Today is a working day!! Both teams worked together for preparing tomorrow’s presentation. In the morning, Spinach and Lavender team had a nice breakfast in the villa.

In the morning, each team grouped together for revising and editing slides according to content.

In the afternoon, we got a chance to talk with professor Mabaya about our preliminary draft for our presentation. Professor mentioned the logic order, presentation notice and some advice about our slides. For spinach team, he suggested benchmark analysis and 4P marketing-mix approach. For lavender team, he advised team to change the target market and benchmarking analysis.

We chose to go to a restaurant called Armory for pizza and burgers.At 9PM, each team walk through the slides with Professor again focused on the format and layout. Each team worked until 12AM to finish the presentation.

Tomorrow, we will rock the presentation. We are the best.

“Be everything for every one!”

“Be everything for every one!”

Thursday, full of sunshine, a bit chilly.

Today was another lovely day of our time spent in South Africa. Our tasks for the day were essentially do client follow-ups with Espinacha and Canettevallei, with a special arrangement of visiting the Department of Agriculture Western Cape.

After our breakfast meeting at Caledon Villa, we went to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture where some very kind government officials hosted us. Later, after receiving two informative presentations from the officials, for the first time since arrival got persuasive and comprehensive information on the overall agriculture development of Western Cape area. We as the SMART group got to understand how well the local government knows the local farmers, how do they assist them with certain programs, and how do they gather field information form farmers with advanced IT means (which I found impressive!). The official who presented to us on this technology I can see his true pride in assisting local farmers with information systems and administration improvements. I believe they are helpers, guiders and friends for those farmers.

At the end of the presentations, the department official introduced a student from Elsenburg College who made wine there and gave us a special wine tasting section. Literally, every wine we have had here was just awesome, with the amazing smell and taste of four wines. After the tasting we greeted by the Head of Western Cape Department of agriculture. After introducing ourselves, she warmly welcomed us and talked to us in a very friendly way. She asked us to promise her do not ever let gender be the ceiling of people’s development both as in career and personal life. That was a touching moment especially when people associated that with a certain somebody is going to claim the office on January 20th. We won’t stop believing in breaking the ceiling.

After lunch, we went on a short but interesting meaningful mini-bus tour of Elsenburg guided by an elderly government official who has been living in this town for 58 years. We saw Elsenburg farm, college, storage buildings (some of the oldest buildings of this town), crops and animals (cows and horses). During our touring, he introduced this town with passion and gave all the essential and related information about this town along with his life long love for this land including being a host for us visitors from the other side of the ocean.

We then went to visit Agrifusion, a local consulting firm focusing on local agriculture and agriculture related business. Stephen Hobson, a good friend of Professor Mabaya, gave us a brief but quite critical guide there on furthering our understanding of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Stephen told us that both our clients would get a good level after they submit their registration form and benefit from this critical economic policy of South Africa. We were so excited of what we learned from Stephen here and all started to feel that we could put everything that we have got these past days finally together. This was interesting because it was not originally on our itinerary for the day but became a crucial part of our research goal plan here in South Africa.

Professor Mabaya was walking with us this afternoon heading back to our villa when he said “look at the diversity of our team!” He then said during our dinner debrief that we’ve been more mature as young professionals and wanted us to keep building up relations with people, because one would never know when these relations would land up being really helpful for that person (just like Stephen was for us today). We were listening, and at that moment it manifested clearly that SMART has made each one of us smarter by listening to all sides, all colors, and all kinds of feelings from love for one’s hometown to professional insights. We listen, and then learn.

“Be everything for every one! “ The Head of Department said to us. And that’s exactly what we are trying to achieve through SMART. It was chillier at 7 p.m. when we finished dinner, but still, a lot of sunshine.

Day Off: Exploring Cape Town

After a long week of client interviews and research, the SMART group finally got a day off to rest and relax on Saturday. Taahir, one of the South African fellows assisting us without or projects, joined us for the day. We decided to explore as much as Cape Town had to offer on our day off, so by popular demand, our first stop of the day was at Cheetah Outreach,  a cheetah sanctuary located near Somerset Mall. Most of us opted to do a “cheetah encounter”, where we would enter the cat’s habitat to pet a cheetah. Needless to say,  we all had a great time playing with Romeo, an eighteen-month old cub who dozed throughout the entire encounter.

After Cheetah Outreach, the group made its way to Table Mountain, one of the seven wonders of nature (according the cable car operator at the mountain).  After a short wait at the lower cableway station, we boarded the cable car to the top of the mountain. Upon reaching the top, many of us were visibly taken aback by the views of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as Cape Town from over 1,000 meters above sea level. We spent quite a bit of time on the top exploring various rock formations, and of course, taking all sorts of selfies. The ride down to the base of the mountain was enjoyable as well, as the cable car operator entertained guests with a uniquely South African sense of humor.

The long walk at the top of Table Mountain left us hungry, so we made our way to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where we enjoyed a quick lunch outside, near the playground and Ferris wheel on the harbor. After lunch, the group made a pit stop at Greenmarket Square, one of the largest open-air African markets in Cape Town. A few of us were able to snag some animal carvings and masks for a good price, after some serious haggling with the market vendors.

After getting a few souvenirs, we ended our day trip to Cape Town, and headed back to Stellenbosch to get ready for a braai hosted by Professor Mabaya’s good friend, Luluma Taub. Taub is a professor at the University of Stellenbosch, with a unique story: her father is a black South African, while her mother is an American of Swiss origin. Over grilled meats and drinks, she offered us a unique perspective on the difficulties of living as a mixed race person during apartheid in South Africa.  Her experiences made us more aware of the deep legacy of pain and inequality that is still present in the country, even 20 years after the end of apartheid.

After the braai, the group left for the villa, exhausted from the day’s full schedule. With only two more days until our final presentations, we prepared ourselves for a long day of work on Sunday.

Working Friday with the fantastic Canettevallei Braai

13Jan,2017

Today turned out to be a hard-working Friday, we met our in-country participants for the teamwork of our projects. At the end of the productive day, we had our reward, a special dinner in Canettevallei Farm, which is an unforgettable memory for every member in SMART South African team.

lavender-team-at-workDuring the breakfast meeting, we meet with our in-coutry participants, Taahir and Naweed. People had a great time on sharing our work and our life. As we spend more days together, we felt more connected to each other and more integrated as a team. During the team work time, each team worked on their project for Monday’s presentation and discussion. Lavender team went to coffee shop for their discussion about operation analysis, benchmarking and SWOT analysis for Canettevallei. We make a breakthrough in benchmarking with the help from Naweed, our in-country participants. We found the pricing of the main products are influenced by the plant oil in some extent, and we decided to do more research on the quality, use, price and availability to make a benchmarking with more depth and complexity. Espinaca team also did their teamwork, as well as a follow up meeting in the garden managed by Harvest of Hope Foundation.

After a long day of working, we were invited to the Canettevallei Farm for a braai, the South African barbeque. When we arrived the farm, we first did the wine tasting in the single wine winetasting room. Ingrid, hostess of Canettevallei, showing us their winery in southern South African highland. It was a wonderful time with sunlight and wines.

We had a feast in the gorgeous farm, with Ingrid’s lovely families. The traditional barbeque caught every one’s eyes and stomach.

We enjoyed an unforgettable time with joy and laugh with teammates, professor and client. It was the moment we found the real trust and friendship between us and clients are one of the corner stones for a better program deliverable.

Scoping Out the Competition

img_1559Today’s schedule was quite busy and filled with meetings and tours of various retail outlets and related supply chain entities. Our visits revolved around gathering information about the positioning of Canettevallei Lavender’s products in the retail outlets they are sold in compared to competitor products, and understanding how certain inputs along the supply chain contribute to Canettevallei’s finished products.

Our first stop was Hillcrest Berries, a local orchard with a restaurant, tea garden, shop, and vacation cottages on site. Canettevallei products sold at the orchard shop include dream pillows, lavender essential oils, handmade bar soaps, and moskonfyt (a traditional Western Cape grape syrup). However, the shop does not stock Canettevallei’s lavender honey, thus avoiding unwanted overlap with the shop’s homemade jams.

Next, we visited Tokara winery and explored the delicatessen and gift shop where Canettevallei products are sold. It was interesting to discover slight differences in product packaging that mirror Tokara’s elegant ambiance and design. We couldn’t help but take a break for a quick wine and olive oil tasting on the beautiful Tokara estate!

The team after a delicious wine and olive oil tasting at Tokara

Our next stop was at the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is affiliated with Stellenbosch University and houses a diversity of plants, both indigenous to South Africa and introduced species. We took a quick tour of the gardens and enjoyed the sunny weather (meanwhile it was snowing in Ithaca!). The garden shop sales associate informed us of Canettevallei’s competitive advantage as a truly local brand compared to other imported brands that the shop also sells.

After a lunch break and brief respite from the blazing sun, we stopped at Algina Nursery, one of Canettevallei’s suppliers, and took a tour of the premise where the lavender seedlings are grown.

Our final two destinations included Water Stone Mall and Sommerset West Mall to explore retail stores that sell Canettevallei lavender products and other similar competitor products. Through our discussions with sales associates, we learned that Ingrid de Waal, the owner of Canettevallei Lavender, completes product delivery herself to some of the retail outlets, which ultimately promotes the maintenance of strong business relationships.

After a long day of meetings, tours, and sunshine, our group debriefed about the information we gathered and planned for our days ahead. It was particularly helpful to view and experience the company’s products in the environment they are sold in. Unfortunately, the spinach team was unable to collect information about Espinaca’s competitors, as there are limited products and retail outlets that can be used for comparison. We look forward to meeting with our clients tomorrow to follow up on our analysis thus far and continue to develop our deliverables and ultimate recommendations.

Meeting the Spinach King

Khayletisha Mall: Our Meeting with the Spinach King

After an early breakfast, the SMART team was off to meet the Spinach King. Lufefe Nomjana, or the Spinach King, owns and manages Espinaca Innovations, a company that produces spinach-based food, predominantly bread. The initial mission of the company was to provide nutritional food options for low-income families within Khayletisha, the largest township in South Africa and Lufefe’s home.

The Spinach King café is located in the Khayletisha Mall. The mall was not the typical mall we were used to, but a lively outdoor shopping center. Retailers and customers filled the sidewalks and the stores.

We quickly found the modern and bright green Spinach King café among the colorless mall stores. The café is located next to one of the mall’s entrances. This entrance has about 6,000 people go through it per day, and we could see streams of people filing in. Inside the store you can purchase breads, muffins, sandwiches, wraps, salads, juices and smoothies at the counter to enjoy at the outdoor café.

After introducing ourselves to the King, he began to tell us about his life. His charismatic charm entranced us all as he told his story of beginning with only 40 Rands, less than 3 U.S. dollars, and an idea, and growing into a company with a storefront location and café. After hearing about the company’s past, we sat down with Lufefe to talk about the company’s future. We questioned him about the company and his long-term goals for it. During our visit, many customers came to purchase breads and told us how the loved the Spinach King’s products. While Lufefe attended to his customers, we all took a turn on the store’s two stationary bikes that blends smoothies.

After almost two hours of conversation with Lufefe in the shade of the café, it was time to take a break. A large school group came to eat at the café and while they lined up to enjoy a delicious spinach burger and coffee catered by the Department of Coffee, we headed to the other stores in the mall to identify Lufefe’s competitors. We fought our way through the sea of people in Super Spar and Shoprite to see their bread products. Although there were many types of bread, none seemed to be as healthy or unique as Lufefe’s.

Finished looking at the Spinach King’s competitors, we returned to his café for our own lunch. We all happily munched on our own delicious spinach burgers and sipped on our cool spinach smoothies with the afternoon sun beating down on us.

Now that we had seen the café, it was time to see where his main ingredient, spinach, was cultivated. We all piled back in the van and headed out to a local community garden that produces the spinach for the café. Although the garden was closed by the time we reached it, we could still see the long rows of spinach through the gates.

Our last stop was to Espinaca Innovations’ original storefront, an express bakery. The store is just as brightly colored as the café in the Khayletisha Mall. There we finished up our questions for Lufefe and met his adorable son, the Spinach Prince.

Returning to our hotel exhausted, we all discussed our thoughts about the company and its inspiring origins and mission.

Smelling the Lavender on Day 2

Today our “office” was the beautiful Canettevallei Lavender Farm. Ingrid de Waal, the founder and owner, began by sharing her background and the inspiration behind her venture. In short? Ingrid is a self-described creative with a love for challenge. She became aware of lavender while visiting France and her husband already operated a winery, so when she identified a hole in the market for lavender products, Ingrid knew she could successfully build the Canettevallei brand.

After the brief introduction, we took a tour around the farm. It was the final day of harvesting, so we had the chance to watch the workers reap the last of the crop. The farm grows two lavender species: the first has an extremely short flowering period, and is the source of Canettevallei’s products; the second’s quality is too low for production, but flowers for several weeks and acts as the farm’s primary attraction. Customers flock to Canettevallei for free access to the field for photoshoots, bringing traffic to the small shop on site.

Three canine companions—Rafa, Hamer, and Dingo—helped show us around, and quickly became a team highlight.  

Following the tour, we reconvened to discuss of Ingrid’s goals, hopes and expectations for Canettevallei’s short and long-term growth in order to direct our strategic and marketing analyses. Her main concerns centered on the quantity of production and the lack of capital to bring on more employees. Demand from both businesses and consumers has continued to increase, overreaching her crop capacity. Additionally, she wears several organizational hats and does not have the expertise or bandwidth to create an overall business strategy.

We completed the visit with a bit of shopping, each choosing from a variety of handmade soaps, lavender dream pillows, and other goodies to take home with us. Happy with our purchases, we left with the smell of lavender trailing behind.

Next we visited a local pharmacy and health store to compare competitor’s products with Canettevallei’s selection. While Ingrid is a first mover with a number of products, her lavender oil faces a bit of competition in the essential oils industry. Her brand is the only one that does not offer a more expansive line, which could condense her customer pool if not positioned properly.

The last portion of our day was spent debriefing. Pages of notes and scribbles later, we had a good sense of what we will need to research and analyze. It was a full, energizing, and productive day.