From YDE to Uber Flavour: Paul Simon’s journey as an ‘accidental entrepreneur’

There is no better place for a South African to spend a cold Thursday evening than sitting at Townhouse Lodge listening in on an entrepreneur flooded fireside chat hosted by Giullaume De Wet at Startup Grind Cape Town.

This month the man in the spotlight was none other than Mr YDE, or as he would prefer to be called today, Mr Uber Flavour, Mr &Threads or just Paul Simon really — a man worthy of a standing ovation.

Simon is not your, traditional entrepreneur (if there is such a thing). His story is one about a series of uncalculated decisions that led to the path of what some may call “accidental entrepreneurship”.

Every successful entrepreneur (calculated or accidental) has one defining character trait that sets them apart from the crowd. For Simon that defining factor was not his ability to bounce back from failure, to preserve through life’s challenges nor to see opportunity where no one else could. Unbeknown to Simon, his defining character was his ability to think on his feet.

Family Dinner to Business

On a fateful Friday which would mark the birth of the revolutionary YDE (or Young Designers Emporium) retail brand, Simon faced what Ben Horowitz calls the struggle.

Facing an ultimatum from his father to either get a job or move out, Simon found himself in a situation where he had to pitch his non-existent business proposal to his family (uncles and aunts included). With no PowerPoint spreads, no financial projections, no lengthy due diligence analysis, no marketing strategy and no market analysis, Simon’s ability to think on his feet led to the creation of YDE.

Entrepreneurship is execution

Contrary to the entrepreneurial lessons from most business books, and MBA lecturers, Simon did not spend time carrying out paper research to test the market feasibility of his business concept. Naivety allowed Simon to ignore the curse of analysis paralysis blissful ignorance led him to execute his business idea, and build a business that he would later on sell to Truworths for an undisclosed figure.

From Designer to Uber Flavour

Simon’s journey did not end there. With the hard lessons he learnt from starting and running YDE for close to ten years, Simon decided to reinvent himself, as Mr. Uber Flavour.

Furthermore, putting his designer skills and network to good use, the serial entrepreneur is also one of the brains behind online fashion boutique &Threads, which is trying to replicate the success of YDE on the web.

This leg of Simon’s journey began with what can be summed up as the observation begets opportunity principle. Having seen a Rooibos Ice Tea brand manufactured in Stuttgart, Simon saw an opportunity to produce a Rooibos Ice tea brand in South Africa that he would export to Europe and the rest of the world.

The primal focus behind the creation of Uber Flavour would be an emphasis on quality and taste (replacing flavourants and sugars with actual fruits and the rooibos extract) over practicality (flavourants would give the product a longer shelf life, and lower the cost of production). The end result was a premium priced product called Uber-Flavour Brew.

Time will tell whether Uber-Flavour Brew will be a commercial success, in the mean time however, it is only appropriate that we celebrate the success of the man behind both brands, Simon, the accidental serial entrepreneur.

Emmanuel Sibanda


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