Humble to Hero: Secret business ingredients

by ashley

Back in 2006, two young web developers decided to start an e-commerce shop from their mother’s lounge in Cape Town, South Africa. Fast forward 15 years and that business, an online shop of premium kitchen and homeware products, has shaken the industry in a record-breaking sale worth R500 million to one of South Africa’s biggest retailer groups, Mr Price.

At a recent Heavy Chef event entitled ‘The Yuppiechef Story’, CEO and founder of Heavy Chef, Fred Roed, sat down with the co-founders of Yuppiechef, Andrew Smith and Shane Dryden to discuss their humble beginnings and what this acquisition means for the company going forward.

The conversation started with a phrase Andrew and Shane used many times ‘Something’s got to change’ which became their mantra.

With the desire for things to turn around, they developed a concept called ‘Extreme Business’. Essentially, the concept was to take 3 days and in those 3 days, develop a product, create an e-commerce website and find a courier service to deliver the product to their customers. This was the birth of the Bug Zapper, which was soon followed by the Rat Zapper, then a flag business, and, eventually, Yuppiechef.

At one point, Andrew was so sure that the flag business was the one that was going to be a success, he told Shane that they should leave everything else and just focus on the flags as that is where he believed the potential to be. They could have never imagined the great success they would find in selling kitchen appliances.

Whilst they might have found great success now, they had to start somewhere and the struggles they faced were never far and in-between. 

Shane said, “One of our biggest challenges was getting people to take e-commerce seriously and even trying to convince ourselves and others that it was a good idea.”

At the time that they started Yuppiechef, purchasing products online was not considered to be very appealing. However, 2 years ago, when we all had to pack up our things and were forced to stay home, everyone realised that they needed e-commerce and it became highly sought after. It was during this time that they found the most success and eventually developed Yuppiechef into a business that a brand like the Mr Price Group wanted to be a part of.

Andrew said, “Since the announcement of the acquisition, people have created this perception that everything is going to change. We even had to remind our team that they were no longer the same company as when they started. How can growth be one of our values yet we want to resist change?”

They reassured us that the value of their products, their service delivery, and how they do things would not change. The Mr Price Group did not purchase Yuppiechef to make it into another Mr Price, or to put their products in their stores. They acquired Yuppiechef so that they can continue to do what they do best.

The founders famously describe Yuppiechef as ‘a customer service’ business that happens to sell kitchen tools. From handwritten notes to free delivery – no matter where you are – to selling products you can’t find anywhere, Yuppiechef has kept the customer experience at the heart of its model, a lesson that many e-commerce businesses today can adapt.  

The event was proudly brought to you by Heavy Chef partners PayFast and Xero. Other best-of-breed partners include Workshop17, Xneelo, Digital Planet, Whipping The Cat, Creed Living, and more.

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