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A Recipe For Success




If you are a foodie and live in South Africa, you know the name Tashas. Regardless of which Tashas you visit it’s always busy and people don’t mind waiting. I certainly don’t so long as there’s a glass of Turkish Delight or Goats Do Roam Red to keep me company.

After years of surprise birthday parties, dates, family get-togethers and business meetings at Tashas, an interview with the woman that started it all was long overdue.

Natasha Sideris is one busy woman and passionate about what she has built. Dedicated to maintaining standards, the interview was peppered with Sideris getting up to seat customers, hand them menus and tell the odd waiter to tuck in their shirt.

Given her jovial mood it was hard to believe it when Sideris described the day before as one of the worst she’s ever had. Her advice is to wake up the next day and get back to work.

Sideris’ journey into the food business began more than two decades ago. She worked part-time at her dad’s Fishmonger restaurant, while studying psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand. You could say this is where it all began.

Sideris spent years working in the fast food industry, but it wasn’t for her. She worked at Nino’s, an Italian-style restaurant franchise, helping the company open 12 new restaurants. In 2001, the 24-year-old bought her own branch with help from the bank and her family.

In 2005, Sideris realized that all the market had to offer were themed restaurants and big chains; this is where she saw the gap.

“It was because of my experience at Nino’s that I realized there was such a gap in the South African market for this style of restaurant.”

There was a place for something niche and Sideris planned on being the first one to fill it.

The vision was clear, “authentic, old school, with good fresh food”. Sideris just needed the money to kick it off. Financing the first Tashas in Sandton in 2005 wasn’t easy. She found herself in front of a loan shark, leaving with less than she needed but more in debt than she was ready for. One can only guess what would have happened had the eatery not been a hit. Sideris didn’t draw a salary for almost two-and-a-half years.

Drawing on the success of the business, Sideris turned the Nino’s in Bedfordview, east of Johannesburg, into another Tashas. This meant another trip to a loan shark. Banks weren’t paying her much attention since all she had was an asset in debt.

“It was long, hard work but I knew I was on to something good and I persevered,” she says.

When Sideris went into business with Famous Brands, a food services company that stables some of South Africa’s best known fast food franchises, it seemed an unlikely relationship, but not to her.

“I was very, very cautious in the beginning when I did the deal with them [Famous Brands].”

What would happen to the niche, unique café style restaurants she had created if she got into bed with a mass producer, the fast food business she ran from? Looking at how it has all turned out, both parties have come out ahead.

Famous Brands may own 51% of the business but Sideris still maintains creative control. She gained valuable skills and Famous Brands in return has a unique product for its stable.

Famous Brands, as of its last annual report, has 2,378 franchised restaurants. The report also states that the group’s ‘premium offering’, Tashas, delivered 20% like-on-like growth for the period.

The franchise fee for Tashas is broken up into three segments: an initial $18,600 (R223,000) payment, 6% of the monthly turnover and an advertising fee of 2%. The company puts set-up costs at around $500,000 (R6 million), with $12,500 (R150,000)–$16,700 (R200,000) working capital required.

The trick is to have owner-operated franchises. Each possible franchisee needs to have a minimum amount of experience in the restaurant business, go through pre-screening, interviews and three months of training.

The variants in deco and menu choices give each branch a sense of individuality, allowing the customers to have a different experience in each store. The distinct décor and signature menus are determined by the area and customer base, from the Dutch look and feel in Pretoria to the Parisian-style Le Parc in Hyde Park.

The plan is to have no more than 15 stores in South Africa – there are currently 12 – in order to maintain control and not saturate the market. Sideris is looking for slow and steady growth.

Right now the plans include a line of cookbooks, an online retail store with Tashas products and international expansion. Released in November, the first cookbook has made it to the top 10 list at Exclusive Books. The secret is out, but Sideris says it’s not about holding onto the recipes because Tashas is more than just the food.

Sideris had some help in the form of her brother Savva. Sideris calls him her rock, a doer and true restaurateur, a dying breed in South Africa according her.

“We are not chefs, we are restaurateurs.”

Savva has been there since 2007 and set up the new operation in Dubai.

It is the success of the Tashas brand that led to Dubai. It was an intense three-year process that led to the opening of the maiden international restaurant in Jumeirah’s The Galleria Mall. The franchise was drawn to the country by its similarity to the South African landscape back in 2005 – Sideris wanted to take advantage of another gap further from home. The best South African staff members have been taken to the Jumeirah store for a year, with the option of staying longer.

Keeping with the strategy of slow and steady growth, Saderis wants to open three or four restaurants in Dubai and explore places like Doha, Kuwait and Oman.

“We’re not going anywhere until we’ve got it absolutely right in South Africa and Dubai.”

Sideris was surprised by how well things took off in Dubai, admitting that although she was nervous she had no expectations.

Jeremy Sampson, the founder of brand consultancy firm Interbrand Sampson de Villiers, calls Tashas a fantastic success story. He says people tend to forget that a brand is about experience and that the challenge lies with making sure all the touch points are aligned.

How well will Tashas do beyond South Africa’s shores? Sampson says one of its strengths is its ability to tweak its offering and cater to the local culture; this he adds is not unlike the strategy global fast food giant McDonalds uses.

According to Sideris, “Hard work equals good luck”. You can argue she’s got plenty of both.

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Advances In Nigeria’s ‘Burglar Watch’ Industry




The escalating safety and security issues in Nigeria raised the alarm for this innovative entrepreneur.

Today, organizations not only face escalating risks but also the certitude that they will face a security breach at any time, if proper precautions are not taken. Such was the case for Paul Ajibulu when his office premises were ransacked by thugs in Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island, Lagos.

“We had just got our office fully furnished with MacBook computers and the whole works. When we came in the next day, we found the locks broken and all the office equipment had been looted. I lost about $20,000 in all that day and that set our business back for a couple of months,” says Ajibulu.

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To solve his problems, he reached out to Extreme Mutual Technique, an automated digital systems solution and renewable energy service provider.

The company says it boasts top-tier clients such as MTN, the Embassy of Sierra Leone, South African Breweries, and Africa Finance Corporation, amongst many others.

Akpobome Ojoboh, its founder and Managing Director, is adamant his systems are a must-have for every organization in Nigeria.

“We initially started the business called Extreme Surveillance Systems limited. Coming from my previous background, we decided to focus on CCTV and digital security. Considering the fact that Nigeria was being terrorized by security mishaps, we decided to [resolve] that,” says Ojoboh.

Safety and security have never been discussed in Nigeria as they are now. Threats are from everywhere, and at all places. Routine security checking at offices and shopping mall entrances has become the norm.

The idea of preventing crime is an appealing twist in today’s times and although it’s comforting for many to imagine a competent police officer monitoring every camera in Lagos, the question remains whether CCTV systems really do prevent crimes from happening or do they merely help in nabbing a criminal once a crime has occurred.

In a city like Lagos where you have constant disruptions to power, the long-term success of these systems presented significant hurdles for Ojoboh in the early days.

“There are so many limitations to digital security vis-à-vis the lack of a proper database that even when you have [identified] the culprits, you cannot find them. Furthermore, there were limitations to how people took ownership of their equipment because there was [often] no power. So, you put a system and people say ‘what if there is no power’?”

To combat these challenges, Ojoboh decided to provide another solution, by moving into the world of inverters.

“Then again, these inverters run down when there is no power to charge them so we went into renewable energy called solar to back up our inverters and digital solutions. That is when we changed the business to Extreme Mutual Technique Limited,” says Ojoboh.

Security is one of the largest businesses in the world, according to Ojoboh.

He has seen an increase in more families opting for peace of mind by having big brother watching over their loved ones whenever they cannot be with them.

“When I first became a mum, I would always worry incessantly about my daughter left alone at home with my nanny. Then, we started noticing strange marks on my daughter and I had heard about people mistreating children they cared for but I never thought it would happen to me. I reached out to a security company to install a camera in the house and lo and behold, I saw the nanny hitting my daughter. My whole world crumbled,” says Rebecca Gyan, a grocery store owner in Accra.

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“You have to be prepared because if you are not, then you almost cannot stop any security breach. It helps you to know some proactive measures to protect yourself. If you have a CCTV system and you notice there is a particular group of people visiting your building, you will be able to notice and react,” says Ojoboh.

As organizations become familiar with probable threats and vulnerabilities, they will be able to establish both preventive measures and responsive systems, to decrease the likelihood of intruders and attacks.

Since starting out in 2007, Ojoboh has grown the team to a 40-member business spread across Lagos and Abuja. The company has also moved into IT and engineering services in the areas of energy infrastructure, home automation, fire safety and digital security solutions.

With power still an issue in Nigeria, Ojoboh sees the future of his business in the area of renewable energy to power his systems to provide that all-important peace of mind to his clients. 

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Gordon Ramsay Plots 100 US Restaurants With New Private Equity Deal





On a given day at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, chef Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous pub and grill will make around $20,000 from fish and chips. The 1,200-square-foot space sees around 1,300 guests a day. Since debuting on the strip in 2012, Ramsay has added another location in Atlantic City.

Combined, both have sold more than 300,000 fish and chips dishes. “It’s taken the nation by storm. I look at the lines outside the door,” Ramsay told Forbes on the phone earlier this week.

His steak restaurant, which launched seven years ago at Caesars’ Paris Las Vegas Hotel, has meanwhile expanded to Atlantic City and Baltimore, luring diners with beef Wellingtons (more than 250,000 sold since 2012) and sticky toffee puddings (more than 200,000 sold).

That kind of demand needs to be taken advantage of quickly. Which is why a year ago, Ramsay started looking for a partner to help him rapidly expand these brands. “I wasn’t ready to pedal this bike up a hill on my own. That would take me another 15 years,” Ramsay says. “Let’s get this thing done.”

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And now Ramsay has inked a deal with Lion Capital, a private equity outfit with offices in London and Los Angeles, which has scaled restaurants like wagamama, the pan-Asian noodle chain, as well as brands like Kettle chips and Jimmy Cho. Lion now owns 50% of Gordon Ramsay North America, while the other 50% is controlled by Ramsay.

He declined to comment on the size of the transaction, but the deal stipulates that Lion will invest $100 million over five years to build an empire of Gordon Ramsay restaurants across America. The joint venture expects to open 100 new locations across the U.S by 2024. 

“I fell in love with this country 20 years ago. There’s a will here. My goal, right now, is to establish one of the most exciting food brands in America,” Ramsay says. “Being a control freak, I needed the right partner on board. There’s a lot of businesses that don’t like that kind of stranglehold. For me, the partnership was crucial.”

Ramsay already has eight restaurants across Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Baltimore in partnership with Caesars Entertainment. There’s five concepts in Las Vegas, of which three are brands that will be expanded through the new deal — Gordon Ramsay Steak, Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips.

“Vegas has been the most amazing platform. Everyone thinks it is just full of partying and entertainment, but it’s one of the most severe and revered culinary capitals anywhere in the world. You don’t get a second shot at it,” Ramsay says.

The restaurant concept, Gordon Ramsay Steak, launched in 2012 inside Caesar Entertainment's Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
The restaurant concept, Gordon Ramsay Steak, launched in 2012 inside Caesar Entertainment’s Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.GORDON RAMSAY STEAK

The deal will also bring two more concepts to the U.S.: Gordon Ramsay Street Pizza and Gordon Ramsay Bread Street Kitchen, which he calls “a modern Cheesecake Factory.” It already has successful locations in London, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore. 

Ramsay is a six-time Celebrity 100 listmaker who earned $62 million last year, mainly from his television deal with Fox, in which he produces and stars in shows MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef Jr. as well as 24 Hours to Hell and Back.

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“It may seem aggressive, but we’re not opening up 80 or 90 of the same restaurant. We’re crossing over with a multilayered brand. That’s the bit that I’ve worked hard at. We’ve divided and conquered.”

Ramsay’s 15 restaurants in London won’t be impacted by the Lion Capital investment. The announcement comes just a few weeks after British chef Jamie Oliver announced that all but three of his 25 restaurants in the U.K. will close.

“It’s a very oversaturated market there, and you need to be very careful with that level of expansion. It’s unfortunate to see the situation he got himself into, but that’s what happens when you’ve got a juggernaut that’s out of control, as opposed to being in control,” Ramsay says. “I’ve sat patiently, learning from other people’s mistakes.”=

-Chloe Sorvino; Forbes Staff

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Pain, Poison And Potential




For a man who wanted to end his life at one time, it is quite ironic that Steve Harris is today one of Nigeria’s most successful life and business strategists.

Being born into a lower middle class family is one thing; trying to make a name for yourself after dropping out of university twice is another. That is what Steve Harris, a life and business strategist and motivational speaker, fondly known as ‘Mr. Ruthless Execution’, has accomplished.

Harris learned the sinusoidal motions of the entrepreneurship journey very early in life.

At 40, he is the Chief Executive Officer of EdgeEcution, an organization that helps high performance individuals and institutions bridge the gap between their performance and potential.

Today, he is among one of the most downloaded, quoted and followed personal development trainers in Nigeria, a feat that is outstanding when you consider that he almost committed suicide before this journey even began.

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The events leading up to his worst day began to unfold when Harris gained admission into the University of Benin in Nigeria. His parents wanted him to become an engineer but his failure to attain the required grades meant he had to take the Industrial Maths class instead. That is when his emotional saga began.

“I had altercations with my lecturers and I was flunking because I was not cut out for math. I had issues with my lecturers because at the time, my department was the most corrupt department in the university and if you wanted to pass, you needed to bribe your lecturers. So they were pretty much a cartel and if you didn’t pay, you wouldn’t pass, so someone like me who at best was a C student became an F student.”

As a result, he scored 4% or 11% in his exams even when he had prepared well enough.

“I eventually got kicked out [of university] in 2004.”

Harris managed to get into a private university but this time, he was required to start all over again.

“I couldn’t go the distance and I dropped out in my seventh month. I couldn’t handle it because my mates were already working. My younger sister was also already working and I was going back to my first year of university. I started having suicidal thoughts and I couldn’t handle it anymore so I dropped out.”

Those suicidal thoughts would come back to haunt him later.

Being the first-born of three children, Harris was the one most likely to succeed. As fate would have it, his two failed attempts at university made him the black sheep of the family.

“I remember coming back home and my younger sister had graduated and my parents were super stoked, and here I am, the first child and I didn’t even get it together. Very quickly, she got a job and started earning money. She began buying things for the house and taking care of responsibilities and started giving me an allowance. I remember she gave me N10,000 ($28) and I was very grateful because I didn’t have any money,” says Harris.

“Like all African parents, my parents started complaining and reminding me about how I wasted their money and how I failed. How the children of others were working in [companies like] Shell and I was just at home.

“I would hide from friends and family members when they visited so I wouldn’t have to tell them my situation. The next month, my sister gave me N5,000 ($14) and I couldn’t ask her where the other N5,000 had gone. She was such a high-flyer that within six months, she moved into her own place and bought a car and here I am, first-born and I couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas card,” avers Harris.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“One day, my sister asked me to come over to her house for my monthly allowance. I went in and she had everything I wanted, she had a flat-screen TV, the whole nine yards, and I was just sitting there comparing my little sister with myself and I was thinking ‘there is no way I was ever going to catch up with her’. We were talking and in the middle of the conversation, I pissed her off and she said, ‘I am not even going to give you any more money’ and she kicked me out of her house.

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“I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and here I was, the one who everyone thought was most likely to succeed and I was being kicked out of my younger sister’s house because I didn’t have money. That messed with my mind. I remember sitting at home and I had bought rat poison. I kept thinking that it would be so much better to die than being alive and subjected to the misery I was giving my parents,” says Harris.

As he sat down with the box of poison, mentally preparing himself to end the pain and embarrassment he had brought to his family, one of his siblings walked into the house, in the nick of time.

“That is what stopped me. Then, I also found out that if you commit suicide, you will go to hell and here I am, living my own hell on earth and if I died, you are telling me I am going to be in hell forever?”

That was the wakeup call Harris so desperately needed.

He began to work his way up, starting off with volunteer jobs such as being a church driver for his pastor and also working as an office assistant with Fela Durotoye, a management consultant and recent presidential candidate of the Nigerian elections.

Harris grew through the ranks until he became a management consultant before starting off on his own entrepreneurial journey. Amid the challenges of finding his true purpose, certain thoughts came to his mind that changed his outlook towards life forever. He began asking himself: ‘why am I on this earth?’, ‘how can I make enough money to take care of myself and my family?’ and ‘how do I use my talent to help others?’

He found the answers in books on business written by authors such as Tom Peters and Michael Porter. That is when Harris first discovered he had a penchant for success.

And with his ability to overcome failure, Harris is now on a mission to empower millennials to look inward at their strengths and inner power, and with his able guidance, build brands that can beat the odds and survive, just as he did. 

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