Traditionally, when building a business, the product will come before the brand. In the case of entrepreneur, Miles Kubheka, things happened a little differently. He started with a winning brand and built a business around it.
The brand was Vuyo’s – made famous by a popular television advert by Hansa Pilsener. The ad is based on the success story of a fictional character, Vuyo, who opens his own restaurant to the delight of all those who know him.
Kubheka’s Vuyo’s Restaurant, launched in 2012, offers traditional South African dishes like pap and braai meat, gourmet boerewors rolls, bunny chow and vetkoek.
In 2016 Kubheka released his book ‘Vuyo’s – From Big Big Dreamer to Living the Dream.’ In it he shares the fantastical story of bringing the Vuyo’s brand to life, his journey as a serial entrepreneur and lows that came with the incredible highs.
Be inspired by both the man and the story. Here are our favourite lessons from the book.
1. SHORTCUTS CAN BE COSTLY
A trademark dispute taught Kubheka the importance of intellectual property rights. In the book he details how he learnt that trade marking the name Vuyo’s online didn’t necessarily mean that it now belonged to him.
However, the challenge didn’t come from SAB as he had expected, but rather another entrepreneur who claimed he had the rights to the Vuyo’s name.
While the matter was eventually settled in court, it cost Kubheka thousands of Rands that he says he could have invested in the business.
His advice for other entrepreneurs is to get legal help rather than opting for the DIY route, which can end up costing you more. “In business it is better to do the hard things upfront and do them right,” writes Kubheka.
Lesson: Understand intellectual property rights and how they work.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Before relocating to the popular Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Vuyo’s was located in Braamfontein, near the University of Witwatersrand. Assuming that he would have access to the large student market going to and from the university, Kubheka prematurely made the decision to set up shop in the area.
What he didn’t anticipate, he writes, is that students wouldn’t enter the restaurant because it looked like it was expensive and that “students drink their money, they don’t eat it,” he writes.
Lesson: Do your research before committing to a location.
3. GO THE EXTRA MILE
Despite the popularity of the brand and what seemed to be a successful launch, Vuyo’s still struggled to attract customers in the first few days. While wandering in his empty restaurant, Kubheka decided he would generate some buzz about the restaurant. He wrote an article about Vuyo’s and sent it to a journalist at the national newspaper, The Sunday Times.
A few days later Vuyo’s, which had only been operating for three days, made it onto the front page of the newspaper. “What I did by writing the article was that I made it easy for a good news story to be found,” writes Kubheka.
Lesson: Be your own PR agent.
4. BE A GOOD COMMUNICATOR
Kubheka says while entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have to address crowds, they will still have to be good communicators, whether it’s with their customers, investors or other entrepreneurs.
Kubheka himself discovered his talent for speaking and is now a professional public speaker.
“As an entrepreneur every single time you open your mouth, you are presenting yourself, your brand, your company, your ideas, your vision,” writes Kubheka.
Lesson: Practice being articulate and well spoken.
“As I have often said, in life it is better to ask for forgiveness that to ask for permission”
5. BE PROACTIVE
Some people may be aware that Kubheka is sponsored by sports brand Puma, but many don’t know that he didn’t approach them, they approached him.
To attract the attention of the sports brand, Kubheka made sure he personified the brand. He bought and religiously wore their hoodies and sneakers in red, the colour that represents his brand, and even printed his logo on them.
It wasn’t long before they approached him with an offer for sponsorship. The lesson he learnt, he writes, is you sometimes have to take chances even if you don’t know how they will work out.
“As I have often said, in life it is better to ask for forgiveness that to ask for permission,” says Kubheka.
Lesson: Take the first step, you never know what the rewards may be.
WIN: SME South Africa is giving away 5 copies of the Miles Kubheka book ‘Vuyo’s – From A Big Big Dreamer to Living The Dream’.
UPDATE: The competition has been extended to 21 April 2017.