Mr Hannes van Jaarsveld has won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2006 from Business Partners. Coming up against contestants from Gauteng and KZN was an interesting experience for Mr van Jaarsveld, owner of Montego Feeds CC, a dog food manufacturing company in Graaff Reinett. The judging took place in Johannesburg on the 7th November 2006.
Hannes van Jaarsveld is an example of a corporate person who has succeeded in changing-over to entrepreneurship through a combination of a clever marketing strategy and a clear understanding of the target market.
An accountant by profession, and without a background in the dog food business, van Jaarsveld acquired Montego Feed in 2000. He soon realised that the business, which was about to be liquidated, needed a complete transformation if it were to succeed.
Upon realising that the product was being marketed at the wrong market, Montego Feeds products and brand underwent a complete change. Along with this upgrades were made to the business equipment and building. The product was also changed to meet the target markets requirements.
By increasing the protein content and making use of better quality ingredients, van Jaarsveld was able to offer an improved quality of pet food. This suited the middle and upper income pet-owners who are careful about the quality of nutrition that their dogs receive.
Montego Feeds product range includes Montego Classic, which offers dog food for senior and adult dogs and puppies. Montego Classic Cat is also available.
Van Jaarsveld has carefully structured his distribution so that his products can be accessed by his target market. Montego Feeds clients are around the country and are mainly breeders and kennels. The products are also sold to the public through selected distributors and agents.
The positive response to Montego Feed is reflected in the business growth. Starting out with 11 workers, the company now has a staff of 140. With his three sons already working in the business, van Jaarsveld intends on keeping the business in the family.
An R8-million upgrade to the factory has also seen to new technology being introduced, such as automated production lines. Van Jaarsveld also says that the factory is kept hygienic so that the pet food is handled in the same manner as it would be for human food. Van Jaarsveld says that he hopes to grow the market and extend its product lines within the next year or two. The just-in-time delivery of the products has also been approved and product is now readily available. The business is also looking to export the products as there have been requests for this.
Van Jaarsvelds advice to entrepreneurs who find themselves in similar positions of purchasing a business that is about to be liquidated, is to first assess the market and establish if there is a market for the product that will be offered. “The entrepreneur should also be prepared to work hard to achieve their goal, get to know their product, keep focussed and believe in themselves,” says van Jaarsveld. “But it is most important that they trust in the Lord.”
The company also gives back to its staff and the community. It is a sponsor of the Graaff-Reinet Montego rugby and the Montego soccer team, which are largely made up of the staff at Montego. Montego Feeds also sponsor various SPCAs and other animal welfare organisations.
Van Jaarsveld puts the Eastern Cape on the map as SAs most enterprising province. In 2005, an Eastern Cape company won the award and now van Jaarsveld has taken the National Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2006 from Business Partners.
The fact that the Eastern Cape, the poorest region in our country, can produce two winners in a row, I think is a message to everybody, said Van Jaarsveld on receiving the award. Let us all work together to make South Africa a safer and better place for all its citizens by creating employment. Lets create self respect and respect for others by going back to our religion, our roots and our traditions.