Haylene Liberty-Nel, CEO of Eskom Development Foundation, Allie Parker of Regal Manufacturing and Chose Choeu, chairperson of the Eskom Development Foundation.
What started as a joke six years ago for business owner Allie Parker, has today grown into an award-winning venture.
Speaking to Small Business Connect shortly after being crowned the overall winner at the Eskom Business Investment Competition awards, business owner Allie Parker, the founder and chief executive of Regal Manufacturing, says he is still “shocked and stunned” with his new accolade.
The awards, which have been running since 2009, form part of the Eskom Development Foundation’s enterprise development programme which aims to acknowledge successful black-owned businesses with cash prizes and training that can be used to grow their business.
Parker walked away R200 000 richer thanks to the success of his beauty soap manufacturing business.
“Six years ago I was complaining to my wife about the quality of soap and jokingly said that I would make my own soap,” says Parker.
And, that’s exactly what he did.
He says he thought about it and then started doing serious research on how to manufacture soap.
This was no easy task for Parker, a qualified chartered accountant with no experience in manufacturing anything.
“With no chemical background, I approached universities and labs in South Africa to do testing on the soap. It is very difficult to get assistance in this industry because most of the ones who know what is happening are the competition,” he says.
He registered the business in 2008 and a year later he began operating. Parker says it wasn’t too difficult to put everything together once he employed the chemical engineers to develop the product.
But, he points out, that making soap is not just about throwing a few ingredients together.
“The most challenging aspect was trying to find the right formula,” he says.
In 2009, the product hit the store shelves after Parker set up meetings with store owners and managed to get his products on the shelf by selling the soap for 50% less than his competitors.
After little growth in the first year, his business’s turnover grew by 300% over the second year, followed by 150% over the next two years. In the last two years, the turnover has grown about 40%.
“I am very happy with the growth. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I am very passionate about my business,” says Parker.
Last year, he saw an advertisement in a local newspaper inviting business owners to enter the Eskom Business Investment Competition.
He applied, but ended up a “very disappointed” finalist. This year he was hesitant to apply with the disappointment of last year’s awards still fresh in his mind.
However he applied at the last minute in July and within two weeks was notified that he was again a finalist.
With last year’s result still fresh in his mind, Parker did not get his hopes up but feels he was better prepared this year. Last month, Parker flew up to Johannesburg again where the awards were held and was “shocked” when he was named the overall winner. He plans to buy new equipment to grow his business’s production capacity and employ five more people.