The journey to becoming an entrepreneur is long and challenging but if you succeed the rewards are worth it.
Entrepreneur Nick Adriaans, 26, believes the secret to his success is finishing all his projects in the best possible way.
Mr Adriaans said his business didn’t just fall into his lap. His upbringing, different jobs and life experience have brought him where he is today, as the owner of a gardening service company in Zeekoevlei.
He said he inherited his good work ethic from his late father Arnold who encouraged his five children not do a job halfway.
Mr Adriaans said from his mother Olive, a teacher, he got the inspiration to educate himself and to always keep learning.
The youngest of five children, four boys and one girl, Mr Adriaans said his father and mother ran a business where his father used to transport children to and from an educare where his mother is still working.
“Although my parents were busy our family stood together to make the business succeed,” said Mr Adriaans.
“There were times when we had nothing but we always had each other. We didn’t grow up with material things. However, if we did get things we showed our appreciation. We never felt poor.”
Although gardening is now Mr Adriaans’s passion, he did not love it at first.
Mr Adriaans attended Fairview Primary School and Grassy Park High School. “When I was in primary school I had to help my father mow the lawn. The funny thing was, I never got a chance to mow the lawn. I ended up carrying the cable attached to the mower. I had to keep the cable up while my father did the mowing. I didn’t enjoy it,” he said.
When Mr Adriaans became a teenager he got busy with other things while his father continued with the gardening.
He compIeted high school in 2007 and initially struggled to get a job but was eventually employed at a casino.
However, just five days after getting the job in 2010, tragedy struck the family.
“My parents were robbed and later that day my dad went to take a nap and he never woke up. Doctors said he died of a heart attack.”
Mr Adriaans continued working at the casino. “Nobody did the gardening after my father died. It was only then that we saw the value he actually brought to our family. Then I took over the chores around the house,” he said.
While at the casino, Mr Adriaans worked as a card dealer and was required to do a course in customer relations.
He worked late shifts but still tried to keep the garden in order.
He tried to get help but those hired did not do a good job and it was when he joined a WhatsApp neighbourhood watch group that he got a bright idea.
Residents on the group chat were talking about crime in the area and said they did not have trustworthy gardeners. “That’s when I saw a gap in the market. I had a gardening service to offer,” said Mr Adriaans.
But he said even before he made the decision to start his gardening business he went through “spiritual changes” and felt that his “soul” wasn’t in his job at the casino. “In 2012 I was standing at a table, waiting for people to come and play black jack, at 3am. I felt like I was wasting time. Money was good and I was earning a lot, but I missed all my family celebrations like Christmas and birthdays and even funerals.”
He decided to do something but before he quit his job, he had to have a plan in place. That was made easier when the casino told employees about possible retrenchments. “I made a decision and quit my job,” said Mr Adriaans.
In 2014, I invested R70 000 in the gardening business from my savings. “The neighbours were our customers. But the business wasn’t doing well, because I wasn’t balancing my books.”
In 2015 he temporarily closed shop during winter, leaving him unemployed and regretting his decision but inspiration was to strike again.
“I eventually got a job at Mr Sat-ellite, a DStv company, and started working with clients. I was waiting for spring to start my gardening service again. But when I went to houses in Constantia, on a job, I saw landscapers working, in winter.”
Mr Adriaans saw an advert on Facebook for Salesian Life Choices, an NPO in Lansdowne, who were offering a New Ventures entrepreneurial programme. “I took a leap of faith and applied to enter the programmes. It was life changing because it took my business to a whole new level.”
Through an intensive eight-week entrepreneurship course, young South Africans are recruited to become part of an incubator where they receive R150 000 worth of services in exchange for 20% equity. They are then supported to move from an idea or early business stage to an operational business model ready to be implemented.
This programme taught Mr Adriaans about customer care and market research. “This course helped me register my company, develop a corporate identity, marketing tools and a website. I was also taught lifeskills as a part of the programme to deal with the stresses in a business.”
He applies the same methods in his business. “I ask my staff before I hire them to tell me what their personal goals are and then I ask them to work towards that goal, but also towards the company’s goal, which is to provide the top eco-friendly gardening service in the country.”
Mr Adriaans continues to study and is doing a course in horticulture where they are taught about plant identification, types of soil and what happens under the ground. “We also learn about the types of insects and the effect pesticides have on plants,” said Mr Adriaans, who clearly has green fingers with a golden touch.