In high school, Claire du Preez found her passion for food in a Home Economics class. Though she did not pursue it immediately, the longing to feed people in a healthy and honest way drew Claire from the corporate world and back to her passion. So Claire du Preez established Honest Food– a cosy restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa that serves mouth-watering vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Claire is dedicated to building a genuine brand and ensuring that Honest Food is a welcoming and healthy environment for customers and employees alike. As she says, “I am incredibly passionate about food and the challenges that come with convincing people to lead a healthy lifestyle. So my goal is to make food affordable, attainable and delicious.”
This piece covers Claire’s refreshing business story and valuable lessons from her experience with Honest Food.
How did Honest Food begin?
I started a juice bar when I was about 24 years old and I would set up juice bars at farmers’ markets. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would make freshly squeezed juice for people. I started off selling 20 and soon enough, I sold 30, 40, 50…
Eventually, I opened my first permanent store and then I realised that with a juice company comes the food aspect of it. So I thought, why not get involved in that as well? I slowly started adding food items to the menu and it just kind of grew organically. I never did crazy marketing or you know, any sort of print marketing. It has all been word of mouth. Everyone that has come heard about it from someone else.
What do you think makes Honest Food stand out?
People come and they realise that they can eat vegetarian and vegan food that is delicious and they love that. Another thing that makes Honest Food stand out is the warmth of our space. The restaurant is set in a quiet and serene suburb. It is a great working space so it attracts a lot of people that do not work from offices. For them, Honest Food feels like a home away from home. Our staff are also incredibly welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable.
Seeing as Honest Food is a second home for many, how did you maintain that feeling with your customers during the lockdown?
We kept a really big presence on social media. Instead of letting our page go dead, we kept on interacting with our customers. We carried on with posting, shared recipes and tips. Even though we could not see them, we maintained the connection via our social media platforms.
Did you notice a change in the way your customers patronised and supported you during the lockdown?
I definitely did. Our customers knew the lockdown was going to happen so they increased their spend at our restaurants. During the lockdown, we received donations from our customers. I also sold pre-sale vouchers at discounted rates that you could use after lockdown and our patrons bought them.
Currently, people are coming to work from our restaurants. Our customers are dedicated to keeping our doors open and that is phenomenal. We see the same people coming back every day. We know they could go somewhere else but they are committed to us and it is a lovely feeling.
What key lessons can you give to someone who wants to start and grow a successful business of their own?
- Don’t do something because you think it is going to make you money. Do something that you enjoy because it will be a very long time before you start getting profit from your business. For a very long time, all the money you make will have to go back to your business and if you do not love what you do, you will resent the fact that you have to do this.
- You need to have some kind of financial security. I know some people quit their jobs to start a business and they think they are going to be earning salaries from the beginning. It does not work like that. I actually had a 9-5 job for the first part of owning a business. I knew that I could always pay my bills and I was building my side hustle in the background.
- You need to persevere. Success does not happen overnight. I have had a business for seven years and it is only in a couple of years that I have started to see fruition. At some point, I sacrificed my social life for my business but it paid off. So if you work and see no reward for a while, don’t give up.
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This spotlight feature on Claire du Preez is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.