Dewald Muller is a Candidate Fellow, third-year Matie, Actuary-in-the-making and the Founder of Cuppa Campus which supplies Maties’ biggest consumable – coffee. Yet he prefers to be known for his love of creating something out of nothing and his passion for making a difference. His knack for recognising opportunities emerged in Grade 4 when he established Biltong Broers with his brother to sell biltong and droëwors to their peers at Robertson Primary.
It started with a beautiful stranger
Dewald was going to lectures one day when he noticed a beautiful stranger falling in step beside him. She was a sight for sore eyes, but even more striking than her beauty was the empty polystyrene cup in her hand! That’s when he realised that coffee had become more than just a beverage. It had been elevated to fashion accessory; a status symbol of sorts.
Assessing the market
Being a student, Dewald knows that there are times when instant coffee just doesn’t hit the spot. Especially after a big night out or during all-night study sessions. At these times all a student needs is a good cappuccino or caffe latte. After focusing on providing fellow students with 24/7 access to great-tasting, yet affordable, coffee Dewald spotted an opportunity to turn unbranded coffee cups into moving ads.
But first he had to deal with a lot of red tape. Dewald faced numerous challenges in realising his business idea. He had to get the green light from several governing bodies across campus, comply with stringent regulations and deal with some major setbacks. One such setback was that, out of the blue, his original vending supplier stopped taking his calls.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced him to think bigger. He partnered with Nestlé and took care of important things like registering his company, getting a VAT number and finding a business partner.
More than a cup
Within three months of installing the first in-residence vending machine, Cuppa Campus had sold over 3,000 units. Dewald then got local businesses interested in a new kind of marketing opportunity. He conducted a survey on campus to determine which local businesses were most representative of student life then pitched to these potential clients. He highlighted that traditional advertising media like TV, radio and print only captured the audience’s attention for two minutes at most. Yet a simple coffee cup – mobile and ubiquitous – enabled clients to ‘speak’ to target audiences for up to eight minutes.
Dewald hopes to apply this to another equally-popular consumable at Stellenbosch University – bottled water. There is an agreement with Richeneau in Franschhoek to rebrand bottled water in the same way as the coffee cups. He also has expansion in mind and hopes to make Cuppa Campus national within the next two years.
Making a difference
Working with local businesses made Dewald see the importance of using resources to improve the lives of others and do something good. Cuppa Campus is in the process of planning a community initiative at neighbouring Cloetesville. With the help of Food Lover’s Market and Builders’ Warehouse, they envision a Community Day to inspire youth in March 2016.
Keeping his passion for making a difference alive has become a lot easier since becoming a Candidate Fellow. Prior to this, he’d often found himself feeling that he was the only one concerned with social matters. These days, however, he feels privileged to be connected to more than 200 other like-minded young people who are equally driven to alter South Africa’s socio-economic landscape. With regular access to business mentors, industry leaders and personal developers, Dewald has all the support he needs to make a sustainable difference. “Every time I leave a Foundation event, I am totally motivated to do even more,” he says.
Through Cuppa Campus, Dewald and his business partner (fellow Actuary student Willem Melville) have devised win-win situations for themselves, other Maties, local businesses and, best of all, the greater community.