Ding Dong! Henk van der Merwe, the modern milkman is using good ol’ traditions to empower local farmers and the youth.
Inspired by a childhood filled with rich traditions, Stellenbosch-born entrepreneur Henk van der Merwe found his purpose in delivering fresh supplies such as bread, milk and eggs from local farmers to communities, through Lekke Fresh. An online service delivery that sources fresh produce from local farmers to people’s doorsteps.
His idea of becoming the modern milkman emerged while he was driving past the local dairy shop in his old Nissan bakkie, 1996 model.
“I realised that the diary shop was owned by the university and so I just got the idea of milk delivery.”
With the purpose of empowering local farmers, Henk visited a local farmer in 2019 and asked if he could get milk supplies. With his request being successful, he started knocking on people’s doors and asking if they would be interested in fresh milk deliveries in the mornings.
“The first four people that I knocked on their doors said yes! And that for me was big, I thought, if four people said yes, they would like to support local entrepreneurship, that’s when I realised that this could be something,” he explains.
With that, Lekke Fresh skyrocketed, and earned itself the crown of the Idea Smash competition held by Stellenbosch University, and the winner of Stellenbosch University Start-Up of the Year 2019.
However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the milkman.
“It has been tough, while some parts of the university helped me, entrepreneurship is a challenge when you are young. I found that most people tended to not believe in my ability to deliver my promises because of my age. Quite a large number of older people hesitated to do business with me as a young entrepreneur. But this did not discourage me, hence I always encourage young people to start doing business when they’re still young because even if they make business mistakes, they still have a lot to fall back on, and ample time to learn from their mistakes as well.”
Henk’s biggest supporters were his friends, who were always available to lend a helping hand with deliveries with the aim to aim of making a few bucks, while at it.
“While I do encourage the youth to lean on their friends for support, it is vital for entrepreneurs to find a mentor for professional advice and not only turn to friends for professional advice.”
Henk advised youth entrepreneurs to not wait too long to start their businesses.
“Get your most viable product (MVP) and get something out there. When I started, I didn’t have much, all I had was my WhatsApp and my spreadsheet. This helped me to kickstart my idea, and through that, I was able to get feedback from people. Interestingly, a lesson I learnt was that even though people might not know you, whether you’re from a township or a wealthy background, people will support your business if you are serious about it and put in the work.”
His dream was to bring the convenience of having fresh bread, milk and eggs to people’s homes while empowering students in every community and local farmers. The business receives fresh produce from local farmers and then works with students to run the weekly deliveries in Stellenbosch, Durbanville, Paarl, Gordons Bay and other surrounding areas.
“We’re purely online, we’ve done over R7 million of sales just through bread, milk and eggs online. This is a testament that through technology, it’s possible for a small entrepreneur like me to compete with bigger businesses. Learn how you can use tech to empower your business,” Henk adds.
Lekke Fresh’s future plans are to empower students and local entrepreneurs to use this model and implement it in other cities.
“But my biggest dream is to have at least 100 people, especially the youth, run their small businesses on the side as the milkman and get local supplies to local families. And all they need to remember is that every dream is valid.”