Kicking of this year’s unusual entrepreneur interviews is Joe Falter the founder and CEO of Hellofood. Lastnight, we saw a movie –Django– together with other members of the rocket internet team in Nigeria and this morning we pulled off this interview.
Take it away Joe!
Interview Questions Part One
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
1. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
Hellofood.com is a website where customers can order food from their favourite restaurants, in cities across Africa. We operate across the continent, in 6 countries already and many more to come. In Lagos, we have a huge variety of cuisines and styles, with over 100 restaurants signed up, and the top 5 fast food chains all about to join. The site makes it incredibly easy for someone to choose and order food they love online. We believe ordering food should be fast, fuss-free and fun!
I run the business, with support from an incredible team of 50 people across Africa and in Europe. We are here because there are a lot of great restaurants in Lagos, but they’re hard to find. At the same time, with bad phone lines, it’s often difficult to understand restaurants when trying to place an order, often resulting in mistakes. So we bring all the best restaurants in the city to one place online, and make it incredibly easy for the customer to order. So they can choose the food they love, or be surprised by something new, and order in 1 minute without even having to pick up the phone!
2. How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Were there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
It runs in the family – everyone in my family, on my mother’s and father’s sides have always been entrepreneurs. My grandfather ran a bakery chain, a dolls factory, imported jetskis to the UK and operated bingo halls. His was a classic success story that has been a major inspiration to me. However I have always seen my family around me doing work they loved, and being successful at it. Once you have direct exposure to people who have experienced this, and especially if you have the urge to be your own boss, a ‘normal’ job is no longer possible!
3. When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
I started out in business as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co in London. I was driven by a desire to learn as much as possible about business, problem solving and leadership. And with direct exposure to the top leadership of global organizations, it was the perfect environment to learn. But at the same time, I realized I wanted to do something more independent, and to be on the business side, rather than an advisor.
4. What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
Successful entrepreneurs pour their heart and soul into their work. They are absolutely obsessive about the details, while maintaining an intense clarity of vision over the big picture. It’s incredibly difficult to put such energy and focus into something that you’re not passionate about. While people start all sorts of businesses for all sorts of reasons, I think you have to have passion and unwavering belief to be very successful in business.
5. What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
Legacy and recognition are not important to me. If I become a successful entrepreneur in the future, it will be because I took advantage of a great opportunity to make life simpler for people, managed to convince them to adopt it, and effectively monetized it.
6. What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
Entrepreneurship is ultimately about innovation. Entrepreneurs are here to do things better, invent new ways of doing them, or to change the status quo altogether. Take Hellofood for example – we have recognized that ordering food in Lagos and other parts of Africa can be stressful, difficult and confusing, and we have set out to simplify the process and make it more efficient. If, through that process, we have made people’s lives easier, and perhaps inspired other people to do the same in other areas, then I’m happy with the role we’re playing.
Interview Questions Part Two
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
7. Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
I’m lucky in that I have very active investors, with huge experience of building massive internet businesses. The knowledge, experts and resource that they contribute to the business is invaluable.
8. How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
There’s no hard and fast answer to this as all businesses are different. One piece of advice I would offer, is to spend as little time as possible in the office answering emails. Save emails for early morning and late at night, and spend the day talking to customers, visiting partners, problem solving with your team. Technology has come a long way in improving business practices, but at the same time, you just need to get out there and experience your business live if you want it to succeed.
9. How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
We have used all sorts of crazy methods to acquire new customers, which I won’t go into in detail! When you land in a new city where you don’t know anyone, you have to be resourceful, get the business out there, and be totally fearless in asking people for help – more often than not, they’ll go out of their way to support you.
10. When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
Again I can’t generalize on this one; however I would certainly warn any entrepreneur against outsourcing critical functions of his/her business. Tech, marketing, logistics and other key expertise should all be in house, or if not possible, the people responsible should be incentivized by business performance, rather than paid an hourly/weekly rate.
11. The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
For Hellofood, pricing is incredibly simple. Our customers will never pay more to order food with us, than if they ordered directly from the restaurant. So we peg out prices 1 for 1 against the restaurant, we don’t budge higher. In any internet business that does things slightly different to the status quo, it is very important to keep the model simple and fair.
Interview Questions Part Three
MISCELLANEOUS – Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for unusual entrepreneurs
12. Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
I’m incredibly proud of the work that the Hellofood team is doing in revolutionizing the way Africa orders food. We have launched Hellofood in six challenging markets since we launched four months ago, and are already passing big milestones. 100 restaurants partnered in Lagos alone, thousands of satisfied customers in Lagos, and exciting new tech features on the way.
13. What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
Working in Africa, we constantly encounter infrastructure challenges, like connectivity issues, and infrastructure problems. However, we’re an internet company and have technology in place to work around it. For every process at Hellofood, we have a backup in case of technical failure. We can process orders by phone, email, SMS or fax, and it’s incredibly unusual that all of those would not be working. We have not yet had any orders that have failed because of rain or internet/phone downtime, even though there have been plenty of storms, and infrastructure problems since we started here. We also learn from our experience in other countries. Our investors have successfully set up food delivery businesses in Asia, South America and Europe, and bring a huge amount of experience and insight to Hellofood from those businesses.
What more would you like to know about the unusual Joe Falter? You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most?
Joe has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
Advertisement doesn’t create brands, entrepreneurs do!
The concept of branding is often not clear to so many entrepreneurs despite the popularity of the concept.
Your logo, color and brand name must remind your target audience of something special, different, and exciting about your company, product/service.
This something special, different and exciting doesn’t just happen, they are deliberately created by entrepreneurs based on certain core values that they’ve built the brand around. Without these set of values, there is no brand.
In other words, brands are built on values!
What is a brand?
The answer is simply this;
“A brand is a product/service, company or individual that is SIGNIFICANT –different [unique] + making a difference [useful].”
Meaning, a brand portrays two key elements that qualify it as a brand;
1] Uniqueness –here’s what makes us different from all the others [product/service differentiation]
2] Usefulness –here’s what you benefit because of our uniqueness [customer/market satisfaction]
You can’t be different [uniqueness] for being different sake, your being different must make a difference [usefulness]. The market/customers don’t care about your uniqueness unless it offers them some usefulness in return. Your core values must be qualities the market also values.
Why Create A Brand?
Simple; to give a company, product/service an edge over the competition.
The days of monopoly are long gone. Hardly will you find a company, product/service being the only player in the market; there will always be one or more close substitutes also contending for the customer’s purse.
Creating a brand around a company, product/service is what gives it a fighting chance in the marketplace. If companies, products/services are left un-branded, the market has no other choice than to reduce everything to a commodity and base their selection criteria on price alone.
And you know what they; “if price alone is the only key differentiator between you and the competition, then you are both racing down to the bottom!”
There’s got to be more to a product/service than the price of the product/service. Branding is what helps you create that something ‘more’ for your company, product/service. That something ‘more’ is what the market searches for while making their purchase decision.
Brand Positioning Strategy
I met with Jeremy Hodara, the Managing Director for Rocket Internet Africa and France, and he asked me what 3 things will I be doing for the company that they currently weren’t doing?
My answer could be summed up pretty simply as;
“help transform Jumia from an eCommerce start-up into a SIGNIFICANT company –a brand that is different [unique] and making a difference [useful].”
And below were the 3 specific things I would do;
- Help Jumia clearly define their “big picture” [purpose, cause, mission] for existence other than the obvious — naira and kobo, dollars and cents [money]. This means the specific change or difference they wanted to make in Nigeria and in the lives of Nigerians through their eCommerce site www.Jumia.com.ng
- Help Jumia communicate this “big picture” by crafting a powerful tagline to replace their current one and telling compelling stories via social media that will resonate with their target audience. This means using contents rather than just advertisement to sell by educating the market and creating a know, like and trust relationship with their target audience.
- Help Jumia differentiate itself from her closest competition —www.konga.com This means identifying a Unique Selling Proposition [USP] or benefit relevant to their target audience that will clearly justify and communicate her #1 position in the market. Claiming the #1 position is cool, but not clearly communicating what makes you #1 is just not cool.
To be #1 means you are better than the competition at something specific; so leaving that piece of info out is so funny. When you make a claim, justify the claim; the market wants to know, what makes you #1? This could either be price, quality, inventory, delivery time, service, or any combination of other benefits that will resonate with the target audience and achievable by the company.
By doing all these, Jumia would have transcended her current status of being another product/service in a category [the #1 eCommerce site in Nigeria] to becoming a powerful brand of a sub-category [the #1 USP, eCommerce site in Nigeria known for something SIGNIFICANT!]
The Anatomy Of Branding: Brand Development Strategy
All products/services belong to a category. A category is the generic description or title given to a particular kind of product/service. It’s like the compound/group name given to products/services that serve the same purpose.
For example; a drink is a category for any liquid that can be swallowed, a soft drink is a category for any drink that is non-alcoholic, a juice is a category for any drink that is made out of fruits, a syrup is a category for any drink that is medicinal, a malt is a category for any non-alcoholic drink made out of barley, a beer is a category for any alcoholic drink that is fermented, etc.
An automobile is a category for anything that can be mechanically driven and used for transportation, a car is a category for any automobile that contains not more than five persons, a bus is a category for any automobile that contains more than five persons, a tractor is a category for any automobile that is used for farming, a lorry is a category for any automobile that is used for carrying heavy goods, etc.
A building is a category for any physical structure for accommodating people and things, a house is a category for any residential building, an office is a category for any commercial building, a school is a category for any academic building, a church is a category for any building where Christians worship, a prison is a category for any building where criminals resides, etc.
A computer is a category for any electronic device for processing information, a mainframe is a category for any high-performance computer that is used for processing large scale information, a desktop is a category for any personal computer that is not mobile, a laptop is a category for any portable personal computer that is mobile, a tablet is a category for any portable personal computer that is handheld, etc.
So what Makes A Brand Different From A Product/Service?
All products/services must have and belongs to a category. Categories help the human mind to arrange products/services into related groups for easy comprehension and recollection. Without categories products/services will just be floating around aimlessly inside our minds making it difficult for us to remember what each product/service is used for. Categories are to products/services what industries are to companies.
A Brand on the other hand, is a sub-category within a category. Brands originates from categories no doubt, but they are called brands because they have certain peculiar traits, attributes, characteristics, qualities, benefits or values that differentiates –set them apart– from other products/services in the same category.
In other words, a brand is a differentiated product/service within a new or existing category. The key word here is differentiated.
For example; in the building category, a duplex is a brand, so is a bungalow, a skyscraper, a castle and other differentiated kind of buildings.
In the drink category, coca cola became a brand by differentiating the soft drink category to create a sub-category of non-alcoholic drink known as cola. Red Bull did the same to create a sub-category known as energy drinks.
In the computer category, Dell differentiated the personal computer category to create a customized personal computer sub-category; Apple did the same with their Macintosh to create an all-in-one personal computer sub-category and did it again with iPad to create the tablet computer sub-category.
Without differentiation, there is no brand. Differentiating a product/service category is how brands are born. Differentiation is the key factor that converts an ordinary product/service [commodity] into an extraordinary product/service [brand].
Differentiation is what creates a sub-category for a particular product/service within an existing category of other similar products/services.
The origin of branding is differentiation. This is what is popularly known as USP –Unique Selling Point/Proposition. Any product/service that lacks this is merely a commodity and never a brand regardless of how much they spend on advertisement!
Branding Your Advertisement
Perhaps the most common mistake or misconception of branding is confusing it with advertisement.
Many marketers feel they have a brand so long as they can advertise their products/services. So the common practice is to create a product/service, give it a brand name and spend a lot of money advertising it to the target market.
The underlying assumption behind this thinking is this; advertisement helps our product/service known. In other words, advertisement creates market awareness for products/services.
No doubt about this!
That’s exactly the role of advertisement; to create market awareness about the existence of a particular product/service. In other words, advertisement makes you known. But the big question very few marketers stop to ask is this; known for what?
Yes advertisement creates product/service awareness but does it create product/service uniqueness and usefulness where there’s none? Absolutely not. No matter how far and wide advertisement makes a company, product/service known, if there is no brand, then you are being known for nothing!
Advertisement doesn’t create a brand where there’s none no matter how popular the company, product/service is. Advertisement is like a mirror; it will only project what exists. If a brand exists in a particular product/service because of its key differentiating features/benefits, advertisement will amplify that brand’s uniqueness and usefulness.
Likewise, if a brand doesn’t exist in a particular product/service because it lacks key differentiating features/benefits, advertisement will amplify that product’s/service’s weakness.
Branding is what creates the content [uniqueness + usefulness] for your advertisement. So when the content is missing from your advertisement, then your advertisement is meaningless. It won’t have any significant impact on the target audience. Content is how you brand your advertisement.
If your advertisement is all about asking people to buy, then it lacks content. It is not branded. Your content is your big picture, your story, your core values, your cause; the change you created that company, product/service to make happen.
Great brands don’t sell through their advertisement, they tell compelling stories that creates and emotional and logical connection with the target audience. Coca cola will never ask you to buy coke in their ads; they tell compelling stories about happiness. Apple will never sell you an iPod, iPhone, iPad or even a Mackintosh in their ads; they tell compelling stories about being different and making a difference.
Advertisement will not create for a product/service what the entrepreneur never intended or embedded into the product/service. Again, advertisement doesn’t create brands, entrepreneurs do!
The Branding Test
A brand is only a brand because it is representing or associated with something SIGNIFICANT –unique and useful in the mind of the target audience. In other words, it is the specific tangible features and benefits of a company, product/service that confers on it the title of a brand.
A company, product/service that simply describes a category or proclaiming anything generic is not a brand. Brands are specific, tangible, meaningful, unique and useful.
Here is a simple test for you to know if a company, product/service is a brand or not. Simply write this question down and try to answer it for the brand;
“What is _____________? [Insert product/service or company name]”
The answer you get will be one of two things; either a category name/generic description or a USP –unique selling point/specific description. If your answer is a category name or describing something generic, then there is no brand. But if your answer is a USP or describing something specific, then there is a brand.
For example; “what is naijapreneur?”
a] A website/blog
b] A Business and Entrepreneurship website/blog
c] A website/blog for unusual entrepreneurs
d] A website/blog about changing the world and profiting from purpose
The second way of conducting the branding test is to write out the product/service or company name first with an ‘equal to’ sign in front of it and a question mark sign at the end.
For example; “naijapreneur = ?”
a] A website/blog
b] A business and entrepreneurship website/blog
c] A website/blog for unusual entrepreneurs
d] A website/blog about changing the world and profiting from purpose
Over To You!
Since this is a test, I will be looking forward to your answers in the comment section below. Also, in the comment section, write down the branding test question for your company, product/service as I have just explained above and provide an answer yourself.
“I will build a car for the great multitude, constructed of the BEST materials by the BEST men to be hired after the SIMPLEST designs that modern engineering can devise…so LOW in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one–and ENJOY with his family the blessing of hours of PLEASURE in God’s great open spaces”.
How many entrepreneurs go into business with such a vision, purpose, mission or mindset?
Yet we wonder why few businesses achieve GLOBAL SIGNIFICANCE.
The answer is simple; we go into business NOT for the benefit of OTHERS but for OURSELVES!
To build a business that MATTERS, fight a CAUSE [vision, purpose, or mission] that MATTERS!
Your business in this NEW YEAR 2013 will only go as FAR as the CAUSE [vision, purpose, or mission] that you went into business to FIGHT!
Your business was STARTED by you, but it’s never about you nor was it created for YOU; it is and will always be about OTHERS!
BUSINESS: It’s NOT Only About YOU!
“If you do something good, the future will come. By doing good, the world will conspire to work with you to achieve new heights.” –Illac Diaz, founder, MyShelter Foundation
Back in 2010, which was the launch year of naijapreneur, I wrote two very heart pouring articles titled “why doing business as usual is suicidal” and “two kinds of companies: what kind are you building?“.
You should read them if you haven’t read them already. And here is why.
Unknown to me back then, as I was busy pouring my heart out from far away Africa [Nigeria to be precise] on why doing business as usual is suicidal and why the growth and success of your business now depended on doing business Not as usual. Somewhere else on planet earth on a little island called Necker, Sir Richard Branson of the global Virgin brand was having the same idea and was putting it all together as a new book for entrepreneurs.
Talk about collision of ideas!
Last two years, in November 2011, he launched the book titled; “Screw Business as usual“. And guess what? Yours truly hadn’t read or ever heard about this book when I wrote those two unusual articles.
So what’s all these got to do with you or your business or your entrepreneurial journey for that matter?
“Every single business person has the responsibility for taking care of the people and planet that make up our global village, all 24,902 circumferential miles of it.” –Richard Branson
‘Doing Good’ Is Good Business.
Meaning, you can make more money IF MONEY ISN’T THE ONLY THING ON YOUR MIND!
Business is no longer as usual. To survive you’ve got to do the unusual. Being UNUSUAL is the NEW business as usual.
Before now, the usual was to focus on money [profit] –what you will get from your business. NOW, the table has turned. You have to focus on the unusual, meaning [purpose] –what you will give through your business.
For regular naijapreneur readers, you are already familiar with this. This is the core of what we preach. Not to be overly arrogant or proud, but with all humility and with pureness of heart, seriously you need to pay attention to what you read on naijapreneur!
Beyond the fact that I am also an entrepreneur like you and all that I publish are from my personal experiences in life and in business. I strongly feel what I share is beyond me. They are not just theories as they might literally seem at first glance; they are timeless principles that have repeatedly been used to build businesses that MATTER. And that’s why I particularly like Richard Branson’s bold move to challenge the business world with this new book.
“Over the last few decades as I’ve started up one exciting business after another, I thought that life and work could not get any better. In writing this book, I’ve realized that we’ve really been on a practice run, getting ready for the greatest challenge and opportunity of our lifetime. We’ve got a shot at really pulling together to turn upside down the way we approach the challenges we are facing in the world and look at them in a brand new entrepreneurial way. Never has there been a more exciting time for all of us to explore this great next frontier where the boundaries between work and purpose are merging into one, where doing good, really is good for business.”
Change The World, Profit From Purpose
This mantra of changing the world and profiting from purpose works. I have applied it and am still applying it and so have several other unusual entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson who in my opinion is like the Godfather of unusual entrepreneurs following legendary and Sam Walton of blessed memories.
In this New Year 2013, I am encouraging you to take these principles to heart and much more than that, PUT THEM TO TEST through APPLICATION. Meaning, practice what you learn!
It is my utmost desire to see you awaken the spirit of business within, build a business that MATTERS, change the world and profit from purpose. I will forever always do my part, which is bringing you unusual business and entrepreneurship principles, ideas and best practices. But all of these won’t matter in 2013 if you NEVER put to use the things you learn from naijapreneur.
And this is where I draw the curtain on this little heart-to-heart talk from me to you. In 2013, the world is awaiting the manifestation of unusual entrepreneurs who would not only build businesses that MATTER, but will also change the world and profit from purpose.
It is possible to make a profit by making a difference!
Grab a copy of “Screw Business As Usual” and go make something happen!
Over To You!
As it’s popularly said;
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
It’s a New Year again, so what’s going to be your strategy for doing business NOT as usual this year? What are you going to do differently in your business that will set you apart from others in your industry? Are you going to keep doing business as usual or are you going to screw business as usual and dare to build a business that MATTERS?
Share your thoughts and comments below. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say!
It’s that time of the year again when goal setting will be at the top of people’s to-do-list. But whatever your goal, you’re going to have to start taking action to make any real progress. Thinking alone won’t do it!
That’s why I created the to help you get OFF your butt and make great things happen in SESSIONSyour business and in your life this year 2013!
Here’s why you NEED to attend:
Listen, you’ll never know everything. No matter how much time you spend learning and theorizing. So the BIG question is: how much do you need to know before you start taking action?
The BUSINESS STRATEGY SESSIONS will help you cut through the ‘busy-ness’ of random activities and aimless learning that is hindering your business growth.
Parkinson’s law states: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
If your learning/planning/theorizing phase doesn’t have a defined deadline, it might just continue forever.
Each session, we will force you to move beyond THINKING and on to DOING by helping you identify the key priorities critical to the growth of your business and setting a DEADLINE for their completion!
So far, in your business, you’ve been thinking and theorizing all alone, now it’s time to get an outsider’s opinion.
Because you might be talking yourself in circles, or you may be missing some obvious glaring issues affecting your business. By talking with someone else, you’ll think of new things and you’ll be forced to explain yourself.
Each session offers you this opportunity to bounce off your ideas with other fellow entrepreneurs from diverse industries. What better way to get fresh insights/perspectives for your business ideas?
Whatever you’re working towards, chances are there are plenty of people out there who have already accomplished something similar. These people can help you bust through roadblocks by helping you see things you can’t right now.
Mentors can practically see into your future, because they’ve been there, done that. They’re incredibly powerful and one of the few true shortcuts that exist in life!
If you don’t have any mentors right now, the BUSINESS STRATEGY SESSIONS is here to help. Each session offers you an opportunity to tap into the diverse experiences of fellow entrepreneurs as well as key resource persons to answer your endless business questions.
In addition, each participant gets 30 days one-on-one coaching with me FREE!
Action taking is infectious. When you’re surrounded by other people who are getting stuff done, it’s hard not to be motivated yourself.
The BUSINESS STRATEGY SESSIONS is a mastermind group comprising 10 serious minded entrepreneurs that meets monthly to share ideas and hold each other accountable to their business goals.
Mastermind groups are rocket fuel for entrepreneurs or anyone else who wants to start taking massive action toward an important goal!
NOW GO DO IT!
Registration details can be found at www.naijapreneur.com/think-tank