Here & There: Establishing Your Brand

There is no guide to managing a business across two continents. So, what is the key to sustaining growth? During a recent visit to South Africa, chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen reflected on the challenges and the rewards of growing his JAN brand and his dream. 


What motivated your decision to expand your brand across South Africa and France?  

People ask me why I took my brand to France, and I always say it’s easy for everybody to do that. Bringing it back to South Africa, however, was the biggest challenge for me . . . to be able to spread yourself over two continents. But it was possible. I started with very little – almost nothing. I remember eating watermelon and baguette in France at the beginning of this dream’s chapter. But expanding your brand is about finding yourself the right people and a crowd to grow with.   


What challenges did you face in building and maintaining your brand presence across two continents, and how did you overcome them?

For those of you who build a brand or are in the process of building one, you overcome the challenges by returning to your belief systems. By regrouping, by slowing down, by reflecting. What works for me? To be decisive – that is so important. And those challenges that you get from different cultures, how they deal with you and your brand, and even the people that work for you. It’s a very strong decision-making process. We either fit into this culture, or we don’t fit in. We either accept it, or we don’t. The JAN Brand is niche, but we are kind and humble, allowing us to do much more. To maintain these businesses and different cultures, you must step back and let things grow. That was challenging – and is still not easy. I’ve got about 17 WhatsApp groups on my smartphone, and they keep going all the time, all the time. Checkpoints and systems are in place, not because I don’t trust my team, but because I understand what happens in each division. I love it. It’s my dream. It’s life. Life is one big kitchen. 



What is the core of your brand that keeps the team together? 

Selecting the team is like choosing pudding or pie. Hospitality is going through a tough time. We are lucky to not only have hospitality members but also media, print, and digital. The core of the JAN Brand is that we are fun. It is a lighthearted space where everything is possible; we dream of the unimaginable. I often wake up with ideas that scare me, but the team is excited. There is so much innovation. We never sit still. 

For the entire session, watch the video below: