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A taste of a start-up worth its salt

From time to time you may hear that someone or something is “worth its salt.”

This common idiom means that someone or something deserves respect and is worth its cost or has value.

The phrase originated with the ancient Romans, who valued salt highly. Over time, salt has often been associated with good things, because of its health benefits. Which leads me to the story of a lovely restaurant in Kalk Bay, Salt and its young owner, Nic Macleod.

Nic is a dynamic 24 year old, and in recently celebrating Youth Day, and the youth of South Africa, I thought his story was “worth its weight in salt”.

Nic is an out and out Capetonian, having grown up in the Muizenberg and Kalk Bay area.

His extended family have been involved in the hospitality field, with both his uncle and grandfather being in the restaurant business. In fact, all of Nic’s experience is within the hospitality industry.

He spent six years in Switzerland where he was involved in an adventure company. A leg injury meant him returning to Cape Town in 2017.

Yet as one door closed, another opened and Nic harnessed his hospitality experience. He has been running Salt for the past 13 months.

Nic selected the name Salt for a number of reasons. Firstly, because of its location in the seaside village of Kalk Bay.The name seemed so appropriate for a village drawing its existence from the Indian Ocean. The value of salt as a currency of the past also contributed to the name. Yet the most compelling reason is that of the effect of salt to the taste buds.

Nic funded his start-up by a combination of bootstrapping (using his own money) and investment, and the past 13 months have seen Salt become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Part of the magic is found in Nic’s disposition where he loves interacting with and meeting up with people. There is a great vibe and buzz that comes from this characteristic.

I asked Nic a few questions about his journey so far.

On what lessons he has learnt, he said there is a huge demand on time and energy in running a business, particularly in hospitality.

To remain sane and poised, you need to build systems that can be replicated. This will also help with consistency of product.

Nic has 10 full-time staff and 12 part-time staff, and another key is to optimise the human side by clearly assigning tasks and routines.

He also advocates not being tentative, but just “going for it”.

This doesn’t mean not doing due diligence and putting in the hard yards in doing your homework. Rather it means being courageous and having a can-do attitude.

Planning for a rainy day means building a buffer in terms of cash and time.

This valuable lesson was passed on to him by his father, which again talks to a willingness to learn in the aspiring entrepreneur.

There is also an element of “not sweating the small stuff” or not allowing small things to get out of perspective to ruin your day. He does ask himself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”, and this has contributed to taking action and hustling. He does what it takes to get things done.

I can also add that the site where Salt is located has housed two restaurants before, and the added challenge would be to build a brand that differentiates itself from that which went before. It certainly looks like Nic is doing that effectively.

What would Nic say to aspiring entrepreneurs? “Do it properly the first time when you start a business and don’t take short cuts. Give people the value that they pay for and don’t rip them off.”

I believe he was referring to being a person and business of integrity, and to have your offering keep in step with your “marketing”.

Any parting words?

“The journey of running your own business can be bumpy and does have challenges, yet the future holds many great opportunities for those who will engage.”

As he repeated a few times, “Just go for it. Dive right in!”

I trust that this short story about a place called Salt may whet your appetite to begin your own journey.

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