by Lizl Naude, founder of Lilly Loompa
On Thursday, I had a full day of meetings scheduled in Cape Town City. I had a product-related meeting that lasted three hours till about lunch time. After I was done with my meeting I made my way to the car in the mezzanine parking lot. By this time I was ravenous and I needed to eat before going onto my next meeting. I packed all my sample products and display units in the car and took out the left-overs from supper that I brought from home. I made myself comfortable in the driver seat, and just took a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet and my meal!
As I was sitting, a car pulled into the adjacent parking and I quickly glanced that way. It was a gentleman and it looked like he was driving a rental car. I didn’t mind him and munched away. My window was pulled down, and in my periphery I could see him take out his laptop and files in his boot.
“What are you having for lunch?” he asked from outside. I paused for a moment, and really didn’t feel like chatting as I was in my little cocoon, enjoying my alone time and he clearly was in the mood to have conversation. I proceeded to make small talk with him and he referred to my branded car and asked me what line of business I was in. I reluctantly explained, still sitting in my car. Then I decided to get out and talk to him, as he was clearly very interested.
We did our introductions and he told me he was a Capetonian, now living in Johannesburg. Then he asked me if I had any products with me. I did, but they were samples that I used for my meeting earlier and I wasn’t too comfortable showing them to him. He insisted and I proceeded to the boot and flipped out the products. They were scattered in the box and I put some of them together to try and attempt to show him how great they were. He told me he was meeting with the South African Minister of Small Business, Lindiwe Zulu, later that day, and he would really like to hand over some of my products to her. He said he would take a few pictures with her holding the product and send it to me so I can use if for marketing purposes.
I really felt I was underselling the value of my product this way, but I got excited at this opportunity. I tried to explain that I wasn’t prepared to show my product to any clients this particular day.
So while I started making excuses, his face had a friendly, but stern look as he said to me:
“The golden rule of business is, ALWAYS BE CLOSING! Always be ready!”
Flustered, and a little embarrassed, I managed to get two products together, that I felt would be acceptable and handed them over to him. At least I had a little branded box to pack them in.
He handed me his business card and wished me well as he made his way to the lifts. I was excited and upset with myself at the same time. I sat in the car, meditating on what had just happened. I was tempted to beat myself up over the fact that I wasn’t prepared, and that I also might have initially come across as snobbish.
Here are the lessons I learned: (in no particular order)
- DO take a break when you need to and don’t feel guilty
- Pack your lunch and snacks. This saves you money and prevents you from eating junk food while on the road
- In hindsight, maybe I had too many meetings scheduled that day as this put me in a rushed mood
- Don’t be so rushed that you forget to enjoy the ride. Here I met a nice gentleman who wanted to help me along on my business journey.
- Be open to meeting new people…they could be the key to your big break! Also, be nice! ☺
- Remain teachable. Don’t ever say no to good advice!
- Always be ready! Always be closing! My number one lesson of the week. This “little” incident will stay with me for the rest of my life!
He stayed true to his word. Later that evening he sent me the pictures of the Minister holding my products! Thank you kind gentleman…you know who you are! Thank you for this kind gesture!
“A wise person knows that there is something to be learned from everyone.” Author unknown
Lizl Naude is the founder of Lilly Loompa in South Africa, a company that creates beautiful and usable products made with recycled material. Lilly Loompa's “Rubbish Range” is the result of Lizl's craving to deliver pieces that are completely "green". Lizl is a self-taught designer and initially started designing and making furniture because she couldn’t afford to buy new pieces to furnish her home. She started to scout and source for budget material and quickly realised that most people discard of very usable materials. The company manufactures a variety of products, from storage holders, lamps, to dinner table accessories, among others. All materials are carefully sourced from waste and sustainably reimagined as beautiful, yet purposeful products. Eco-friendly, handcrafted and 100% South African, each Lilly Loompa piece, once trash, is now a meaningful piece of treasure.
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