Some people have a natural entrepreneurial flair. Henk van der Merwe, the founder of Lekke Fresh, is one such individual. In 2019, while still a student at Stellenbosch University – driving past the local dairy shop in his old Nissan 1996 bakkie – Henk’s idea of becoming the modern milkman emerged. When lockdown hit in early 2020, Henk did not let a good crisis go to waste. There was a significant demand for fresh bread, milk and eggs and, armed with the purpose of empowering local farmers and a desire to make some extra ‘dollars’, Henk stepped up and rose to the challenge of delivering these products right to the community’s doorstep. At the tender age of 25, Henk was nominated by the Stellenbosch Network as June’s Entrepreneur of the Month. BizNews spoke to the budding entrepreneur about his Lekke Fresh journey.
Henk van der Merwe on his moniker “The modern milkman”
it just started with me delivering milk, and many people just started calling me that guy that delivers milk in the morning. It’s like the milkman of old. And people just started talking about this legend of the olden day milkman. And I started thinking about the idea of restarting this awesome tradition that was kind of lost. It was at a time when the milkman wasn’t just about milk. It was about this personal relationship with his community. It’s about people supporting local farms in the area. And the idea that someone cares for me, someone goes and drops an ice-cold milk at my doorstep with a freshly baked loaf of bread. It’s the whole experience that kind of got me going on this.
On what sets Lekke Fresh apart from the Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay delivery service
The whole idea of early morning delivery – we start at about 4 a.m. in the morning – and we get produce fresh from local farmers. We just focus on a few products that are local. And I would say thirdly just our model, we focus on supporting local. We use local students, empower them to open lekke freshers in their communities. And we’ve got a lot of communities now on board. And it’s like this idea of getting back to a relationship, getting back to the local milkman, and then also putting in their artisanal products like fresh bread that’s baked daily.
On how Lekke Fresh was able to secure a revenue of R7 million in sales
That’s the whole idea of supporting local communities: that if you support them, they’re gonna end up supporting you. So we have so many communities backing us because they see, wow, these are local people, students living in our area, that Lekke Fresh is supporting. And this is the local baker, Manos from Stellenbosch, who bakes fresh wood fired bread every day. I want to support this guy. So that’s the whole idea. And if we get people on board, we usually ask them, “Can you just tell your family about it, your neighbours?” So you kind of target small communities and get them on board with the idea. And also, lockdown had a huge role to play because people needed the service.
On his inspiration for creating Lekke Fresh
Obviously you go through a lot of seasons. When I started, it was just the idea of doing something, starting something that can give value to the community. And I believe over the span of three years, it’s really become this idea of redemptive business. And that is meaning that your business adds value to every area that you get involved in, with clients, with communities, with form. The whole idea for me was that I wanted to create something that adds extreme value in every area. So, for example, with the students, we empower them to start their own business, a Lekke Fresh in their area. And we teach them sales, we teach them how to build it with our experience. So the whole idea is about empowering people.
On where he sees Lekke Fresh in five years
The idea for us is to inspire as many young people as possible to start a side hustle, a Lekke Fresh in their area. We want to grow it over multiple areas and we have the capability to do it in Johannesburg, in Port Elizabeth, in all these places, and for the young people to grow from it, do it a year or two, and after that they can sell it to the next guy and move on and become successful business people in South Africa.
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