This business was started after two entrepreneurs lost their jobs – it secured R650,000 in funding

GUDGU cordials (provided)

  • Pieter du Plessis and Viljoen de Kock own GUDGU, a local company that makes sugar-free and alcohol-free syrups.
  • The couple started the company in 2013 after losing their jobs in the legal and communications sectors.
  • After entering the 2021 ENGEN Pitch & Polish competition, the company emerged victorious and walked away with R650,000, plus a scholarship worth R350,000 to take part in a two-year business development programme.
  • The sugar-free cordials can be used to make cocktails, mocktails, and cold drinks, and are said to be vegan and gluten-free.
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Pieter du Plessis and Viljoen de Kock started GUDGUa local company that makes sugar-free and alcohol-free cordials, after losing their jobs in 2013, and today the company won a cash prize of R650,000 after pitching to investors.

“The inspiration started when we both lost our jobs [in 2013]said DuPlessis. “We had to do something to keep the cats away from the stove, so we started making sugar-free and sugar-free syrups like lemonade,” he told Business Insider South Africa.

A cordial is a non-alcoholic syrup, tonic or concentrate that can be diluted to make a cold drink, flavored water and more.

Some of the ingredients used to make GUDGU include water, a mixture of xylitol and steviol extracts, fruit extract, citric acid, and sodium benzoate. They also use a secret blend called SugO, which promises zero aftertaste.

The intended purpose of cordials is to make cocktails, mocktails, flavored water, or cold drinks, and according to the founders, the benefits are that they’re vegan, diabetic-friendly, gluten-free, and low-carb .

After Du Plessis lost his job in corporate communications and De Kock lost his as a lawyer in 2013, the two came together to make cordials, and today they supply large and small companies across the country, markets and major retailers such as Spar.

“We both love food and developing new tastes, but we don’t have any formal training in food technology or anything. Fortunately, we have professionals to help us in the long run,” Du Plessis said.

With trail and error, the pair tried different recipes to create the cordials, and after various attempts, they found the combination that gives that “wow, in the mouth” factor, Du Plessis said.

They tried every trick in the book to market their product, but it wasn’t until they came up with a name for their product that they really started seeing customers take notice of their offering.

“GUDGU in Afrikaans means ‘Goedheid Uit Die Grond Uit’, which means the goodness of the earth. As soon as you give it an identity, it becomes something, the name means something.

Pieter Du Plessis and De Kock (Supplied)

Viljoen de Kock (middle left) and Pieter Du Plessis (middle right) (Supplied)

“We only use the right ingredients and none of the wrong ones, and we make sure we offer the highest quality products,” Du Plessis said.

Business during the Covid-19 pandemic

Although the pandemic and the harsh lockdown have brought many businesses to their knees, Du Plessis and De Kock said their businesses have been lucky to thrive during this time.

“In fact, we have flourished and exploded during the lockdown. Because we are a sugar-free product, we asked to continue our activities and offer sugar-free drinks to diabetics and people in need and we obtained the permit .

“What we also did was develop our 50ml mini cordials…and that was something people could buy and play with. It really promoted our product. People also started to buy the bulk,” De Kock said.

After making progress in supplying Spar, Superspar and other large and small businesses, including pharmacies, the duo aim to work with other big retailers such as Massmart and Checkers.

Seize opportunities

With the aim of broadening their horizons, Du Plessis and De Kock entered the 2021 ENGEN Pitch & Polish Competition and emerged victorious.

It came after the couple enrolled in an online business course in 2020 when the lockdown began. The instructor helped these business partners stay focused on growth during the ongoing lockdown levels. She felt they were ready for the ENGEN Pitch & Polish competition and encouraged them to participate.

They walked away with a cash prize of R650,000 and a scholarship worth R350,000 to participate in a two-year business development and growth program of Raizcorp – a South African business incubator.

“We came in five days before the closing date and we were successful. We hadn’t done anything like this before and it was completely out of our comfort zone,” Du Plessis said. They were grateful to have found a Raizcorp guide who was friendly and understanding.

“He could guide us in the right direction. It was a great experience working with him. He was knowledgeable and on top of the trends,” said De Kock, adding, “The fact that we can ask questions and know that the answer was correct was invaluable.”

To business owners who feel like things aren’t moving as fast as they hope, Du Plessis urges them to keep working hard because no one is going to do it for them.

He also encourages emerging business owners to make sure they educate themselves on their business numbers, as this also helps them know where they are and can help them scale their business.

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