We arrived in Cape Town last night. The complex funding arrangements for this trip meant we had to take a bit of a tedious route: 3 legs, 2 lots of customs checks and 3 bag check-ins but all the flights behaved themselves and we arrived on schedule, 20 hours after leaving London Heathrow.
WARNING: What follows is one of those ‘it could only happen to ColaLife’ shaggy dog stories…
The weather here on our arrival was uncharacteristically overcast and rainy but we woke this morning to see this great city in all its splendour with an amazing smell of fresh, unpolluted sea in the air. I got up a 6am, as I had 5 AidPods to make. I was still hoping, against the odds, that I’d be able to get hold of a crate of Coca-Cola in time for my pitch to the investors at the Social Enterprise Summit organised by Africa Investor.
Last week, just before we left the UK, I Googled the Coca-Cola bottler for the Cape Town area. It turns out to be the Peninsula Beverage Company (PTY) Ltd. That rang a bell: a few months ago a ColaLife supporter offered to help if ever we went into South Africa as he has contacts in PenBev. It was a rather last minute idea, as the conference date was the morning after my arrival, but I made contact anyway and a few emails flew around. But no concrete arrangements were made to unite me with a crate of Coca-Cola bottles to illustrate my pitch.
Around 10am on the conference day, I thought I’d give PenBev another try. Again my contact wasn’t there but I got a very helpful person who suggested that, given the short notice, I go to the factory shop and just buy a crate and bottles from there. She gave me directions. So I set off, iPhone in hand to see if I could find PenBev. As the photo shows, I was successful. I went to the factory reception and they directed me around the block to the ‘Direct Sales’ department. This had a huge sign above the door saying ‘Direct Sales’ but for some reason I was drawn to the altogether more attractive entrance to the PenBev offices. I went in and started talking to the security guard about what I was trying to do. Suddenly, we were interrupted by a voice from behind me: “You’re not Simon Berry, are you?”. It was one of the PenBev directors who’d seen the emails but had decided that it was too late to be able to help – and I’d just run into him entirely by accident in the reception area!
What about that for a coincidence? Anyway, an hour and half later – after a cup of coffee and a very friendly chat about ColaLife in his office, I was on my way back to the conference with the cleanest Coca-Cola crate and bottles in Cape Town. Like many people, my new PenBev contact imagined we aspired to get AidPods into the crates at the factory, so did not think it would be possible. When I explained that we wanted to use the secondary part of the Coca-Cola distribution chain – where the Coca-Cola trucks stop and the army of small entrepreneurs take over – he got much more interested. >>more: an animation explaining the ColaLife Business Model
At the Africa Investor Conference, the ColaLife pitch went well and my visual aid of a real life crate with the AidPods in it really helped bring the concept alive.
A very rewarding day where many valuable contacts were made. More on these later.
Onwards and upwards.