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How a 27-year old entrepreneur disrupts a traditional industry and it pays off


Cape Crops is a fruit and vegetable export company based in Cape Town, led by 27-year old B Com student and entrepreneur, Uzair Essack.  In just 3 years, Essack has built a global export business with a customer base in 23 countries and revenues of R34 million in the last financial year, leaving his competitors behind as he blazed a trail of tech savvy and innovative marketing strategies to set himself apart.

His business is highly innovative and has turned the traditional fruit and veg sales model on its head.  So, what are some of Essack’s secrets to success?

Upfront payment

All his farmers are paid a fixed price, upfront in cash before the produce leaves the farm gate.  “I want the farmer to focus on producing the freshest and highest quality produce and not have to worry about when he’ll get paid, which is traditionally 60-90 days later.  I get a cash discount, which immediately makes me more competitive and I get first choice of the produce.”

Tech savvy communication

Technology has been a big factor in Cape Crops’ success.  Essack is one of the only fruit exporters to use social media to communicate with his customers.  His weekly WhatsApp broadcasts and e-newsletters showcase what produce he has available and at what price.  He also uses these platforms to let his farmers know what produce his customers are looking for.  This has proved to be extremely successful and cost effective.

Tailor-made marketing strategies

Essack has spent time in many of the countries that he exports to, to understand each market’s culture and values. Doing so allows him to implement specific marketing strategies for that individual market.  “I have a Lebanese staff member who deals with our Middle Eastern customers.  He is fluent in Arabic and English and has helped us to overcome the language barrier.  The Middle East now represents 50% of our business, which shows that this model works.”

Low-cost set up

Cape Crops shares office space using Cube Work Space to keep overheads to a minimum.  “My sales agents are on the road visiting farmers, so this really works for me,” says Essack.  The huge growth in his business, he believes, can also be attributed to having a small team which allows agility when it comes to decision-making and implementing new ideas.  “I’m already 3 years ahead of my competitors and confident that our success will continue.”

Unique funding model

Essack is not a fan of loans and uses a small group of investors to fund deals where customers do not pay him upfront.  “About 30% of the deals I do require funding from my pool of investors.  This works on a deal to deal basis where they know exactly what the return will be, and get paid back in 60 days.”

 He has plans to continue growing his business with a focus in Africa and the Middle East and plans to offer new produce to South African consumers.  If the last 3 years are anything to go by, Essack will achieve his mission to ‘leave a taste of Africa lingering around the world”.

Uzair Essack is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners. For more information on his business, please visit the Cape Crops website:

Relevant pages on Agribook Digital are the many horticulture ones and “Exporting“.

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