BACKSTORY: Bean There founder Jonathan Robinson
We question Bean There founder Jonathan Robinson on his top tip for doing a deal, biggest regret and how he’s coping with the lockdown
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Make sure it’s fair.
What was your first job?
My first part-time job was at a pharmacy in Rosebank, where I sold everything from vitamins to feather dusters. My first real job was at IBM — I was hired out of Wits on its graduate programme.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
R4,000, and given that I got married at the end of my first year of work, I suspect I saved it towards the deposit on our first house.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Whatever you are planning is going to take longer and cost more than you ever imagined. And the importance of cash flow. One of my favourite quotes is "Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash flow is reality".
What is your biggest regret?
That I didn’t start Bean There earlier.
How are you coping with Covid-19?
We are hustling and praying! Concentrating on the retail aspects of our business, our own online store, and then a massive push through our retailers (Dis-Chem, Pick n Pay, Spar, Takealot, Hirsch’s, Cape Coffee Beans).
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I prefer unconventional adventures, from running the 100km Skyrun in the Witteberg mountains, to climbing the Nyiragongo active volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What has been your worst purchase?
My wife and I once used "rock, paper, scissors" to decide to buy holiday timeshare. We have since decided not to use that process for big decisions!
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I definitely wish I had bought some more forward cover the past few months; the exchange rate is killing me!
What is something you would tell your younger self that would impress him?
I got the girl! I married the most exceptional woman, Nicole Robinson.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
I have the most incredible job — I get to create meaningful employment in SA. I also have the unique privilege of being able to work with small-scale African farmers, and seeing the impact direct fair trade can make. If you consider how many business relationships, first dates, and friendships have been formed over a cup of coffee … I would certainly not trade!
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I wouldn’t want to be the president right now, but if I were, I would ensure that the processes to enable cash to flow to the most marginalised in SA are efficient and switched on immediately.
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