How did you get into comedy?
Comedy was always something I was interested in doing. There was a comedy competition in Cape Town that I got involved in and through that I linked up with Kagiso [Lediga] and David Kau, both of whom I knew from varsity. I’d always wanted to get into show business, and comedy requires the lowest start-up capital – all you need is a microphone, a crowd and a spotlight and you’re good to go.
And now you’ve moved into food . . .
My passion for food has always been there. My friends and I have always enjoyed cooking and through my travels I’ve managed to pick up a lot recipes and tried different types of foods. The opportunity to have a food stall came through all of these food markets that have opened up around Johannesburg. I went to a food market one afternoon and I was like ‘you know what, I want to start something like this’ and [the market organisers] asked to taste samples of my food – they loved it and I started trading (Ribs, Wings and Things) in February this year.
Is this your first attempt at a business?
Over the years, I think I’ve been involved in about no less than 10 businesses that have either just succeeded or have completely failed. But you always hear people saying, don’t give up, and that’s why I’ve just persevered.
In the space of a couple of months, Ribs, Wings and Things has employed about nine people, so I do feel like I’m doing my bit, however small, to help things out in the country.
What’s different about Ribs, Wings and Things from my other business venture attempts is that I’ve been able to work around the costs and financing of the business better; friends and family helped me with that. Also, when you get older you’re just wiser with your decision making.
Without access to a huge marketing budget, how have you managed to put your business on the map?
Social media has played the biggest role as far as marketing is concerned – the existence of it has also been a major influence in the better success of this business from my other attempts. Through social media one has access to thousands of people for free. It also helps to have a lot of famous friends who don’t mind putting your stuff on their social media platforms.
What have been some of the challenges?
The biggest challenge is the financial element of the business, especially since it’s grown so much in such a short space of time. Say you’ve got a fire and you’re trying to make that fire bigger, the fire needs more wood – which in my business is cash. It really would be fantastic to have somebody approach me and say “Hey man, here is X amount. Grow your business” but that’s not a luxury I have right now.
I use the money I make from my comedy gigs to finance the business and that has been a challenge. But I still believe in my vision, I believe in my product, I believe in my business plan and things will get better the harder I push on. I won’t lie though, it’s tough.
(Spykos also makes funny memes based on current affairs to grow his social media community)
Do you have any plans to grow the business?
Yes, definitely! At the moment we’re at three markets: Neighbourgoods, The Sheds and we’re starting with Tin Factory in Sandton. We’re also planning on doing Soweto once a month – and we also run the kitchen at Liquid Chefs in Rosebank. We’re building up capital, finding our feet and gaining experience this year and hopefully by the end of 2015, I’ll be able to open my own shop.
With the stalls, the spaces are quite small and one has to make an impression right there and then, so the menu is fairly limited. What’s nice about having taken over the kitchen at Liquid Chefs is that we’re able to offer a lot more on the menu, and that’s been a great experience and given us great exposure.
I’m also studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Economics and Business Management.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to start a business?
Don’t just sit there and wait for things to happen to you, you’ve got to go out there and make them happen for yourself – don’t give up, just keep on going no matter how rough it gets.
That’s a quote from one of the great philosophers of our time, Mandoza: “Uzoy’thola kanjani uhlel’ekoneni”.
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