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In 1996 I started to buy wood for myself, for braaiing, from the bushveld, due to the lack of availability of good quality wood in our area. It soon came to my friend’s attention that my braai’s was a bigger success than theirs, because of the bushveld wood I was using and soon they were collecting wood from me, for their braai’s. This started to have a financial impact on me, because what started as a few bags of wood per month, soon expanded to huge amounts of wood, as their friends soon found out where they got their wood from. Within a few months, I got to a stage where I had so start charging for the wood, as the amounts got to big to be covered by my salary, as a young civil engineer. Within six months, a few bags became 400 bags a month and I was approached one day by a guy that was supplying two shops and a garage. He was struggling to get good quality braaiwood and constant supply. He asked me to supply these shops and that’s where it all started. One shop became a Pick & Pay Family store a few years ago and was not allowed to buy from me anymore, as I was not listed at Pick & Pay, but the other two, I am still supplying to this day, after 17 years.
Then the business grew and people started asking for other braai related products such as charcoal, briquettes and firelighters. I then distributed these products from various companies, always searching for a better product. As I changed from brands over the years, my clients accepted this, as they trusted me and new I was doing this for their best interest. I soon realized that the best quality charcoal was coming from Namibia, as they are a dry country and their trees grow slow, thus giving the wood more density. Up to 2004 I distributed almost every brand of Namibian charcoal that was available.
In 2005 I realized that I had to start my own brand, so that I can have better quality control over my product and sort out availability problems that occurred in peak seasons. I registered the trademark Bakgat Braai, as the word Bakgat in Afrikaans bests describe everything that’s great. I sourced charcoal from Namibia, which I screened and packed myself after I realized that if you have your bags filled in Namibia, which is cheaper, you have no quality controle over the product. By then a local company produced my briquettes, which was of good quality, but availability became a problem as my business was constantly growing. In December 2007, I have outgrown my supply to such extent, that I almost lost a lot of clients. I had to buy briquettes from other companies, who new my problem and used the opportunity to make some good extra cash for Christmas to my expense. Needless to say, my worst time in business, but also my best! It forced me to set up my own factory and produce my own briquettes.
I realized that I had no factory or any mechanical background, but had the world’s luck on my side: My dad had 40 years experience as a metallurgical and refractory engineer and got him to help me. We struggled for a few months as there was no one that was willing to give out any information, as I was now their rival. I got valuable help from a gentleman outside Rustenburg, that was producing briquettes for more than 20 years ( I think ), but he made it clear to me that certain things stays confidential as we found out as we went through our private school of learning. It took us almost six months, but worth every minute (especially the long winter nights, when we sat in the cold, trying to get the drying process sorted.). My dad managed the factory for 5 years (he is now on a well-
Monthly, we now import more than 300 tons of charcoal and produce more than 150 tons of briquettes. We also distribute more than 320 tons of braai and firewood. The factory’s capacity is four times the current production with some minor changes.
In 2010 we launched a new product, anthracite, due to the demand from our customers. We pack it in a convenient 15kg laminated polypropylene bag, branded and bar coded.
We started having problems with the supply of firelighters from our supplier in 2012 and we had to take the next step: In January 2013 we commissioned our firelighter plant with the help of our new factory manager, Sean du Preez. We now manufacture our own top quality firelighters.
Our number one priority is our quality, but equal to that, is our loyalty and service to our customers, which without, we have no existence! We prime ourselves to go out of our way to keep our customers happy. We have build up a relationship with them over the years that can be described as a “Big Bakgat Family”.
As long as South Africans will have the tradition of a great braai, Bakgat Braai will strive to make it a memorable occasion!!