in magazines and through supplement reviews. “At the time Creatine was a big deal, so I bought barrels of it from Crest Chemicals, bought bottles, mixed my formulations in a hand-cranked Sputnik washing machine and bottled it,” he says. And then he started selling to everyone: Friends, people he’d met at the Hatfield gym, and most importantly Blue Bulls rugby players who also worked out at the gym. “I targeted anyone. I had no strategy beyond just sell, sell, sell,” Albe recalls.
The ‘non’ strategy worked though, because soon supplement shops started contacting Albé directly, particularly the in-house Health & Racquet shops. Word spread: If you wanted to buy good quality sports supplements at an affordable price, Albé was your guy.
As a start-up, USN was a money-in, money-out business. “I could only buy raw materials as and when I had the cash. Everything we made went back into product. We kept our overheads incredibly lean, and just focused on growing sales, and having enough product to meet demand.
“Making sales always goes back to the same key question: What do your consumers really need from you? At first, the answer to that question was a good product at an affordable price. We experienced rapid growth based on simply meeting a need in the market. But we wanted to be bigger, and that meant expanding our market. So, I needed to ask the question again.
“Now what do our consumers need from us? The answer was simple. They needed to understand how to use our products. The demand was there, but most people weren’t actually sure how to use sports supplements properly. That was our in. We started educating the market, adding meal plans to our packaging, and focusing on telling people how to use what, and what the results would be if our various products were used correctly.”
Based on this strategy, USN secured contracts with Dis-Chem and Springbok Pharmacies, slowly building the brand into the billion-rand powerhouse it is today, 18 years later.