Success story: Simply Granola

When it came to the crunch, Simply Granola chose Bob Go to manage all their shipments. We sat down with founder, Nicola Kok to talk about her ecommerce journey and how she’s making breakfast the most important meal of the day:

When you built your online store, Simply Granola, how long did it take you to complete the journey from concept to launch? You can include a background as to why and how you started selling the goods you sell.

Simply Granola was really a novel side-hustle, selling granola that was based on a recipe passed down from my mom that I adapted slightly to be true to what our ethos is today – a conscious selection of good-for-you ingredients. Friends started asking for more flavours, and slowly but surely over the course of about a year the brand came to be. From the initial launch with just a landing page and manual ordering form, we have grown to become a Shopify online store. This natural progression was a result of our business growth and journey.When we launched, the idea was to keep the availability per month super limited and sell on a first-come-first-serve basis. (Long live that dream! haha!). The market’s reaction to the brand and product fast-tracked what I thought the business would be, into what it is today.

What did you find was the easiest or simplest part of getting started online?

Definitely building the store itself! With user-friendly tools and platforms like Shopify, Bob Go, Google Business and social media, there really is no excuse for anyone wanting to get started. I always say that with patience and Google, you can get very, very far. It’s really a case of putting your mind to it. Shopify offers incredible support and amazing app add-ons that allow you to make just about your wildest dreams come true.

Thinking back, how did you approach the task of online marketing and what resources do you use nowadays for inspiration or functionality?

We actually didn’t do any paid online marketing for the first 5-6 years. We solely relied on Instagram and engaging with our community over there, as well as newsletters to generate online sales and create awareness for our products. People purchase with their eyes, so we’ve placed a very high premium on aesthetics – something we still do. I think, looking back, that is probably the one thing that has served us very well. Today, we still use social media (Instagram + Facebook), and Mailchimp extensively. We also brought on a marketing agency (GenX) who runs our paid ads for us, and their contribution has been invaluable. Social media scheduling tools, like Plann, is our ‘go-to’ to keep content ready to roll. I think brands like Dermastore and Goodleaf have excellent marketing and I admire the quality of their content.

Which platforms would you recommend for ecommerce, accounting, shipping, marketing (etc) and how do you stick it all together?

Shopify and its integration with Bob Go would be my number 1 – there is no easier way to go digital with sales than with these platforms. We’ve had so many offers from other courier companies but with the integration to Shopify lacking, it simply doesn’t make sense. For us, efficiency is super important – so whatever tools help you get the job done in the fastest and simplest manner – use those. We also switched over to Xero for accounting, as the platform offers integration to Shopify, as well as stock management platforms like Katana (etc), which are far superior to other options on the market. We also make use of Monday, Slack and G-Suite for operational purposes. All these tools speak to each other and simplify our lives immensely.

What would you say are the current pitfalls of starting an online business in South Africa?

Listen; ask any SME and they’ll tell you how bad it is out there. The economy is definitely not great at the moment with consumer purchasing power at an ultimate low. If you’re about to enter the market, I would offer the following pieces of advice:

  • You have to be an expert in your product costing. If you don’t know, ask for help. Make sure your Gross Profit is healthy and that there is room to increases prices to the consumer if the need may arise, or that you leave sufficient ‘room’ to consume a degree of price increases before passing those on to the consumer.
  • Further to the above, if you’d like to enter the e-commerce and retail (brick & mortar) market at the same time, ensure that your pricing allows you to discount the products sufficiently so that retailers want (and can) put it on their shelves.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient working capital to tide you over and account for timing differences between customers paying you and you paying suppliers. No matter how big or small your business, cashflow is a killer for all.
  • Keep operational expenses as tight as possible to ensure your bottom line is as healthy as possible.
  • Just because your business is new and perhaps a novel idea, don’t regard it as such. Ensure that your company can (or will be able to) pay you a proper salary. If it can’t do that off the bat, make a monthly provision for your efforts so that if you get to the point of raising capital, your finances will reflect the sweat equity you’ve put into the business

What, in your view, is the thing holding most companies back when trying to decide whether to sell online or in a traditional bricks and mortar store?

I think for some bizarre reason people view ecommerce as intimidating – how to navigate nationwide distribution, payment processors, the operational admin around picking and packing – but it’s all very simple really. In my mind, to a degree, if you’re wary or would like to test the success of your business or product, an online shop is a super low risk, low effort and low cost exercise in contrast to brick & mortar.

Moving on to Bob Go now – how long have you been a Bob Go merchant?

I like to believe we were one of the very first Bob Go customers (but really, I think we were). As soon as Bob Go (formerly uAfrica) launched, my life was changed and I switched to Shopify immediately to make use of the integration between Shopify and Bob Go – it was a no brainer. The amount of time and effort it saved me from writing waybills, managing multiple courier accounts – it was the best thing that probably happened to me in my early ecommerce years.

What is your favourite feature on Bob Go at the moment?

The seamless integration between Bob Go and Shopify, the professional support from the Customer Service team and the still-personal access we have with the team when we want to discuss more intricate details of the service offering.

What would you like to see on Bob Go that isn’t currently available?

I’d love a flag that indicates whether a customer is a first-time customer or not. (I know this probably lies within Shopify – but we dispatch from Bob Go so that’s why I’d love to be able to see it there.)

What advice would you offer someone that is considering starting an online business in 2023.

Well. It’s definitely a hell of a ride. Be prepared for long nights, lonely days and multiple glasses of something strong on the side. Being an entrepreneur in this day and age is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but if you want it bad enough you will make it work. Don’t ever be scared to lean on those that have gone before you and pack your bravest set of big girl panties for the journey!

Head over to Simply Granola‘s website and stock up on your breakfast food!