BusinessLife

Who is Mr Mantality – An introduction to The Man Behind it All

When deciding on what the 1st post should be about, it seem only fitting that it should be about Mr Mantality himself, and give a bit of insight into the man behind it. The idea for Mr Mantality.com came about as a result of me having arguably one of the worst performing memory’s in the history of mankind. This meant that over the years I’ve kept (and have accumulated) a digital f!#k shed load of random notes and what I like to call brain dumps about improvements, ideas, concepts, tasks, how tos, hacks, reviews, list etc etc in both business and life. (2 words which had almost no distinction during the startup phase of Mantality.)

Mr Mantality.com is home to all those notes and brain dumps, and aims to give pithy and 100% bullsh!t free insight into my journey as Managing Director to a group of internet companies; and regular man about town navigating his way through life.

My background

My business career, I guess, started when I was a wee munchkin just 6 or 7 years old… In amongst learning how to skateboard and watching Thundercats I took it upon myself to raid my dad’s veggie patch at the foot of our garden, and then gather all the magazines my mother had read that month – which was about a metric ton worth of  You, Fair Lady, OK, Hello and Cosmopolitan. Then, once all inventory was collected, I’d set up a little chair and table out on the curb of our family home and sell to the droves of passers by that hauled up down Johannes Street in Fairland back in the late 80s. Anyone who was anyone knew that if you were looking for the freshest baby marrows and celebrity gossip, my little stall on Johannes Street had to be your 1st stop. Lil Jim’s Veggie and Gossip Holdings was collectively acquired by Pannar Seed and Naspers in the Summer of ’89. Have you any idea how many chappies and gummy worms that meant.

Let’s skip a few years on where, upon completing my matric in ’99, my journey into adult life would begin. I had taught myself how to build websites in my early teens and quite fittingly my 1st website was a nude celebrity site called CelebSA, which was hosted on the free subdomains Mweb would give alongside 56k internet dial up accounts. Soon thereafter, and still as a teenager, I designed, developed and maintained a website for the local video rental store up the road, which netted me free video rentals and movie posters – which at the time was a deal sweeter than Macaulay Culkin’s box office takings.

A Mediatek Diploma in Web Design was my 1st bit of tertiary accreditation to my name; but I felt it didn’t give me a holistic grounding in graphics and web design. So I enrolled for a Graphic Design degree at the Vaal University of Technology (formerly known as the Vaal Triangle Technikon), and upon completing my 3rd year specialised in Multi-media. This exposed me to 3D animation and motion graphics which I absolutely loved but had to teach myself due to there not being much in the way of 3D offered at the university. Burning the midnight oil in the company of Lightwave 3D 7, Macromedia After Effects (now Adobe), Nescafe and Gauloises Blondes became a night well spent. Interestingly my profile is still on Deviantart if you’d like to see some of my very early stuff.

Around 2006 I moved to London UK to join a well established industry of web and motion design professionals. This was so much fun! Scary as heck but damn fun at the same time. Whilst doing freelance work for agencies with clients like FHM, Vodafone, Lastminute.com and a few other corporates, I sought out ways to supplement my income and discovered “dropshipping”. Essentially this is where you create a brand and online store, taking orders and dealing with customers etc, whilst your supplier handles all the logistics of packing and dispatching the orders. This was a low-cost way to dip my feet into the ecommerce space – and the bug bit. I went on to develop an adult toy store called The Toy Farm (which I later sold and is still in operation as of today 24/01/2015) along with a hosting reseller business called Media All-Stars and later a men’s grooming store called Metro Joe. These businesses I like to refer to as my e-Commerce University and proved more valuable in terms of giving me the knowledge about e-commerce, online marketing and SEO than any institution could ever have done.

Around 2007 I returned to SA with an empty wallet and a head full of ideas. One gem of an idea was that I move to Spain and do odd jobs whilst soaking up as much sun and sangria as I possibly could. Heck, I was so hellbent on this idea I even started learning Spanish at home – and can still tell you what butter, eggs and the bank are in Spanish, as well as how to ask where the toilet is. All of which would be very useful should I ever wish to bake a cake for a Spanish bank teller… This plan soon faded when the idea for an all encompassing online store for men came about – and Mantality was born.

The next few months saw me creating a business plan, developing the brand and website as well as sourcing suppliers both locally, and abroad to get Mantality from just a concept to a tangible business. This took approximately 6 months and was pretty gruelling. Fortunately I was staying with my parents during this period so overheads were minimal. My “office” was a 4m x 5m bedroom behind my parent’s garage. See picture below of myself and Branson in 2008 with my desk on the left and stock in the background.

Here’s an interview from when I was featured in an edition of Your Business magazine in 2012. THE EARLY DAYS. London UK, circa 2007 – Like any bootstrapped business, it came from humble beginnings. Mantality founder James Mew was eking out a living from motion graphics and web design projects when he launched his first online shop. He started out using the drop shipping model — he didn’t hold any stock and all orders were processed directly by his suppliers. “That year proved more valuable in terms of a business education, than any formal institution could ever have done,” he points out.  On his return to South Africa in 2008, Mew brought his vision for a one-stop online shop for men — Mantality — to life. With the help of R100,000 in seed funding which went toward stock and set-up costs, from a 4x5m metre room behind his parents’ garage, the brand and business was born.

“Branson was the brains behind the entire operation and played an instrumental role in getting Mantality off the ground. I pretty much just lay in the corner scratching and licking myself… Those early days were filled with blood, sweat, tears and enough tea to fill Hartebeesport dam twice over!”

Mantality went on to break the R1.2 million mark in revenue during it’s first 14 months in business. Which in the early days of e-commerce and online shopping in South Africa, around 2008/2009 was not a bad milestone to hit. To date the company continues to grow from strength to strength and is ranked in the Top 800* most visited website on Alexa.com, placed in the Top 35 at the 2013 SA eCommerce Awards, and ranked 3rd in SA for “Best customer service” at the 2014 SA eCommerce Awards, and is also featured in many popular lad magazines such as Men’s Health, FHM, GQ etc. I’ve since gone on to launch a distribution business (b2b) called Men’s Republic which wholesales gadgets and gifts to other businesses in SA.

*this varies between 500 – 1000 and is dependant on a number of factors that make up the Alexa.com algorithm, such as web traffic, inbound links etc. As a reference Yuppiechef.com – who I admire greatly as online business and brand – is pegged at about 200.

So that’s a brief (ha!) background on me, and my journey to building a successful and growing online business which has brought much happiness, anguish, uncertainty at times but most importantly fulfilment to my existence – and I honestly don’t think I could be happier doing anything else other than spearheading my own business and being the architect of my own destiny!

I hope you enjoy Mr Mantality.com and it helps you in some way to realise your own dreams! And remember start something today that your future self will thank you for. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and do the exact opposite of the Spanish proverb “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week”. Oh, and write down every idea or “brain dump” you have, either in a written notebook or digital notebook (like Evernote) because you never know when inspiration will hit.

Below you’ll find a few photos of Mantality along the way.

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Mr Mantality

Mr Mantality

Lover of gadgets, men's culture, cool stuff, Earl Grey tea and all things manly. An optimist in his prime. When he's not keeping the wheels turning at Mantality HQ you'll find him trawling the web, and visiting trade shows to find the newest and coolest gadgets. During his down time he's usually with his 2 dogs, on the golf course, cycling or basking in the literary company of Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis or Martin Amis whilst drinking espresso strong enough to strip paint.

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