‘Start lean’ – Dean Hummel

Updated on 18 December 2014

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'Start lean' - Dean HummelCompany Profile
Name of company: Zavi Traders
Years in existence: 1 year 7 months
Position: Founder

Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?

I completed my high schooling at St. Albans College in 2006, after which I completed a Town and Regional Planning degree at The University of Pretoria. During my studies I did an internship at a town planning company, however through this experience, I realised I would be more effective in a more creative environment. I decided to study further and completed my Marketing Management Honours at The University of Pretoria this year.

Photography has been a keen interest of mine for a few years now and so, while I was studying marketing I started Zavi Traders.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do? 

At Zavi we sell photographic gifts and accessories such as camera bags and straps, which are of high quality as well as fashionable. My love for photography inspired me to start my company. My personal photography philosophy is; “one should explore one’s inner photography passion (skills and talent) while at the same time exploring and experiencing the world and all its beauty”.

How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?

My entrepreneurship journey began when I was 11 years old, selling Valentines Day chocolates door-to-door in a little town called Musina. Through the years I have constantly been fascinated by the concept of making a product and selling it for a profit.

I measure my success in the knowledge and experience I have gained through my entrepreneurship adventures. Zavi won 2nd place for the Recognition Award at The Photo and Film expo in 2013. My team and I pride ourselves on our extremely high level of customer service and delivering on the promises we make online and offline.

What were some of the obstacles you faced starting out, and how did you overcome them?

Starting out as a small business and as a newbie entrepreneur the biggest challenge was a lack of experience, from business registration and startup processes to fine-tuning the business and marketing strategy. The e-commerce arena was also an unfamiliar territory for me, understanding supplier relationships, inbound and outbound logistics, and the importance of gaining a customer trust online were some of the biggest challenges.

“A mentor who knows the ropes can guide
you from startup and beyond”

Overcoming these meant searching for knowledge anywhere and everywhere, including conferences and searching online for resources. I could say I was and still am determined to make my Zavi company successful and am still learning and know everyone can teach me something.

How many people does your company employ? 

Currently there are two people.The nature of online retail allows one to be flexible.

What is your overall vision for your business? 

I envision Zavi as a market-leading brand, loved by all South Africans and a brand with global awareness.

What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?

Assuming the initial Problem-Solution-Product-Market fit is determined, experience within the industry in which an entrepreneur wants to enter is invaluable. This will avoid many costly mistakes, but not all of them. I cannot compare starting a business in South Africa with another country but I would encourage other aspiring entrepreneurs to get stuck in to each task and be prepared to face many challenges. The sooner one learns the processes the sooner the business will begin to flourish.

“A solid business idea with proof of profitability is always
attractive to investors”

Having a business advisor can be invaluable; a mentor who knows the ropes can guide you from startup and beyond. The nature of business requires constant learning and evolving and of course a thick skin will help! The secret ingredient is NEVER GIVING UP!

How did you finance your business, and how difficult or easy was the process?

 
I financed my business with my savings. This was daunting, but the safer route for me. I have been told that there isn’t necessarily a lack of finance and investors. A solid business idea with proof of profitability is always attractive to investors.

What are the three things you attribute your business success to? 

1. Never ever giving up despite all the challenges
2. Support, for me this came from my family
3. Taking risks

When did you know that you were an entrepreneur? 

When I was 11 years old and walked the streets relentlessly, weekend after weekend selling Valentines Day chocolates.

How would you describe your leadership style?  

I like to get involved in all aspects of my business and provide support and inspiration where I can. Having the right people is also very important.

What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath; The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

​What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?

1.    Start Lean and make use of the resources at your disposal.
2.    Know your customers and their needs.
3.    Great service is not a differentiator, it’s a necessity.

What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?

I honestly don’t remember the worst, I question everything and if I felt like advice was inaccurate I wouldn’t ponder on it.
The best advice I received went something like this; start small, find your niche and excel in it, grow with the resources at your disposal and keep trying.

And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both? 

I attribute the opportunities I have received to God and from my side to constantly pushing to give my best and just not accepting failure. I believe that you make your own luck, hard work and tenacity will open doors.

I would like to end with this thought: Do you remember the guy who gave up? Neither does anyone else.

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