Kitchen table start-up shows how to keep costs down to the bone

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Pulling off on an Elands Wave.
Pulling off on an Elands Wave. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We pulled out of Muizenberg at daybreak in a clapped-out grey Ford panel van with the engine stuttering at first and then smoothing out on our ride to Elands Bay.

When we got to Elands Bay the surf was up. We parked the panel van on the grass near picnic area, donned our wet suits, paddled out to the left break and started tearing up waves.

Those days we would just surf and surf until dark, come in, remember we had to eat, light a fire and braai some sausage and eat it with rolls. Later we’d sleep in the panel van or if it was a warm night we would just sleep outside under the stars.

I wonder whether young surfers take such low-budget surfing trips these days. Perhaps nothing’s changed. Though petrol has skyrocketed. Nowadays the authorities will be there to chase you away from picnic areas, not allowing you to sleep over.

That same surfer I went with on many low-cost surf trips when the swells were flat in Cape Town went on to build a frugal business financing his home with a coterie of tenants living in the backyard. In this rough economy sideline income sources like this are welcome. He’s got a small painting company and maintenance and repairs for the house are kept to the bone.

Is frugality something that is practised and revered as it once was? Saving paperclips, writing with ballpoints till they run out, saving yoghurt cups and other plastic containers. My grandmother even kept plastic bags to reuse. She’d been through the depression and war years. No waste, no excessive spending, satisfied with what she had, living off a meagre Railway pension.

I saw the other day that kitchen table start-ups in the UK are showing how frugal they can be. One kitchen table start-up entrepreneur Julie Deane started her homegrown business, the Cambridge Satchel Company, from her home using her garden shed to keep stock. She didn’t borrow a penny from the bank to fund the expansion. Now, her business sells its products in about 120 countries and employs 100 people. They work out of a office and have a factory but still keep costs down. She told the Financial Times, “We are a very tight-knit team, and if we said we now have lots of money we would not have to be so clever.”

The satchels were inspired by the Harry Potter books. She imagined the kinds of satchels the characters would have used at theHogwarts School. When they did photo shoots for the products they held a white sheet as a background and bought a cheap early version of a photo editor to edit the photographs.

You’ve got it be careful about conventional wisdom such as “you must spend money, to make money”. Yes, you need seed capital to start most things, even a kitchen table start-up, but frugality will teach you ingenuity. If you’ve got the cost-conscious mindset and are looking to put your ingenuity you to work, then go to Breakthrough Ideas for low-cost help. The payoff could be spectacular.

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