Turn a Business Idea into a Billion Rand Company

Updated on 2 March 2020

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business idea

By: Guest Thought Leader, Jalal Ghiassi-Razavi, association director at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation

One of my work colleagues recently asked me to suggest three business ideas that could potentially provide a nice opportunity for someone who wants to create a side hustle. I accepted the challenge and started to think about the best three ideas that I could share.

I had written a piece previously that shared a list of product and service based ventures that could be suitable in the South African context, but this time around I was looking to find three ideas that would take things to the next level. I was looking to tie down the “sure thing”, the “no brainer”.

To cut a long story short – I didn’t put a list together for her. Instead I tried to sell her a chicken salad. A chicken salad story. Believe it or not, but your understanding of the humble chicken salad is about to change. Forever.

Let me explain.

I spend a considerable amount of time on my daily commute and one of the ways that I keep my mind in a relatively sane state is to listen to music, talk radio or podcasts. As I was driving to work one special summers day, I thought to myself that I don’t want to listen to another podcast on the success of Uber, Airbnb or some other billion-dollar unicorn. I find those stories incredibly interesting but, on this day, they felt too blah blah blah for me.

Ideas are not the problem. Execution is

I needed something more attainable, something that anyone could achieve. As I scrolled through my podcast list, which is largely about entrepreneurship and other inspirational stories, I came across a podcast episode called “Chicken Salad Chick”. I had to do a double take.

Chicken Salad Chick? Really? Someone actually made a podcast about chicken salad that was worth putting on the internet for the world to listen to? This was enough to pique my interest. All I can say is, WOW. Chicken salad will never be the same again.

The podcast was from a show that I thoroughly enjoy called “How I built it” by Guy Raz. In this episode he was interviewing Stacy Brown, the owner of a business called Chicken Salad Chick. I’ve listened to many podcasts in my time but this one, about a chicken salad really felt close to home as it really is a story that makes sense – it shows that anyone of us can be an entrepreneurial success. I mean if a chicken salad business can employ over 1,200 people and generate over R1bn revenue every year through 150 locations then we can do anything right? A chicken salad business!

It’s better to have a poor idea with excellent execution than it is to have an excellent idea with poor or no execution

So, let’s get back to my colleague. I setup a meeting to let her know that I didn’t have any new ideas to share. She seemed disappointed. I told her that there are enough ideas out there. Ideas are not the problem. Execution is. She raised an eyebrow.

I then served up a dish of cold chicken salad (sorry I had to). I told my colleague the story about Stacy and the chicken salad and we agreed that it’s not about the idea but what the entrepreneur did in building the business.

Today, we share with you some of what she did. Let’s call it a recipe (excuse the pun). A recipe that will serve you no matter what idea you pursue. I strongly suggest you listen to the podcast, find the link here.

It’s not about the idea but what the entrepreneur did in building the business

Using the wonderful story of Stacy Brown and the Chicken Salad Chick business let’s unpack the entrepreneurial recipe that any budding entrepreneur should look to follow. We highlight eight ingredients that you should look to use in turning your ideas into reality. The key ingredients are:

  • Ingredient #1 – Stick to what you are passionate about. Chicken Salad Chick was almost fanatical about the food that she wanted to provide to patrons. She tried repeatedly to get to the outcome that she was intending. It seems like a small thing (in the bigger scheme of things) but she was truly passionate about it.
  • Ingredient #2 – Identify a need and work tirelessly to be the best at fulfilling it. Chicken Salad Chick identified a need in the market (even if it was for a very niche customer base at first) and they did their utmost to fulfill that need.
  • Ingredient #3 – Strive for excellence, repeatedly try to get the result you are looking for and don’t take shortcuts. Making a “standard” salad won’t do. Especially if you are entering a space that is already competitive to begin with. What is unique about your value proposition to customers. What makes you stand out. In the Chicken Salad Chick example it was quality ingredients and taste.
  • Ingredient #4 – Be resilient, never give up. Keep pushing through all the challenges that you will face in developing your business. You will be turned away many times. You will fail along the journey. Don’t let the failures and hardships keep you down. Get up, keep fighting and success will not be far away.
  • Ingredient #5 – Believe in yourself and your capabilities. People will tell you that you are crazy. Investors will turn you away repeatedly. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you it can’t be done. Who on earth would have thought that chicken salad would work? It did.
  • Ingredient #6 – Dream big. Don’t be afraid to dream about what you can do with your business. Not many would think about turning a small chicken salad business into a national franchise.
  • Ingredient #7 – Experiment, test and retry. The founder of Chicken Salad Chick had a true entrepreneurial mindset and was not scared to experiment and try out different recipes and cooking styles. Remember that there are many ways to solve a problem. Be agile enough to be able to try different ways of solving the problem.
  • Ingredient #8 – Build a team. Enlist the help of a business partner to support you on your journey. You can share responsibilities and tasks. This will allow you to get more done. Work with partners that compliment your skills set and experience.

SEE ALSO: Unique South African Business Ideas

In conclusion

There you have it. The key message that I’d like to share with you is that building a successful venture or side hustle is not so much about the idea. It’s not about trying to find the next big thing. It’s about what you do as an entrepreneur to develop the business idea and take it to market.

If the Chicken Salad Chick business could grow to achieve such amazing results by doing something that most people would think is a ridiculous business idea then you too can build a successful venture by pursuing your dreams. You can do it. Get out there and just start. Remember, it’s better to have a poor idea with excellent execution than it is to have an excellent idea with poor or no execution.

SEE ALSO: 10 Hot Township Business Ideas and Opportunities

About The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation: The foundation targets matric and university students. The foundation provides its fellows with funding for university, in addition to access to support and development to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.

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