Retail in his blood

2009-05-15 12:39

Johannesburg - Robin Wainwright of Fruit & Veg City Food Lovers Market is the winner of the Franchising Association of South Africa's (Fasa's) best entrepreneur award.

He spoke to about the secrets of his success.

Have you always wanted to work for yourself?

No, I worked in the corporate environment for a while. It was a natural progression from there to start my own company.

What's the appeal?

Truthfully, making your own money is very satisfying, but the development and upliftment of people comes a close second.

Tell us about your history.

The retail bug bit me when I was 13 years old, working part-time at a corner café. I joined Checkers in 1985 and stayed there for six years; since then retail has remained in my blood.

What has been your greatest business achievement? Why does it stand out for you?

I think it was the opening of the new Food Lovers Market in Somerset West. It brought a completely new shopping experience to South Africa.

What's the most important business lesson you've learnt?

There's no substitute for hard work - and surround yourself with good people.

Are there any particular skills you wish you had gained before you struck out on your own?

Yes. I wish I was an accountant. Making money is relatively easy; controlling it poses more of a challenge.

Which business person do you particularly admire?

Richard Branson, for his pure chutzpah!

Do you have one piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Set your goals and stay the course, no matter what. Try even harder when times look tough and you will succeed.

Explain how your business has grown.

It has grown in line with the franchise phenomenon called Fruit & Veg City. The group has grown from nine stores to 100 in the space of 10 years, and Food Lovers Market is a natural progression of that growth.

What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning?

Knowing that you are an employer and that several hundred people depend on you for their livelihood is a good kickstart to the day.

The business environment looks quite tough. Do you have practical advise on how to cope?

Any economy is cyclical. The upside is that any business can survive, or possibly grow, in this environment. Imagine what can happen when the economy inevitably starts growing again!

Also, exporting may seem attractive under certain rand/dollar exchange rates, but never forget the local market will always be there. In my mind local has always been very lekker.