- Jack Goliath and Elton Jefthas started a nursery business in Jeptha’s backyard back in 2001. The business was seen as an opportunity to apply the skills they used in their work to supplement their income.
- The business has become very successful, growing to host over 600,000 plants with further expansion into a 22 hectares facility. They have are diversifying to also produce indigenous pot plants, fruit trees and other ornaments for the local horticultural and agricultural industry
- Lessons for business they bring forward include – Finding your market first, start small as you keep planning, invest in staff, go the extra mile for clients and be passionate but profit driven.
What started out as a part-time activity growing fynbos for extra cash in a South African back yard has become a thriving business for Jacky Goliath and Elton Jefthas. The venture (De Fynne Nursery) started in 2001 in Jeftah’s home backyard with only 1,000 units of 3 plant types (Coleonema, Phylica and Cyclopia species), the focus was on Fynbos and indigenous plants in pots and nursery bags to serve the then current market.
As demand grew for more indigenous and water-wise plants, the nursery moved in 2005 to a rented site of 0.5-hectare land in Kylemore. With an increased demand for indigenous plants, 2 tunnels, 2 employees and about 20,000 plants to maintain, the water source became too limited and a bigger site was needed for the business to grow. Market demand grew fast and steadily which meant that they moved again in 2008 had to a 1.5-hectare area outside Cape Town where they hosted 600,000 plants! Today, the success of the nursery is evident by the variety of clients the company serves – these include retailers such as Woolworths, Massmart and Spar in South Africa, wholesalers, research institutions, commercial farms, wine estates and landscapers. They have since moved to a 22-hectare area as opportunities continue to come knocking.
De Fynne’s growth has not gone unrecognized as they are widely featured across several media. In 2011, Goliath received the title of Female Entrepreneur by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa. In 2012, she received the award for African Agribusiness Entrepreneur by Markets Matter Inc. and she was the Western Cape and national winner of the Agricultural Writers of South Africa’s New Entrant to Commercial Farming award. In featured in interviews, they bring forward key strategies they have put to work in their business:
Find your market first: The value of doing a good market research comes ringing again. This can have advantages for people starting out in a familiar industry. It all depends on what you are going to sell. “We started with fynbos because we saw that it was where the market and opening was” – Jacky Goliath
Start small – start with what you have and keep planning: When the duo started De Fynn, they were reported to still work part-time at ASNAPP in order to earn a living. They eventually left when De Fynne’s business started to blossom and required full attention. “With the fynbos, because it is a product that grows very slowly, it takes us about a year and a half to make a final product, now you can imagine what influence it has on cash flow – Jacky Goliath”
Invest in your staff: Believe in your staff – that is very important, give them a sense of responsibility towards the business. Goliath and Jefthas have sent their staff on skills development and leadership courses. “So we have started to build the capacity of our staff and if you do that you are actually building the capacity of your business.”
Go the extra mile for clients: Goliath remembered how a bad fertilizer destroyed the plants they had been contracted to grow for a big client. In situations like this, they could refund the deposit and apologize to the clients, but the best option would be to buy the plants from another company. Why? Because they told the client they would have the order ready for them. “It’s your loss, but still you show your client that you will go that extra mile for them.”
Be passionate, but profit-driven: Like most entrepreneurs, they have cited ‘passion’ as being an important driver for business success. However, Jacky stressed that one also should have a focus on making profits.
What are Fynbos?
- Fynbos (meaning fine-leaved plants) is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape of South Africa.
- The most conspicuous components of the flora are evergreen sclerophyllous plants (a type of vegetation that has hard leaves), many with ericoid leaves and gracile habit, as opposed to timber forest.
- There are 9,000 species of fynbos in the Western Cape of which 6,200 is endemic, i.e. growing nowhere else in the world.
- Some of these are of economic importance, grown and harvested in large quantities and providing important exports.