On a day in July when the Johannesburg sky couldn’t decide between bright blue or hail and snow, we set out to visit a busy street on 35 Greenhill Road. That’s where we found, and where you’ll find, Eastern Temptations.
Solly and Salma Abed weren’t always business owners...until they were. The two went from the typical 9-5 dad, stay-at-home-mom combo to thriving co-owners and entrepreneurs. We’re here to share their story on how, why and everything in between.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Solly: In terms of entrepreneurial spirit, both of our families had businesses before, so this is something that we wanted. I was in corporate, but we always wanted a spice shop.
Salma: When he was in corporate, [Solly] got retrenched. Trying to find a job became a bit of an issue and a friend of ours told us about a business that was for sale. It started off as a very small, less than 50 square meter shop, and in September it will be sixteen years.
We’re learning, still, every day. It’s such a wonderful thing to really understand the adage; you learn from the cradle to the grave.
Why did you make the decision to open this business?
Solly: Our hands were forced into it. I was the only breadwinner, Salma used to be the home executive and I got retrenched. So, we had to find something. Being 45 plus at that time was an issue, you just couldn’t get a job. This opportunity came, we looked at it and we took it.
Have you found more freedom being a business owner?
Together: Oh yes, definitely.
Solly: There’s two types of freedom. One is economic freedom, when the shop starts doing well. Second is the freedom of being your own boss. That’s key.
Who do you do all of this for?
Salma: The thing that gets us going is the service of the community. Also, for our kids and to come here and do what we need to do for our staff. For us, in our religion, the belief is if you are blessed, the blessing goes over to someone else. So, their employment is written in our daily bread. And as a result of that, we have to be there for them as well.
What is the long-term goal for Eastern Temptations?
Solly: We were thinking of expanding, maybe franchising, but the more we looked at it we said, “this is just good enough for us”. We don’t need to go anymore, we’re happy the way we are.
Salma: Ja, this is enough for us to manage. With that comes our contentment. Otherwise, we’re just going to keep on chasing and looking for better and then you’re never going to be grateful for what you have. We are happy with what we’ve got, and we are blessed totally. We count our blessings every single day.
What parts of your day inspire you to continue this journey?
Salma: Every day is a new beginning! We don’t know what the day holds, but we hope and pray that it will be a good day. We hope that we will make a difference in someone’s life. A lot of the customers come in and you can see they are frazzled: they are newly married, or they don’t know how to cook, or they’re somebody starting out on their own, maybe divorced and now they need to learn how to cook.
They say, “What must I do now?” “What am I going to do?” and I say, “Look, no problem, I will help you. What do you want to make? What do you like?” And I’ll listen to what they’re saying and give them what they require, not what I want to sell. I’m not in the thing of trying to only sell the product, I want them to become a part of the shop.
How does it feel to know you’re growing employment in SA?
Salma: Oh, great feeling that. I’m so happy because somebody’s quality of life has improved. Our employees also have families, and we need to take care of them, and respect them totally and in that way, we will earn respect back.
Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like working as husband and wife?
Solly: Initially it was, oof, we were at each other's necks. But now, it’s just perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Salma: It’s like any other business or any other corporate job where you and your colleagues will probably get along well and then something comes up or a deadline gets missed and then you want to kill each other. The one thing that we know now is that whatever it is, all the bucks stop with us, so we need to be on our best game all the time.
What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Solly: I think eventually my son will take over. He’s a CA, he’s enjoying the corporate life, but in the next three or four years he’s going to come into the business.
It’s also to see the ladies come into the store, give you a smile and say “oooh, the Biryani that came out yesterday was fantastic.”
I want to be the uncle in the business. That’s the legacy we want to leave behind.
What makes you proud about being a business owner?
I’m proud to be a business owner because one, by mere fact of the responses that we get from the customers. One response is, “I can’t believe the prices you’re selling things at,” and “I can’t believe the volumes that you have, variety and I can’t believe the quality.”
We’ve now created a fantastic balance of good quality, good prices and a good product. And then we have a smile on our face.
Salma: That’s the essential thing. We really look out for quality.
What would you say to other South Africans who want to start a business?
Salma: I would like to tell them that, [while] it's very exciting, it is very challenging at the same time. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication. You need to put in the mental and the physical hours.
How has iKhokha helped your business?
Solly: The start of loadshedding, we couldn’t get our other machine going. I phoned a support agent, and he was exceptionally pleasant. He came in here; he sorted me out. From one machine, we now have three machines. And if it wasn’t for iKhokha, in terms of the serious loadshedding, we would have been in trouble.
80% of my business is on credit card, and all the other businesses were struggling, but with you guys we were just accepting [card payments] like business as normal.
Salma: Even the customers knew because people don’t carry much cash anymore. So, they’ve got their card with them and the minute they walk in they say, “I need to shop, is your card machine working?.”
If you had a chance to speak to yourselves 16 years ago, what would you say?
Salma: I would have told myself, “Look, Salma. You’re going into unchartered territory so go there and see what it requires.” It was meant for us, so that’s why it came for us.
Solly: I would remind us to listen to people’s advice. Other people will give you advice, some good, some bad, but listen to it. You may hear everything. Some you may take. And ask questions. You must ask questions. If you don’t know something, rather be a fool for a minute but ask and you’ll be knowledgeable thereafter.
Visit Eastern Temptations
The next time you feel like whipping up an adventurous meal or need to stock up your pantry with spice staples, be sure to take a trip to the world of all things spice –; Eastern Temptations.
Where: 35 Greenhill Road, Emmerentia, JHB.
Connect with them on Facebook: Eastern Temptations