Martin Korver was born in the Netherlands in 1966, growing up in a small village near Amsterdam. As a young man, Martin joined his country’s special forces, ultimately remaining in military service for three years. He then enrolled in Hotelschool in The Hague, one of the most highly acclaimed business schools in the world, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and later during his career a master’s degree in marketing, all the while launching, developing, and expanding his own businesses.
After completing his studies, Martin Korver accepted several positions in the corporate sphere, including one with Pepsi-Cola. After a few years working for multinationals, Martin decided that his time and talent would be better spent pursuing his own innate entrepreneurial instincts. He left the Netherlands for South Africa, having identified it as an ideal place to start a new business. Once settled in his newly adopted country, he created a highly successful furniture business, which he sold in 2008 after years of successful operation.
True to form, Martin Korver then immediately set to work on a new venture. Indeed, thinking up exciting ideas for new companies, putting in the work to make them into a reality, spending a few years guiding them to success, and then moving on to do it all over again has been something of a recurring pattern in Martin Korver’s career.
These days, Martin runs Greenmouse Africa, also known as GMA, which is another business of his own design. Founded in 2021, GMA markets cell phone and smartphone accessories. The company is famous for its sustainable environmental policies, making its products from recycled plastics and using no packaging whatsoever, and there are many more exciting concepts on the way for the African Markets.
Can you share a little about the early days of your company?
Greenmouse Africa started during the height of the COVID pandemic. The idea came from an old school friend of mine in Holland who I’ve known for 35 years. He knew the owners of the Greenmouse business in the Netherlands and they were trying to put the concept into action in the market up there. We were talking one day, and he suggested giving it a try in Africa. So, the business started down here, with just me on my own and a couple of samples. Today, we have 1,000 displays and 38 people on our team, and we’re doubling in size every three to four months.
How have you achieved success?
Success only comes before work in the dictionary. You need to work hard, but you also need a bit of luck and to time things correctly. When we launched, the market was ready for what Greenmouse offered because it’s a very good value-for-money proposition. This isn’t something I could have done alone, so our success is also derived from building the right team and my 2 business partners in The Netherlands. Another factor that contributed to it was having the guts to start the enterprise during the pandemic, which was a highly risky thing to do, but ended up being the right move.
What obstacles have you overcome in the process?
Concerning Greenmouse, some of the initial obstacles were financing, stocking products, and putting together a solid team. Recruiting in South Africa is something of an issue. It’s difficult to find the right people with the right skills. It’s also a challenge to obtain local financing, but luckily, I’m able to finance everything for Greenmouse with my partners. However, it’s a difficult climate for young entrepreneurs here. Another obstacle is load-shedding. We’ve got about six hours each day where we have no electricity from the national grid, so solar power, inverters, and generators are big things for us. We need to have the power on at all times so that our people can work. It’s also important to know the culture in South Africa very well because, as I alluded to before, it’s not always the easiest place to do business.
What drives you to succeed?
I want to have fun with what I do. I thoroughly enjoy building businesses and companies. If I see people grow and see them really succeed and achieve a lot for themselves within an organization that I created, and I realize that they’ve put in a lot of hard work to achieve that success, it gives me a huge amount of pleasure. So, among other things, watching my team use a company I built as a springboard for their own individual success inspires me.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
When I was young, my concept of success was partially defined by the accumulation of money. Now, it’s driven purely by balance, fun, and health, and the financial rewards are all secondary to those aspects. I will say that having fun has always been an important part of business for me, so that one element of my definition of success hasn’t changed.
What has success meant to you?
Success means that I can travel a lot and take good care of my family. It means that life becomes easier in certain ways. That being said, success is a very relative word. In many ways, in this time and age, if you’re healthy, then you’re successful.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
Sure, I have lots of advice for anyone looking to make themselves successful in the private sector: Balance your life. Work hard but be smart. Listen carefully to the people who have been there and gotten the T-shirt a couple of times. Don’t be too stubborn. Graft it hard. Success is a path that goes up, down, left, and right. You will always come across some obstacles in your life in business, but you need to take them on the chin—meaning, absorb them and learn from them. Balance your working hours. There’s no need to work 18 hours a day. If you’re doing that, you’re either too light for the job or you have no idea what you’re doing.
How do you feel success affects a person’s outlook?
If you’re a balanced person, material success won’t change your outlook from whatever it usually is. What success does is make life a bit more comfortable regarding certain practical things. It will provide you with a few more options and avenues to explore. Mentally, success will create confidence and security for you. Once again, I’ll reiterate that success is relative, so how it affects your outlook will depend on what kind of value you put on it.