5 minutes with ‘Naked’ MD

It’s a Sher thing was lucky enough to grab 5 minutes with Vic Barbosa,  the Co-Founder and Managing Director of  Naked Coffee. This is what we chatted about….

What made you choose the name Naked?

After weeks of brainstorming and hundreds of suggestions, my business partner and I were presented with a branding proposal from a bespoke agency. They were assisting us to connect our clothing business to this new coffee concept we had envisioned. The word “naked” was used in parts of the proposal and for some reason, it just stuck out for me as it represented the rawness and beauty of what we were setting out to achieve. Our vision was to strip bare and focus on the beauty of coffee and producing the perfect cup. A couple of weeks later we started a barista training course where we discovered that using “naked Porter filters” was a method of extraction used by select third-wave coffee shops. We knew immediately that we had found the perfect name.

What threats/ opportunities do you foresee for this business? 

It’s all a matter of perspective. After our forced shutdown in April last year – we, like many other businesses, were debating when to reopen our doors. Do we open and incur the costs of running the business with the risk of doing only a fraction of the turnover? Many businesses chose to stay closed to minimise their exposure to labour and operational costs. There was also so much uncertainty around how landlords would assist and if any relief would be given at all.

We saw these risks as opportunities. We chose to rally our troops and get in early. We wanted to keep moving and taking steps or strides in the right direction. We had to change our approach and adapt to the circumstances. Thankfully from the minute we reopened the love and support received was there in bucket loads.

The point I’m getting at is that we will always be faced with both threats and opportunity. Our approach is to seek out the opportunities and always put our best foot forward. All businesses in every industry are faced with threats and opportunities. Post-Covid we have seen businesses that seemed invincible brought to their knees and small start-ups become huge businesses during the most challenging of times.

Naked has been around for 5 years! When you look at the restaurant/ easy dining industry today what is most surprising to you?

 Having worked in the industry from the age of 16 in various roles both locally and abroad I don’t think much came as a surprise. The industry is synonymous with being extremely challenging and as much as we were told to stay away, we were drawn to it. Obviously running and growing a business of this nature is very different and the thing that probably surprised us most was the number of moving parts. There are just so many intricacies to making a busy restaurant of any kind run consistently well. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

As an entrepreneur, you have to have a certain type of ambition? What drives you?

We started our entrepreneurial journey when we were just 25 years old. Our motivation at that stage of our lives was very different to what it is today. We were young and passionate about fashion retail and saw opportunities that we felt the industry was neglecting. We also had little to lose and had a big appetite for risk.

Fast forward 14 years, and a number of businesses later, we have learnt many lessons along the way. Today, the idea of running a large business with a long term vision that is built on solid foundations drives me most. A platform to develop and nurture skills and bring out the best in your team. A business with a forward-thinking corporate culture that allows its people to grow and develop their skills, whilst building long-term careers for themselves.

Naked Coffee

This was me at Naked coffee last year.

What was it about this industry that sparked your interest? 

Fashion and food both speak to a lifestyle. They can both be very sexy and alluring businesses. We were always inspired by this and it just felt like a natural step forward. We travel abroad quite frequently and were intrigued by the third wave coffee scene and how the commodity that is coffee was transforming from this commercial, large-scale, franchise beast back to specialised, artisanal stores that focussed on the art of coffee making, and were driven by quality and not volume.

What makes Naked different from your competitors?  

Quality obsessed, service-driven, passionate about execution. Our vision from the outset was to provide a specialised/ artisanal coffee experience in more commercial locations and to create beautiful spaces to bring people together. We are quality-obsessed and focus much of our attention on the finer details – from the cups and teaspoons, we use to the sourcing of all our ingredients.

Advice for entrepreneurs in general and during this current climate, how does one avoid business or brand decline and how have they done this? What are their crucial success factors for growing a locally successful brand and Job creation in the SA market?

 I believe acknowledgment and acceptance are super important. Acknowledgement of the fact that owning and running a business is challenging and almost every day will be a grind. At least until the business has started to mature and flourish. And acceptance that there will be victories and losses along the way. As long as you are willing to learn and grow and show up each day you will succeed. Persistence and consistency are crucial.  I think to grow a brand successfully in any market there needs to be a good understanding of how the market thinks and acts. Do your market research and adapt as you move forward. Be willing to learn through trial and error. But always start out with a well prepared and thought-out business plan. Job creation is, without doubt, one of the most rewarding parts of the entrepreneurial journey.

Coffee

Do you plan to open more stores? And if so where?

We are having some very positive discussions regarding a number of potential locations across South Africa and even abroad. From the start, we always envisioned taking the Naked brand to Europe or the Middle East. Watch this space …

Tamryn Sher
tamrynsher@gmail.com
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