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 Three Piketberg women entrepreneurs cook up a storm with FruitLips

2016-11-02 00:00
by MediaVision on behalf of USB-ED

From left to right: Louise Josephs, Merecia Diettrich, Marno Muller, Liebré Eigelaar, Lizette Monk, Jacques van Wyk (at the back), Geruldia Jantjies, Riani Goliath, Willem Booysen, Shana van Wyk, Carlo Mentoor, Lucille Hanekom, Nicole Kayster and Deidré Eigelaar.

Just be patient. Don’t expect things to go without a hitch from the very first day of your new business enterprise. Expect some bad times – a mixture of bitter and sweet. Success in the business world takes time and, without a sound foundation, an enterprise can easily flounder. 

You cannot simply start at the top; you must first discover what it feels like to ‘wash the floor’. This will later stand you in good stead in understanding and overcoming setbacks. 
If something goes wrong, stay positive. Your employees look at you for leadership and they expect that you will do the right thing.

Most important, however, is that you should believe in what you’re doing, and you should believe in your product.

This is how Liebré Eigelaar, the founder and motivator of the fruit preserve (jam) enterprise FruitLips in Piketberg, sees the establishment of her new undertaking. “I have learnt many lessons and it is only now after three years that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My mother always says that if you don’t learn from lessons, Jesus will send the lessons over and over again till you learn from them.”

Liebré’s mother, Deidré, is also involved with FruitLips, as investor and mentor, and she handles the finances, having gained years of experience with money matters on a farm. Another partner is Elouise Josephs, who has special knowledge about jam making and is someone who literally cannot be taught anything more about jam. Esther Swanepoel, a former dietician in Piketberg, was originally also part of the FruitLips team, but has since moved away and is no longer part of the enterprise.

These two women, with Liebré who handles the marketing and is the face of FruitLips, now manage the business. They along with 10 employees produce about 10 000 bottles of jam, which are delivered to a well-known supermarket group on a monthly basis.

During its first year, FruitLips delivered approximately 100 000 bottles to the big chain stores and in the second year approximately 110 000. The enterprise now aims to deliver about 120 000 bottles in its third year. Fruitlips achieved a growth of 28% in its first year, and in its second year, 35%.

The jam is delivered in various ranges, with Woolworths taking about 50% of production. “Customers don’t always realise that they are buying our product because it appears on the shelf under the retailers’ own branding.”

Besides sales to three retail groups, FruitLips products are available under own branding at specific specialist food shops in all the provinces of the country.

“Our range consists of niche products that are authentic and natural, without any artificial colourants or additives. Our products are like the jams that grandma made in the kitchen. It is all made and bottled by hand – artisanally handmade, from the bosom of Mother Nature.”

The Piketberg enterprise, FruitLips, is now slowly but surely attracting attention. Liebré was one of the top three, out of 20 finalists, in the Fairlady magazine’s Fairlady Women of the Future 2016 Competition​, which focused on new enterprises and their management and marketing.

While everything actually began with the Gap-year Programme in Entrepreneurship and Management presented by USB Executive Development (USB-ED) at Stellenbosch, Liebré had previously studied to be a chef for three years at the Aleit Academy in Stellenbosch and had been involved with the planning of functions and weddings.

In her third year she worked on a farm in Gauteng and it is there that she met her Dutch husband Martijn Jacobs, a qualified food technologist from HAS University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, who now does the cost accounting for FruitLips.

“Being a chef did not actually suit me; I wanted to go back to the farm. Although I had a good network of connections in the food industry, my business knowledge was lacking. I did not know how to think like an entrepreneur, how to draw up a business plan, or how to negotiate with a bank for financing. But I was keen to start something.

“My mother had established contact with the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), as she still wanted to do a master’s degree in Futures Studies. This is how I came to meet DeWet Schoeman and Doris Viljoen of USB-ED and decided to do the Young Minds Entrepreneurship Programme (previously the Gap-year Programme in Entrepreneurship and Management) at Stellenbosch. I wanted to write my own business plan and Doris Viljoen, especially, helped me a great deal with this.”

After Liebré was adjudged top student of the programme in 2013, she also enrolled for a project management programme at USB-ED.

On the farm Achtervlei on Piket-Bo-Berg she began with a business plan for an enterprise called Soul Food, which was intended to offer relaxation to Capetonians and tourists.

“Coincidentally a next-door farm with a fruit factory came onto the market. This was the beginning of our jam-making enterprise. This happened in February 2014. While I worked in the packing shed, I also began writing a new business plan.

“The business plan was implememented and this is where FruitLips originated. Sometimes I still get nervous, but the ‘baby’ is beautiful and has begun to walk,” says Liebré.​

This article was first published in Rapport Sake.
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