“ENGEN Pitch & Polish built my confidence levels in a way I didn’t believe it could”

Rishaf Juglall | Rocky Brands

“ENGEN Pitch & Polish built my confidence levels in a way I didn’t believe it could”

I started out studying marketing at the University of Kwa-ZuluNatal but dropped out to pursue my business dreams. One of my varsity assignments had been to understand how and why a company could own a monopoly in the market. I applied this to an everyday situation by visiting a retail store that sold certain household polishing products from Australia. The brand was over-priced, had terrible packaging, was heavily under-marketed and had a very small offering. It also had a very erratic supply and the products were constantly out of stock. I identified a gap for a 2-in-1 cleaning and polishing formula for glass-topped stoves.

Late one night, while doing online research, I discovered the US company Weiman and started a conversation with them. They’d been literally inundated with requests from South Africa but didn’t even know where we were. I put together a marketing plan for their products which they loved and they sent me a box of samples. That’s how we started.

Using my ten samples, I tried to get in the door with Game for seven months without success because they couldn’t understand how a 21-year-old could add value. After knocking on Game’s door every week for months, they finally gave me an appointment out of frustration. I had prepared a bullet-proof marketing plan and within 15 minutes they had accepted the products and the pricing. (Of course, I had portrayed an image of having 30 staff members and years of goodwill. At that point, it was just me in my bedroom with dad’s old laptop.) After this meeting, I took my first-ever flight to Johannesburg to sign the Massmart trading terms. Within one month, I was supplying Weiman products nationally.

This all started happening in 2012 when I was just a waiter and didn’t even know how to do a tax invoice. I was completely self-taught and very eager and hungry to learn from anybody who could teach me something. In 2016, I received an email about ENGEN Pitch & Polish from Nedbank, one of the sponsors, and thought I’d just go for it. The experience was a real eye opener in terms of the exposure I had meeting entrepreneurs from all around the country. It built my confidence levels in a way I didn’t believe it could. It was also nice to be on TV. I believe that learning how to sell your business and your products is extremely important and that’s what I got from the programme. Previously, I was very detached in how to sell to a potential investor. Now I know they don’t want to know how many natural oils your product has. They want to know how many staff you employ, how much is produced locally and if you’re in the green.

Having started out with just me, Rocky Brands now employ 26 staff members. We are the continental distributors of both Weiman and Wright’s, and supply a premium range of household polishes to over 400 stores in South Africa and the rest of Africa. Our clients include Game, Makro, Pick ‘n Pay, Builders Warehouse, Hirsch, Spar, Defy, the Gautrain and Virgin Active. Rocky Brands also now has its own brand called Oakmont. We brought in machines to manufacture our own innovative multipurpose cleaning and grooming silicon glove. It’s a proudly green product because it’s designed to eliminate the need for pot scouring sponges and disposable gloves. We thought we’d sell around 3 000 units in the first month but we actually sold 8 500. It’s been on the shelf for a few months now and is so innovative we’re one of the few countries in the world to have it.

I think that consistency and persistence are two of the most important characteristics an entrepreneur needs. A lot of people think you can pursue a business part time but it’s actually very full time. You need to be willing to sacrifice a lot – if not all – of your free time.

I am very grateful to the sponsors, Engen and Nedbank. I have all my banking with Nedbank and my business banker is absolutely fantastic. Thank you to Nedbank for putting up the finance for my business, and thank you to Engen for opening the door to the programme. Also, thank you to Raizcorp. Having participated in ENGEN Pitch & Polish, I am now on a Raizcorp programme. There’s a lot of work involved and what’s very important is that Raizcorp holds you accountable for the decisions you make and the actions you take.