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#YouthMonth: Keagile Tabane makes a splash with Gourmet Ice & Co

It's a tale of creativity, determination, and perseverance that led 23-year-old Keagile Tabane, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gourmet Ice & Co, to scoop the R150,000 winning prize at Sir Fruit's Luckybird "Make your Luck" competition earlier this year.
23-year-old Keagile Tabane, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gourmet Ice & Co. Image supplied
23-year-old Keagile Tabane, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gourmet Ice & Co. Image supplied

Tabane's entrepreneurial journey started as a teenager when he was inspired to make a difference. What started quite literally as a dream, soon turned into a reality.

Going beyond the ordinary, Tabane and his team specialise in infusing high-quality ice cubes with fresh fruits, herbs, and edible flowers, turning each cube into a work of art that enhances the delicious flavour of your drinks instead of watering them down.

Dreams do come true

"Gourmet Ice & Co was sparked by a dream, quite literally. With some experience in mixology at events, I started experimenting and exploring ice infusion with the support of my family. After about four months of research, product testing, and exploring the market for potential clients, I realised there was a gap in this exciting industry.

There's no set market size, which initially presented a challenge, but ultimately fueled my determination to create something truly innovative," says Tabane.

These 'ice-ologists' and their innovative approach seamlessly provide quick hacks for crafting extraordinary drinks, promising a delightful journey for the taste buds.

"Ours [ice cubes] elevates beverages by adding a burst of flavor, a touch of sophistication, and a visually stunning presentation with various shapes or vibrant fruit inclusions. We focus on creating an artisanal, handcrafted ice experience for our customers. Imagine sipping a cocktail and having the ice itself complement the flavors, or enjoying a simple glass of water infused with a hint of fruit," he says.

"Our mixed berry and mint ice offers a refreshing boost of antioxidants while adding subtle sweetness, then our cinnamon and orange ice adds a touch of spice citrus sweetness and pairs perfectly with whiskey or an Old Fashioned cocktail"

But Gourmet Ice & Co. goes beyond beverages! Its ice cubes can also be used as palate cleansers after meals, adding a touch of elegance and refreshment to the dining experience. They also offer decorative ice cubes for events for ice buckets or decor to complete the overall presentation.

But for Tabane, the traditional path never really sat right with him. He saw the limitations placed on young people when it came to starting businesses, and he wanted to be a part of changing that narrative.

"Empowering other young people is a huge passion of mine – who better to understand the challenges and opportunities young entrepreneurs face than each other. There are so many advantages to starting young. You have the time, the energy, and the access to incredible new technologies.

Plus, with fewer responsibilities, there's more room to learn from mistakes and refine your ideas. Seeing other young people succeed is incredibly inspiring, and it fuels my own drive to make a difference," remarks Tabane.

But for many people, young or old, starting their own businesses, is no easy feat.

"One of the biggest hurdles starting out was the limited information available on this specific industry. Since there's no existing market cap, it was challenging to find benchmarks and references. However, this gap in the market became a huge motivator!

Another challenge was ensuring frozen deliveries. I researched different packaging and transportation methods to maintain product integrity. Additionally, navigating the legalities and obtaining all the necessary permits required a lot of research and patience."

Not just a flavoured-infused ice cube

So what sets Gourmet Ice & Co apart?

Gourmet Ice & Co prioritise the environment by using eco-friendly packaging and sourcing local ingredients whenever possible. They offer a variety of flavours to suit any taste preference, or create bespoke ice cubes for special occasions.

"With Gourmet Ice & Co., you're not just getting ice, you're getting an experience. It's a commitment to quality, flavour, and sustainability that elevates every occasion," he adds.

Image supplied
Image supplied

As a young person in entrepreneurship, balancing a small business with a personal life can be tricky, but Tabane has his own view, saying "To be honest, achieving perfect work-life balance as an entrepreneur feels like a myth. It's more about prioritization, time management, delegation, and sometimes, sacrifice.

Personally, I don't think you can pour 100% into everything all the time, neglecting your personal life can lead to burnout, and neglecting your business can hinder its growth and building a successful business takes dedication, and sacrifices will be made along the way."

"However, by prioritising effectively, setting boundaries, and taking care of yourself, you can create a sustainable rhythm that allows you to thrive in both your entrepreneurial journey and your personal life, remarks Tabane.

Lessons for young entrepreneurs

But with everything in life, there are lessons to be learned, so what lessons has Tabane learned in his experience as a young entrepreneur?

"The most valuable lessons I've learned are the importance of perseverance, value of networking, learning and risk taking. As a young entrepreneur, I've learned a few key things that I believe are crucial for anyone starting their own business."

He breaks them down...

Perseverance: The road to success is rarely smooth. There will be challenges, setbacks, and moments of doubt. But the most important thing is to never give up. Believe in your vision, learn from your mistakes, and keep pushing forward.

Network: Surround yourself with other young entrepreneurs, mentors, and industry experts. Their experience, guidance, and support will be invaluable as you navigate the ups and downs of your journey.

Learning: The business landscape is constantly evolving. Stay curious, keep learning new things, and be open to adapting your approach. Take workshops, attend industry events, and connect with thought leaders who can inspire you.

Passion: Passion is what fuels your drive and keeps you going during tough times. Make sure you're truly passionate about your business idea. When you love what you do, the work doesn't feel like work, and it becomes much easier to stay motivated.

Risks: Calculated risks are essential for growth. Step outside your comfort zone, experiment with new ideas, and don't be afraid to fail, even failure can be valuable learning experiences. These are essential for any young entrepreneur.

Cultivating a culture of innovation

As the saying goes When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So how does Tabane stay innovative and adapt to industry changes?

"Being a young entrepreneur in a new and exciting field like ice infusion presents a unique set of challenges. The good news is, I have the opportunity to be a trendsetter! Staying innovative and adapting to change is crucial for young entrepreneurs in a dynamic business environment."

But how do you do that?

  • See change as an opportunity: View challenges as a disruption that can open doors to new markets or refine your approach.

  • Learn from mistakes: Don't be afraid to experiment and take calculated risks. Analyze failures to identify what went wrong and iterate your strategy.

  • Become an industry expert: Actively follow industry news, trends, and technological advancements. Attend conferences, workshops, and webinars.

  • Network with peers and mentors: Connect with experienced entrepreneurs and industry leaders. Learn from their experiences and gain valuable insights.

  • Listen to your customers: Actively seek customer feedback through surveys, focus groups, and social media engagement. Understand their evolving needs and preferences.

  • Foster a culture of creativity: Create a work environment that encourages brainstorming, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking.

  • Invest in continuous learning: Take courses, read industry publications, and explore new skill sets relevant to your industry's evolution. Embrace new technologies: Stay updated on emerging technologies and explore how they can improve your products, services, or processes.

  • Be Agile and Data-Driven: Be adaptable: Be prepared to pivot your strategy based on market shifts, customer feedback, and competitor actions. Use data to make decisions: Leverage data analytics to gain insights into customer behavior, market trends, and campaign effectiveness.

  • Run A/B tests: Test different approaches and measure their impact to optimise your strategies for maximum results.

By adopting these strategies, says Tabane, you can cultivate a culture of innovation and position yourself to thrive in the ever-changing world of business.

"Remember, the key is to be proactive, adaptable, and always learning."

The last word

"My advice for aspiring young business owners is to believe in your idea, be prepared for challenges, don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, and network with successful entrepreneurs.

Remember, as Denzel Washington says, Without commitment, you'll never start. But more importantly, without consistency, you'll never finish. This applies to any endeavor, so commit to your vision and take consistent steps to make it a reality."

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