Yebo Fresh, an independent online retailer, is on a mission to make life easier for township residents by allowing them to buy groceries and household items online and have them delivered straight to their door, doing away with the need to travel to a mall.
When the first Covid-19 lockdown hit in 2020, Yebo Fresh had been operating for just over a year. It was during that period that it learnt about ways to penetrate and serve a market that was underserved and in desperate need of transformation.
Founder and CEO Jessica Boonstra explains what led to the creation of Yebo Fresh: seeing many people using public transport to travel to a traditional mall, and having to carry heavy loads of groceries such as rice, maize meal and flour back to their homes.
The Cape-Town-based operation was launched as an active solution to eliminate the “gigantic hassle” for many township consumers.
The difficulties associated with travelling long distances using public transport range from having to depend on strangers to assist in carrying the purchases, to safety and security risks, as criminals may attempt to take advantage of their vulnerability.
“My thinking was that technology could help solve this,” says Boonstra.
“What if, instead of all those people traveling to the mall, the mall effectively comes to them?”
She says the month-end hassle of shopping became even worse at the height of the initial ‘hard’ Covid-19 lockdown, when stores were forced to limit customer numbers and consumers had to stand in queues for hours.
“Some people would start queuing at 5am and could only get into the store by 11am to find that the shelves were empty.”
Boonstra says it was at this point that the business started to get more attention, including from sponsors and NGOs that were looking for the safest way to send orders to their staff, township families and communities.
The company scaled up its operations and delivered more than 85 000 food parcels around Cape Town in that period – first to the Imizamo Yethu informal in the Hout Bay area, and later to Langa, Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Delft.
Customers can place their orders through the Yebo Fresh website or via the service’s WhatsApp number – and can pay online or choose the cash-on-delivery option, which Boonstra says is the more popular option.
“We have very proudly just opened in Johannesburg,” she says. “In both locations, delivery is free if you order over R500.”
For smaller orders there is a R50 delivery fee for addresses within a 40km radius of the warehouse. Longer distance will incur a higher fee.
Boonstra says Yebo Fresh is currently handling “much more” than R1 million in orders a month.
The retailer has partnered with the likes of Tiger Brands and Premier Foods.
“We buy directly from them, and in some cases they sponsor some of our deals by providing free samples and that allows us to keep costs really low,” says Boonstra.
Yebo Fresh positions itself as one of the prominent retailers in the country, competing against the likes of Shoprite and Pick n Pay.
Read: Grocery shop showdown (Mar 20)
“We have a warehouse, and we have a very efficient team that delivers straight to your door. With that, we can often do it cheaper than a store.”
Listen to Nompu Siziba’s July 2020 interview with Yebo Fresh CEO Jessica Boonstra:
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.