Anat Apter has gone from selling falafel at the Bruma Lake Flea Market in Joburg, to owning a franchise with over 20 outlets nationwide. This is all thanks to her unique Middle Eastern fast food and a much focus on quality.
She was mainly a housewife taking care of her three children. She made some money on the side by baking for functions, and also sold imported leather handbags from Europe.
Apter had to swallow her words to solve her family’s financial ruin. Growing up, she vowed never to follow in her grandfather’s food business, but a financial crisis forced her to launche one of South Africa’s well known franchises in the early 1990s.
When her husband told her the family was headed for huge financial ruin, and that she needed to think of something as he had run out ideas & solutions, her mother’s words growing up immediately ran through her mind, “if you ever need cash fast, go sell falafel.
Even though she had completed a travel agent course right before launching ANAT, she figured it would be best if she sells food, rather than airline tickets, as that would generate income much faster.
As a teenager, her grandfather worked in a falafel shop in Egypt, where he learnt how to make falafel. After getting married to her grandmother, he started his own falafel business. Apter’s father then took over the business when his grandfather decided to retire.
While visiting the Bruma Lake Flea Market in 1992, she thought she could sell falafel there. At that time, no one was offering such food and deep down, she knew people would enjoy the meal.
Unfortunately, getting space into the flea market seemed near impossible, but Apter persevered and approached the stall management, where she was shocked to find a long queue waiting for stall management assistance.
According to Apter, Instead of joining the queue like everyone else, she waived her hand and shouted, “excuse me, sorry!….would you like falafel at the market??”
…..after hearing Apter’s cries from afar, the management guy who was sitting behind the counter kindly asked everyone to step aside and let her through, it was like Moses had parted the Red sea.
After the crowd parted, she walked to the counter and agreed to her requests, gave her some forms and told her to occupy her the allocated space within 2 weeks.
Apter didn’t waste no time, she submitted the forms on a Friday of November 1992, then began selling falafel on her branded trailer, with the help of an assistant from Ghana.
She funded her small business by maxing out her credit card, which had a limit of R10 000 at that time. In total, she paid R600 for the trailer and its branding, while the remaining amount was spent on buying the ingredients.
To ensure she kept her costs low, she went early in morning to the flea market to get fresh quality vegetables. And also by preparing everything from her kitchen at home.
On her first day, she sold 50 falafel portions at R5 each. The money she made that day filled moon bags, and just seeing that bag laying there, made her feel excited and over the moon.
Suddenly, all the words she had once uttered about never going into food business, went out of the window.
Since that day, Apter has never looked back. She has built and grown ANAT as force to be reckoned with in the food and franchise industry of South Africa.
She got her big breakthrough around 1998, when people started approaching her to buy ANAT franchises.
She made lots of mistakes in the beginning, as she didn’t have a mentor who’d advice her on how to go about selling franchises. She applied basic common sense to this, but that ultimately backfired and created all sorts of new business challenges.
But as time went on, she invested a lot of time into training and teaching the franchisees on what to do or not to do, when conducting the business model of ANAT.
Over the years, the ANAT brand has grown massively to 22 outlets in the country.
The business also has a bakery supplying fresh pita breads and wraps to its franchisees, as well as to coffee shops, supermarkets, restaurants and other food franchises.
2008 Financial Crisis
According to Apter, her biggest challenge came during the 2008 financial crisis. She was forced to close down most of her stores, which were 30+ around that time. And was faced with paying rent of those stores.
She realized then that if a business isn’t strong enough, a financial crisis will affect it big time.
But after making necessary adjustments and teaching franchisees the nitty-gritty details about how to run their stores in accordance with her vision, she rose from the ashes like a Phoenix.
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy….
Apter says she has noticed that a lot of people think entrepreneurship is sipping champagne on the beach, but fact of the matter is that having a business is a day-to-day challenge.
She says aspiring entrepreneurs should be passionate about their businesses, as that will make them strong enough to go through every challenge with enthusiasm, as there’s no business that’s sailing smoothly all the time.