Tag Archives: Silulo

Getting better at training outlets

On 5 June 2012, we presented the rescheduled training with Silulo store managers. Zimkita presented this training in isiXhosa as this was the home language of the store managers, whilst Zukisani and I assisted when manager were stuck. After the initial training, several Silulo managers voiced the need for training again as they weren’t fully comfortable with the website.

We recognised that we may have either had a problem with our training method or our website not user-friendly. Therefore, we arranged for a follow-up training session which was presented by Arthur and attended by a few Silulo managers. Despite these setbacks, Silulo Ulutho sold hundreds of matric exam packs and our correspondence with them led to our decision to break down exam packs into single-year versions.

Zukisani and Zimkita had connected with the owner of African Axxess in Langa. Due to the close proximity of African Axxess to Langa Secondary School, we also held a presentation at the school in conjuction with African Axxess. This time we used a flip chart instead of a projector and didn’t cater for attendees. The presentation went very smoothly and we have more attendees at this presentation than the one at Silulo.

Our roadmap, third quarter 2012

Our aims for the next three months:

  • Continue and learn from our promotional campaign in Khayelitsha working with Silulo copy shops.
  • Build our outlet footprint in Gauteng, KZN, and Eastern Cape (we’re working on collaboration with the three major copy-shop chains in South Africa).
  • Another phase of software development, primarily to automate document preparation and boost exponentially the speed with which we can add content to the site.
  • Build media interest in and coverage of Paperight through articles, interviews and speaking events.

Early attempts at franchise collaboration

May 2012 was a very eventful month for Paperight. We launched our website v1.0, Michelle Carstens of The Office Crew became the first outlet to top up her Paperight account and the marketing manager of Jetline registered with Paperight. All three of these events had particular significance for me.

It had been my idea to create an outlets map and I was in charge of placing the outlets on our original map. The Office Crew was an outlet which I introduced to Paperight and became our first VIP outlet. I believe the reason for this is that The Office Crew had an outlet owner who was passionate about Paperight and it was close to my home. This meant that I could give them close attention and get feedback from them regularly.

Jetline had already on my list of potential franchises to approach when, a publisher recommended that we contact Jetline and forwarded a contact number to us. This was the start of what led to our biggest outlet partnership yet.

I headed to Durban for two weeks to collect my car and in the process visits and sign up outlets face to face. During this visit I learned that outlets require at least two visits to have them buy in to Paperight effectively. The first visit to introduce them to our concept and the second to answer questions they might have thought of and physically training them how to use the service.

In the meantime, Zukisani and Zimkita were in Cape Town completing the tasks laid out in the Silulo Marketing plan. The main highlights of our plan were a presentation with H.O.D.’s from various schools in the area and a training session with the managers of the various Silulo Ulutho branches.

The training with the managers was postponed due to a miscommunication between Zukisani and Lonwabo (a director at Silulo Ulutho). The presentation took place right after I had returned from Durban which meant that I also had the opportunity to be involved. Zimkita was the MC whilst Zukisani and I each had a portion in the presentation.

Only 4 of the 40 H.O.D.’s that were invited attended. We made the mistake of supplying catering for 200 people and the projector for the presentation wasn’t properly organised. We also had Paperight-branded mugs and chocolates made for the H.O.D.’s and Paperight team. The biggest lessons that we learned from this is to manage our promotional spending better and to utilise resources that are fully in our control as much as possible.

Highlights from the first nine months

Every three months, I sum up what I’ve been doing during my Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship. At the time of writing this, I’m also reapplying for another year as a Fellow. In particular, I wanted to talk about lessons I’ve learned, what we’ve built over the last nine months, and where we’re headed. This post is the brief summary. In related posts I go into more detail about:

  • lessons learned
  • speaking events
  • website development
  • team and infrastructure
  • partnerships
  • a personal take.

screenshot_20120510After nine months, we’ve reached some big milestones for Paperight. Most importantly, the instant-delivery rights marketplace we set out to build is a reality, now that the Paperight 1.0 site is live. We have over 50 outlets registered – including copy shops, schools and NGOs – and have made our first revenue.

Innovative publishing companies have joined us, including Cover2Cover (youth fiction), Modjaji Books (acclaimed fiction and biography), the Health and Medical Publishing Group (publishers of the South African Medical Journal and a dozen others the and SA Medicines Formulary), and the African Books Collective, a renowned agency representing over 140 small and medium publishers from around Africa. (There are also several very small publishers signed up.) We are in advanced talks with several large educational and trade publishers in South Africa, too.

Promotional partnerships with Silulo Ulutho Technologies, a fast-growing chain of Internet-cafe-copy-shops, and copier-printer companies Canon and ITEC are kicking in now, too.

We’ve also made some shifts in our promotional strategy as we’ve learned through trial and error where time, energy and money are best spent.

So, listing the key milestones:

Lessons learned:

  • The human story is more powerful than the financial one (even when both are good).
  • Spending lots of time chasing big publishers isn’t worth it. There are many smaller, more interesting fish.
  • We needed to focus more on how we make it legal to print books.
  • We’ve learned to blend patience and impatience in software development.
  • Too much choice for our customers is paralysing. Simplify the offering.
  • Making our own content is hard work, but very important.

Speaking event highlights:

Other highlights were hiring our outlet team, co-branding promotional material with ITEC Innovate, a forward-thinking local copier company, and spending time with Zakes Ncwanya, who is moving back to his rural hometown to set up an Internet Cafe and Paperight outlet. (This later became a story in the Mail & Guardian written by our communications manager.)

A personal note: The Fellowship is not just a great way to build and nurture valuable projects. It’s a personal- and professional-development drag race that produces tougher, smarter, more effective people. It’s also addictive.

Building the outlets network

Arthur had already made contact with Silulo Ulutho in Khayelitsha and wanted the outlet team to work on a marketing plan on how we will roll out Paperight via Silulo Ulutho stores. With my strong interest in marketing, Arthur allowed me to take the lead on drafting the marketing plan. In order to make the most of my teams strengths, I decided to include them by brainstorming ideas together on what we should do.

We already knew that we wanted to connect schools with their local Silulo Ulutho outlets which meant that Zukisani’s past experience would come in especially handy. We sat down and put several ideas in place, some ideas I disagreed with but, added for Arthur’s approval or disapproval so as not to appear to dictate to and disregard my new team. After feedback from Arthur we finalised our Silulo Ulutho marketing plan and began setting the wheels in motion.

At the same time, I began work on connecting Paperight to national franchise outlets. I began by attempting to set up a meeting with Chris Dunn, the head of 3@1. At the time, 3@1 was in the process of establishing franchises in the UK. This meant that a meeting with Chris Dunn was near impossible. In the meantime, I approached individual 3@1 outlets and managed to sign up several of them, who also insisted that I approach Chris Dunn as they felt that he would love the idea.

After failing to solicit a response from Chris Dunn, I could only manage to get a hold of a lady by the name of Megan. When she explained to me that Chris Dunn is unavailable for the foreseeable future, she suggested that I send information about Paperight to her and she would then forward the information to all of their outlets nationally. I sent her the information but, she failed to forward it to the outlets, despite several times stating that she would.

I called her one day and asked for permission to contact them myself, which she gladly gave. Nick drew up an information booklet about Paperight and I forwarded it, along with a detailed description about Paperight urging them to register for the service, to all the 3@1 outlets nationwide. It was initially successful with about 10 outlets registering within 2 days. Until one outlet forwarded the email to Chris Dunn who warned all outlets against us, saying he knew nothing about us (despite Megan stating the contrary telephonically) which resulted in 3@1 outlets ceasing to register for Paperight.

I appealed to Chris Dunn that Megan had given me permission to send out the emails but, Megan had suffered an onset of amnesia and didn’t know who Paperight was. I decided to refrain from contacting 3@1 any further, with the intention of contacting them again in future when tempers have calmed down. I focused on the 3@1 outlets that had signed up, identifying other outlets to approach and working on the Silulo Ulutho Marketing plan.

In order to keep track of what we were doing, I designed a weekly report sheet that we shared with the rest of Paperight. This proved to be quite effective in stoking the friendly competition within the team and ensured that we were all busy despite working independently.