by Kim Jansen
Subsequent to moving to Ireland and within nine months, heading straight into a protracted lockdown, co-founder of GreenKids Investments, John Mulder, knew that their tech and finance business had to pivot.
Anticipating the trajectory of the global markets, they were prepared when the opportunity to distribute premier, eco-friendly, sustainable heat logs came knocking. Mulder informs us that this particular business is relatively young.
“Cape Town as a city is quite avant-garde, and all over the world is filled with South Africans that are always finding solutions. We quickly picked up a long time ago that legislative changes primarily in the EU and UK concerning sustainability were on the horizon. The business started under the Cape Town brand EcoFire and BBQ. When this product crossed our path and we realized that the world focus was headed towards alternative solid fuels, we immediately brought a few containers across from our Cape Town-based manufacturing partners.”
Once it arrived, they tested the waters; as they sold some of the stock, they conducted extensive market research. It was evident that the timing was perfect for a product of this nature and that it was the leading technology of its time in the fuel space.
That’s when Mulder met Irish businessman, John Mullins, whose wife happens to be South African. The owner of the largest food and parenting brands in Ireland, Mulder reinforces that Mullins is the financier who made it possible to take their project forward.
Mulder added, “The business currently manufactures for Zip into Tesco, and this will follow shortly with another well-known UK brand into other retailers. Both brands are particularly well-known in Ireland and the UK. Emerging out of a global lockdown, the business only really
started “moving” at the start of 2022 when we confirmed our first substantial order.”
An excellent start for a South African Entrepreneur who settled in Ireland only two years before the business launched.
“Adapting to an entirely new culture has been a huge learning curve. We quickly understood that the approach to anything here in Ireland is different from back home.”
Mulder highlights that they have had good support from the Irish community. “The Irish government wholeheartedly supports entrepreneurs with good products, and once you gain their trust and support, so do the Irish business people.”
On that encouraging note, Mulder shares the events leading up to the doors at Tesco opening for their product. ZIP undertook the lead on the testing of their product as they were looking for green alternatives. Upon rigorous lab testing to verify the quality and validate its “green
credentials, it was all systems go. It was this team that garnered all that was needed and pitched to Tesco.
“We know how good our product is and can sell it with absolute confidence.”
Furthermore, their involvement in the Irish Chapter of the South African Chamber of Commerce UK since 2021 has further opened its network to world-class South African entrepreneurs.
“Because of the Chapter, we’re constantly learning from and meeting world-beating South African entrepreneurs and professionals through this network. The support and strength of the network add tremendous value to us daily,” he states. The Chamber affords brands excellent opportunities to give back. They acknowledge the value of the network through the South African Chamber of Commerce for all business people.
“The power of this network is simply priceless. In our experience, the two most significant benefits are meeting like-minded people with a common background and a common challenge fueled by the changes they have undertaken. It’s so much more than a financial benefit and
gives any businessperson who has left South Africa a new life opportunity.”
It appears that great plans for GreenKids and the Chapter lie ahead.
“Watch this space because our brand is already evolving. We are in discussions with multiple channel partners throughout the UK and EU. We’ll be launching our own brand called VinoLog. As far as the Chapter goes, we had a slow start for several reasons—however, the focus for our
small team is building business opportunities for our members.
We’re determined to add value to all our communities and build trade between our homeland, Ireland, and the rest of Europe for small to medium enterprises in both directions. We are getting ready to start a podcast backed by the Chamber to interview South Africans making an impact globally in which all our members will be involved. 2023 will be a very
different year in the life of SACC Emerald Isle!”