Wonderbag creator aims for paradigm shifts | Fin24
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Wonderbag creator aims for paradigm shifts

Oct 16 2014 17:30
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that was invented by South African entrepreneur, Sarah Collins.

Sarah was inspired to create this slow cooker when she became frustrated with eating half cooked dinners as a result of load shedding.

She shares her journey as an entrepreneur with Fin24.

Tell us more about yourself?

I grew up in rural, apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s. My childhood inspired my life work focusing on empowering women living below the poverty line through grassroots efforts.

I was educated in both the UK and South Africa, I spent much of my school years challenging apartheid.

I returned to Africa to launch and run a horseback riding safari business in Botswana and have since devoted my life to community projects.

Among others, my career has seen me run for political office, set-up my own non-governmental organisation (NGO) and help local communities create thriving businesses to support their livelihood.

But my true passion and drive is inspired by my love and belief in the Wonderbag and my drive to grow the business.

How did you become an entrepreneur and why?
I realised that you can cause paradigm shifts in the people around you and do something game changing in this world.

Aid organisations and NGO's alone can’t change the world and it is larger partnership  with corporates that are more successful.

These partnerships leverage corporates’ distribution and positive growth and does not require being part of the corporate culture, which is so foreign to me anyway, having grown up in an entrepreneurial world.

Tell us more about your business.

My “light bulb moment” occurred in 2008 during a rolling power outage resulting from South Africa’s precarious electricity reserves.

Wanting to still cook without the need for electricity, I remembered my grandmother taking pots off the stove, wrapping them in blankets and furniture cushions, and hours later having a piping hot, perfectly cooked casserole to serve.

This age-old method used the retained heat from the food to complete the cooking process. I started experimenting with heat-retention cooking and came up with a convenient, modernised model called The Wonderbag.

Now that we have established the Wonderbag, my ambition is to grow it into a global profitable social business, which can measure its success in different markets, against social change, environmental sustainability and financial profitability.

What were your challenges?

Getting funding for a new product especially something as revolutionary as the Wonderbag and living out of a suitcase, which is relentless and exhausting.

What is your success recipe?

The success of the Wonderbag business is that it is both a great brand offering, with a social upliftment story deeply ingrained in our culture.

We have approached the market on two levels: Commercially and socially. This dual approach really cemented our success.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Trust your gut, and don’t let anyone try and persuade you otherwise. Believe in yourself, you have the answers, not someone out there with an MBA or more work experience or a PhD.

Listen to people around you, but check in with yourself before you do anything. And when in doubt don't.

It is important to have a business mentor as well as a personal one. Someone who understands you and your business and will give objective advice but is empathetic too, and who believes in you.

Don't saddle yourself with debt. Grow organically until you are in a position to handle debt with structures and scalability. Know and get your markets right before you take on debt or partners. They can make you or break you.

* Do you use the Wonderbag or something similar? Share your experiences (and pics) and you could get published.

For a video on how the Wonderbag works, see here.

- Fin24

entrepreneurs  |  small business


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