I’m kick-starting the week with an exciting and rather delicious Behind the Biz interview.
If you’re new to PGT, Behind the Biz is my weekly interview series where I discover the story behind new and interesting brands.
Today I’m chatting with Delight Mapasure, founder of K’s Wors – authentic South African Boerewors sausages.
Where did the inspiration for K’s Wors come from?
As an ardent ambassador for involving Southern African cuisine, I’ve been aware of the vocal enthusiasm for experimenting with faraway ‘international’ flavours. The ‘magic spark’ moment for K’s Wors came completely by chance, the result of me offering to make some ‘family recipe produce for a local charity event in Manchester. Let’s just say my hotdogs stormed and I found myself inundated with tentative sales enquiries.
This ‘eureka’ moment tapped into a deep-rooted belief I’ve held for some time that top-notch sausages rarely get the plaudits they deserve. Although regional Brit classics…. The hearty Cumberland, the herby Lincolnshire…..our entrenched in the British psyche, the fact remains that sausages remain stuck on the sidelines, often viewed as little more than inexpensive sandwich/BBQ fodder; a stalwart of the Great British breakfast and worst of all convenient, ‘fast food’ fodder.
In stark contrast, boerewors are deeply ingrained in Southern African culture, a focal point for spontaneous gatherings of friends & family, where the braai is fired up against a rural backdrop of impassioned rhythmic music.
So deeply entrenched is the pride in home-grown boerewors, (intensely meaty blends of heavily seasoned beef, pork & lamb – up to 92% meat content) that its unique ingredient make-up is jealously safeguarded by South African law.
How did you decide upon the name of K’s Wors?
Nothing too deep in truth! The ‘K’ is for ‘Keitumetse’ which is the co-founder Eugene’s traditional name, whilst ‘WORS’ is the abbreviation for Boerewors, our 1st stage product range.
It’s worth noting the very positive responses we’ve had to our strapline: SUNSHINE SPICE AND HAPPINESS, which our small but growing band of brand loyalists feel perfectly captures the very essence of boerewors.
How did you secure a manufacturer?
Our range as mentioned earlier has to be made in a very specific way (recipes & processes) and so you can imagine it wasn’t easy finding a business, that on the one hand ticked all the essential accreditation boxes (SALSA, BRC…) and yet on the other, was willing to think outside the box with regards not making sausages the ‘usual’ way. A local manufacturer was also pivotal to our story because we’re proud of our Mancunian roots and wanted to give back to the local economy.
How did you approach your first stockist?
To date our stockist pool has been local although some significant step changes are in the offing. Curiously a medium as simple as Facebook has been pivotal to a number of our early breakthroughs.
The last month or so has seen a seismic improvement in our fortunes since a number of the buyers we approached at the start of summer with introductions, samples, pack design are only now just returning from their summer breaks to place their initial orders. In all honesty, the recent uplift in buyer interest caught us a little by surprise.
What did you do before starting K’s Wors?
Family and friends would describe me as a restless serial entrepreneur. I’ve worked in the civil service these last nine years, (administrative officer) whilst simultaneously setting up an urban cleaning company and securing an Open University Diploma in English Law.
Simply put, I don’t like letting the grass grow under my feet!
Did you always plan to set up your own business?
Yes I did and something within the food & drink industry was always the pipedream. Unfortunately, with meaningful financial support in short supply, I needed to take other jobs to build up a suitable sales & marketing war chest!
Back in 2016 I was fortunate enough to win the Black African Woman Rock award (female business person of the year) which I think underpins my robust entrepreneurial leanings.
Please share a business high and low with us.
Most of our lows have revolved around securing sufficient financial support, although curiously these setbacks also set the scene for our ‘key’ highs.
As a new start-up with no food & drinks business pedigree, securing meaningful financial support in the early months was not easy. That said, I was fortunate enough to hook up with the Fredericks Foundation, an ethical lender who had a brave vision to help ambitious start-ups secure that all-important first leg-up. They say that good news fuels good news and that indeed seems the case when in classic, ‘wait for one bus and then two come along style,’ we recently got inducted on NatWest’s 2018-19 Entrepreneur Accelerator Program.
Our highs have been manifold, although if I had to choose 2 they would include:
- Securing 3 Great Taste awards before we’d even officially made the transition from regional stalwart to national start-up (Lunch Show this Sept).
- Our biggest break will come in early 2019 on account of the fact that the BBC have chosen to use us as one of their case-studies in a forthcoming documentary about the countless hurdles a young start-up faces securing meaningful financial support from the traditional banking network.
What advice would you give to people trying to break into the food industry?
Keep your eyes and mind open. You may think you have entrepreneurial prowess in sector X only to discover that your breakthrough moment comes in sector Y. Also, don’t let the odd setback take the wind out of your sails because if being a food & drink pioneer was easy everyone would be doing it!
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
Our business model revolves around targeting 3 very distinct consumer audiences:
- British sausage aficionados looking to broaden their favour horizons
- Mobilise a vocal (& significant) ex-pat community craving stronger ‘flavour ties’ to their homeland.
- Target those foodie ‘early adopters’ who embrace the International Cuisine aisles
Priorities include: regional heavyweight retailers (e.g. Booths & Waitrose), prestige foodie retailers Partridges (Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason….) the thriving independent foodie scene (farm shops, food halls, delis & upmarket garden centres), ‘leading light’ meat hamper operations, online and the upmarket hotel/hospitality scene.
I want to say a huge thank you to Delight Mapasure, for taking the time to be involved with Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about her business journey and I hope it’s inspired you too.
I can’t wait to see K’s Wors grow throughout the year and look forward to the day they land on the shelves of Waitrose and other big supermarkets. I’m keen to give them a try and I’ll be sure to report back in a blog post soon.
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