Kutlwano Hutamo is an entrepreneur whose motivation and goal is to contribute towards the reduction of youth unemployment. Her passion is to share IP and business management knowledge via her YouTube Channel with people that ordinarily do not have access. She believes that small businesses in South Africa can play a significant role in reducing the high youth unemployment figures.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Kutlwano Hutamo. I was born in a remote village in Limpopo. I am a science graduate with an MBA and extensive experience in the technology transfer field including commercialisation of intellectual property (IP).
My journey started in high school where I sold some chocolates and sweets to generate pocket money. Money was scarce in a single parent household with four children. I performed well in school, excelling both in sports and academics.
The highlight was my selection by the Mail and Guardian, as an M&G 200 Young South Africans finalist in the category Business and Entrepreneurship. The final list was selected out of a total of 8000 applicants. I received an appreciation function hosted by my alma mater, University of Pretoria and a special award in business and entrepreneurship from the premier of Gauteng.
Tell us about Washesha and what does the name mean?
Washesha is an online grocery store selling groceries which are delivered to people’s homes in an hour. We also sell fresh produce such as fruit and vegetable crates that help families live a healthy life, in a convenient manner. Washesha means “one who hurries” in Zulu. We deliver quality service and fresh produce.
Would you consider your studies vital to building a sustainable business?
Yes I would. I use my knowledge in science to ensure compliance with health and safety matters and in how to treat certain fresh produce to ensure it does not go off too quickly. I use my experience in law to draft contracts and to ensure that any contracts we sign are optimal for both parties. My MBA comes in handy in matters of strategy, management and business development.
What must be in place legally?
We have had to ensure that we comply with essential regulations as required by the South African government. We registered for tax and have contracts in place to govern employer employee relationships as well as partnerships with other companies. Other important regulations are workman’s compensation and Unemployment Insurance Fund.
What has been your most regrettable financial blunder since you entered the market?
When we first launched, we went ahead and bought stock in anticipation of all the customers we were going to get. We ended up having to give away the fresh produce before it spoiled. That was a great learning curve though. There’s never failure, only learning opportunities if you’re open to it.
What drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?
The passion I have for my company and the belief in the service we offer. The customer satisfaction also plays a big role in encouraging us, as it confirms we’re doing something right. My business partner, Stanislav Gelman, encourages me when I hit a low. I’d like to believe I do the same for him.
What has been one of the most valuable lessons that you have learned, since starting the business?
It is efficient communication between me and my business partner to enable us to move the company in the right direction. Then communication with our customers; listening and hearing what they prefer and what they don’t. This has enabled the company to be more versatile.
What does a typical day look like, or there is no such thing?
There really is no typical day. One day I’m a driver, the next I’m a director negotiating collaborations and partnerships. On occasion, I do get a normal day where I plan the day’s activities the day before, the wake up, collect products from our suppliers and package them and get the drivers to deliver. This then allows me to do my admin and some advertising. These kinds of days are very rare though.
What product would you consider your best seller?
Definitely our fruit and vegetable crates.
What would you consider the most challenging aspect of the business?
This business is extremely cash intensive and with limited funding, it is near impossible to run. The kind of climate we’re in South Africa means funding is hard to come by. You’d do better to find alternative funding sources such as crowd funding or bootstrapping.
Name three pet peeves.
Lack of initiative; Complacency; Sexism
What would you consider the most effective marketing tool, technology or word of mouth?
Word of mouth. This has helped us leapfrog in a way technology couldn’t get right.
Richard Branson said that if you’re a my way or the highway type of manager, you are never going to be an entrepreneur – the abilities to delegate and collaborate are key traits. Would you agree?
I agree 100%. Some of the best ideas we implemented come from creating an enabling environment where everyone feels free to contribute their ideas; especially important for a small business that is still growing. Learning to communicate was an essential turning point. I’m not super woman; I need to delegate, to be able to manage the company effectively and efficiently. Delegation and teamwork saved me.
You are having a themed dinner party with 3 successful entrepreneurs. What would the theme be, who would you invite and why?
I love fun themes, so a unicorn themed party. This tells you everything you need to know about how people adapt to different environments. I would invite Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Raymond Ackerman.
Elon is such a visionary. He invests in projects which some people don’t understand, is called crazy but he has drive. He gave away electrical batteries; people thought he’s lost it but then Tesla came along. That just blew people’s minds.
Jeff started Amazon as a small garage ran operation and grew it into the behemoth it is today. I look up to him and hope to one day make Washesha as much of a success as Amazon is.
Raymond is a great success in the retail space. He’s ability to take a small amount of money and build a South African giant of a brand such as Pick n Pay is amazing. I want to hear about his trials, tribulations and triumphs.
Did you receive any words of wisdom upon embarking on this journey, would this be your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
No, but I have some words of my own for budding entrepreneurs. Save money before embarking on this journey. Learn to ask for help; otherwise it will be a long and dark journey where you feel mad sometimes. Always strive to improve yourself and your product/service.
What are your future plans and ultimate goal for Washesha?
We’re currently completing fittings for our physical store in Sandton; to be able to welcome walk-in customers in the next couple of weeks. I would like Washesha to be at the helm of embracing technology to enhance customer experience. The ultimate goal is to expand across Africa and impact lives continent wide through Washesha’s service.
Favorite quote or mantra to live by.
What doesn’t kill me; makes me stronger.