Name: Jonathan Kelsey
Business Name: Joekels Tea Packers
Business Description: Blending and packing of some of SA’s favourite tea brands.

1. How long have you been operating?
24 years

2. How did you start your business?
I was in the tea industry working as a tea buyer for National Brands. At the time (1994), South Africa was changing and we saw an opportunity to change the face of the tea industry by offering a quality tea at an affordable price. And so Joekels Tea Packers was born, with the founding brand Phendula Tips, which literally means “to turn around or change” in Zulu, and with a vision to offer all South Africans top quality tea. Because we believe that a great cup of tea should be within everyone’s reach.

3. How old were you when you started it?
27

4. What can you tell us to show the scale of your business?
We started out with one brand, Phendula Tips, which we blended in a converted cement mixer. Today we have seven brands that are all household names in their own right – Phendula Tips, Tea Time, Tetley, Teeco, Laager Rooibos, Laager Tea4Kidz, and Southalls Rooibos; and we also pack 95% of the private label tea in South Africa. From a staff compliment of 5, we now employ over 150 people. Our teas are sold through the vast majority of major Retailers in South Africa and neighbouring countries, and also into Africa.

5. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Seeing the success of the efforts we put into the business is extremely rewarding, as well as watching people excel when given the right platform and seeing the brands thriving and the business growing.  There is no worst part – every day is a new day and you have to adapt to a constantly changing competitive environment.

6. What was the hardest lesson you had to learn in business?
Nobody owes you a thing, get off your backside and believe in what you do. Don’t wait for a handout, your respect and reputation has to be earned. And also that banks don’t like risks!

7. Did you ever want to quit and, if so, what did you do to overcome it?
Never, I always believed in our product offering and pricing and knew we had a great chance of making it a success. I’ve always lived by the motto to do the right thing, and NEVER GIVE UP.

8. What are you most grateful for while running your business?
Having support from our loyal consumers and seeing them enjoy our products. We have always put the consumer at the heart of what we do and worked hard to never let our customers down. I’ve always said that I will never sell a tea that I wouldn’t happily drink and enjoy myself. We’ve earned our consumers’ trust over time, by focusing on quality and service. We also have the best certified tea factory in South Africa, with the international FSSC 22000 certification, which guarantees the safety and quality of our products. We also have a very low staff turnover which is a testament to the happy working environment we have set. You spend so much time at work, it needs to be a place where you can have fun too.

9. What has the potential to keep you up at night?
I sleep well at night!

10. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting out?
Never give up and always believe in what you are doing. Set goals, targets and budgets and then do your best to knock them out of the park!