Looking at business success amid a drought

The Western Cape has over the recent past been hard hit by the severe drought in the region which has had direct, severe consequences on local businesses. Strict level 4B water restrictions have been implemented area-wide, and residents and businesses alike have been forced to curb water usage to 87 litres per person, per day. For many local businesses, this has demanded an immediate adaptation to regular operations.

Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, says that although the situation in the Cape is concerning for both consumers and businesses, entrepreneurs are renowned to use their resilient nature and adapt in order to survive setbacks such as these. 

To illustrate this, some of 2016’s competition finalists and winners shared their advice for fellow entrepreneurs on how to survive and grow a business during drought-stricken times:

“Although the drought certainly had a big effect on our local sales in the Western Cape, we were able to counter this through our export and Gauteng markets,” says Carl Pretorius, managing director of Just Trees, a wholesale tree nursery, and 2016 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®. “Due to this leaner period however, we were forced to adapt our regular staff working hours to shorter work-weeks (four days instead of five) to allow all staff members to remain employed and ensure no retrenchments were necessary,” he adds.

Gali Gaon Segall, Director of Yemaya Group and 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist, says that her business has been fortunate to not be too badly affected by increased water restrictions. She does however recognise the importance of communicating the business’ efforts to save and conserve water: “Even though we have reduced our water consumption by replacing water-reliant treatments with others that are more water-sensitive, it is important that our clients and customers are visibly made aware of this – and we have found that in so-doing, our clients have remained loyal and happy to support our business,” says Segall. “In our spa’s and hair salons, we have trained staff to be conscious of their consumption – and because of all these efforts, our financial bottom line has not suffered.”

Also recognising the importance of positively contributing to the conservation of the previous resource, Nerina Smith, owner of Smithland Guest Apartments and 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist, says that her business took the decision to implement as many recycling initiatives as possible in order to mitigate their impact on the City’s water supply. “We installed a few water tanks to catch rain water, as well as grey water from our washing machines. We have used this recycling system to water our gardens, as well as for washing and cleaning wherever possible” says Smith.

She explains that from their successful rain-water harvesting and recycling process, the business was also able to assist a car wash business in the neighbourhood, who had been issued with notice to close the business if they could not find the means to use recycled water. Smithland Guest Apartments now donates its excess recycled water to this business – and has therefore prevented four community members from losing their stable income.

Engelbrecht says that as the drought in the Western Cape is still without an end in sight, it is imperative for all businesses, no matter the size, to band together in order to innovate ways to minimise the impact that these harsh conditions can have on a business.

“It is more than possible for small and medium sized businesses to survive and thrive, even under such strained trading and operating conditions – all it takes is a little perseverance and creative thinking,” concludes Engelbrecht.

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