Office interior entrepreneur sells creativity and imagination

The saying – ‘If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! – is definitely true for 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® entrant, Gary da Silva, who has embarked on three entrepreneurial ventures over the past 20 years, and is testament that persistence pays off. As a result of his entrepreneurial endeavours Gary truly believes that mistakes made along the way can only aid future development and growth.

Gary started his entrepreneurial career in 1995 when he started a company which built solid wood log cabins. In his second attempt at entrepreneurship, Gary entered into a partnership with a friend in 2007 to form a second hand office furniture business, but due to the recession in 2009 the business experienced a dip in annual turnover, and it was mutually agreed that the partners go their separate ways.

With only a laptop and a cell phone in hand, Gary then started IYC Commercial Interiors, an office and restaurant furniture supplier, in April 2009 when the South African economy was at the height of the global downturn.

When asked about some of the entrepreneurial challenges he has faced, Gary says that consistent turnover has been one of his biggest obstacles. “We traditionally only have nine full months of the year to trade, and during the remaining three months we only trade at a limited capacity, if at all due to holiday periods. Without a consistent income throughout the year, it has been difficult to counteract swings in the market.”

To overcome one of an entrepreneur’s biggest hurdles, cash flow management, as well develop his business further, he implemented various organisational changes in his business two years ago.

“I began attending as many part time management courses as possible to broaden my business knowledge, as well found two successful individuals from similar industries to act as mentors to myself and the business.

“I also hired a driver in August 2014 as I was spending six to eight hours on the road each day, and less time managing my business. An office manager was also hired to free up my time and allow me to work on sales and develop my business further. This in turn has enabled me to broaden my service offering, and develop my business further,” says Gary.

To counter the slow periods of the year and to provide additional income, Gary decided to start a home furniture company after much due diligence and market research, which will go live in May 2015. “As most consumers make their home furniture purchases in December, when they go on holiday, this will counteract the slow periods that we experience in the office and restaurant furniture business.”

An improved marketing strategy was also implemented to drive sales. “An e-commerce platform, which is supported by a Customer Management System Google AdWords to drive traffic, has been implemented along with various social media platforms, which will drive sales during quieter months.”

As a result of his years of experience, Gary has noted that entrepreneurs need to be kind to themselves and offers the following advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Set a working week and working hours, as working an 18 to 20 work day means that you are not managing your time properly, and certainly not being productive.”

He adds that it is also very important to take holidays. “Take at least four long weekends per year and one long holiday, and leave your cell phone and laptop behind. If your staff cannot manage the business for a few days, they haven’t been trained effectively, or they haven’t been empowered enough.

“Most importantly believe in yourself, and stay calm under pressure. As an entrepreneur, you are already a super hero – you don’t need to prove it.”