MEET IAN FUHR – Founder and CEO of the Sorbet Group.

Please share a little about yourself and what inspired you to create the brand.
I have been called a “serial entrepreneur”, mainly because I have been involved in several start-up businesses in a variety of industries. Amongst others, these include a retail chain, a record company, a race-relations consultancy and now the beauty industry. I am also one of the owners of the Lion Park.

I have recently written a book entitled “Get that Feeling” which traces my life-long entrepreneurial journey.

The creation of the Sorbet brand was inspired by a beauty therapist during a massage treatment. I had recently sold my retail business called Super Mart to the Edcon group when she suggested I look into the beauty industry. After discovering that there were no branded chains of beauty salons, I purchased a number of independent salons, rebranded them and launched Sorbet with six outlets in August 2005.

How would you describe your brand in a nutshell?
Sorbet is a branded chain of beauty salons and nail bars that offers a full range of beauty and nail treatments plus a strong range of retail products including Dermalogica and Environ skincare as well as Essie and Morgan Taylor nail-care products. We also sell our own range of Sorbet branded products that have been formulated and developed by Clicks and are exclusively sold at Clicks and Sorbet outlets. In November 2014, we will be launching our own range of Sorbet skincare products.

What would you consider to be unique about your brand?
From the outset, Sorbet has tried to differentiate itself from the rest of the market in a number of different ways:

· by creating a fresh, bright, colourful and trendy look and feel to its salons as opposed to the traditional serene and quiet ambience of conventional salons.

· by focusing strongly on the retail component as opposed to the sale of treatments. The sale of products represents more than 50% of Sorbet’s turnover. We see ourselves as a retail store that offers treatments as opposed to a beauty salon that sells products.

· by building a business culture of people and service that always puts service before reward and people before profits.

· by creating a supporting infrastructure that is built to serve our franchisees and to ensure their success.

How many stores/branches do you have and where are they located?
At the time of writing, Sorbet has 110 outlets of which 104 are franchised. These stores are located predominantly in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. New stores have also recently been opened in outlying towns such as Polokwane and Nelspruit. Sorbet has opened 60 stores in the last two years. We receive more than 25 franchise applications per week so the demand for new franchises remains extremely high.

What piece of advice would you most like to share with people considering a start-up business?
As an entrepreneur, you need three basic characteristics:

· Intuition – This is the ability to know that something is inherently right even though you don’t have the evidence or the statistics to prove it.

· Courage - The ability to keep going when it seems so much easier to give up.

· Determination for the long haul – To recognise that there is no “get-rich-quick” scheme and that success only comes with a long-term commitment to the end goal.

The challenge as a business is to stay authentic and true to your brand. How do you achieve this?

The only way to stay authentic is to live by the core values of the brand. In Sorbet’s case, this means upholding our Higher Purpose which is “to serve and improve the lives of our guests and our citizens” (our clients and our employees).

This is the real purpose of our existence and must underscore everything we do and say. In order to achieve our Higher Purpose, we have five driving principles which lie at the heart of our brand:

· Passionate Service – the purpose of work is to serve not to make money

· Selfless Community – building a community that always puts others before ourselves

· Servant Leadership – a style of management in which the leaders serve our citizens rather than the other way around

· Unwavering Integrity – honesty and transparency in everything

· Individual Growth – training plus knowledge gives you the power to serve

What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the freedom it gives me to create and develop a meaningful brand. I love not having to play by the rules. I love the opportunity to challenge the conventional wisdom of an existing industry. I love having all three of my children playing senior managerial roles in my business.

What has your journey so far taught you? Has it changed your life in any way?
There are numerous lessons I have learned along my entrepreneurial journey. Perhaps the most important is the power of a strong business culture which always puts people first. Business is nothing more than “people serving people”. Once I had discovered that truth, everything else just flowed from there.

It has changed my understanding of the meaning of success. When I started out as a young entrepreneur of 22, my understanding of success revolved around money, power and influence. Nearly 40 years later, experience has taught me that success should not be measured on the wealth you have accumulated but on the difference you have made in other peoples’ lives.

How does the future look as far as “dreams and visions” for your brand?
In the last two years Sorbet has established itself as a strong up and coming brand. We have recently launched two new brand extensions

· Sorbet Drybar, which is an express hair and nail salon offering only blow waves and nail services and

· Sorbet Man, which is a comprehensive mens’ grooming salon

We will also be opening our first international salon in London within the next 6 months.

Together with our existing salons and nail bars, these new brand extensions will hopefully enable Sorbet to become an iconic brand in South Africa which will ultimately move onto the international stage.

For more info on the Sorbet Group:
Sorbet Customer Care Phone 011 202 7940
Johannesburg Support Office
1 - 8th avenue
Cnr Wessels Rd
Tel: 011 202 7940
Cape Town Regional Office Suite 102, The Regent
19 - 33, Regent Road, Sea Point
Tel: 021 434 3902

Ian Fuhr has just recently released the book he mentioned above , visit your local book store to pick up a copy or watch this space for my review.

Disclosure Ranking 1 - (Please refer to my disclosure ranking in the side bar)