TL; DR: Johann Joubert founded SA Webhosts after discovering that international hosting providers didn’t include many of the services that South African businesses needed. SA Webhosts filled those needs, and, as the company grew, it added the powerful web-builder ItSoEzi to its set of tools. And soon, SA Webhosts will launch an ecommerce solution designed to get an entrepreneur’s website up and running in minutes. Johann and his team are proud to help empower the country’s internet economy, and he ensures that the company’s customer service is second to none.
When Johann Joubert was in his early 40s, he owned a successful company in South Africa. The company did so well, in fact, that it didn’t take much hands-on management.
“The business had kind of sorted itself out. I played golf on Wednesdays and Saturdays and was mostly twiddling my thumbs,” he said. “So I thought, ‘There are better things to do with my time,’ and I started exploring how I could make more money on the internet.”
As South Africa prepared to host the 2010 World Cup, Johann started Book SA Online to attract tourists to reserve accommodations. But he used an international hosting provider and found that it had little experience with the South African market. While the website didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, Johann learned valuable lessons about niche marketing and how to promote online businesses. He also discovered the value of a good web host.
That’s when he launched his own hosting company, SA Webhosts, designed for the unique needs of South African entrepreneurs, even those with limited access to common Western payment methods — including debit and credit cards. Today, it is one of the country’s premier hosting services, offering free .co.za domain names and unlimited mailboxes, web space, and MySQL databases to its customers.
It’s the culmination of Johann learning from his missteps and creating a more successful business than he had initially envisioned. But for his setback with his booking company, he may not have realized the extent of the hosting problem in his home country.
“You couldn’t put a price on the lessons that I learned through the experience of launching that business,” Johann said.
Creating a Powerful, Automated Website Builder for Businesses
When Johann began building SA Webhosts, he wanted to solve hosting problems unique to his country. Among those was access to resources that many other hosting companies assume its customers have.
“We have a significant community of people who have access to the internet, but they don’t own business staples like credit or debit cards,” Johann said. “Some of them don’t even have access to internet banking. Nevertheless, a lot of these people have small businesses that they want to get online. My goal was to help them do that.”
So he made it easy for South Africans to register online with SA Webhosts by removing some of those barriers. Instead of requiring a credit or debit card, he allowed customers to pay via direct EFT or through ATM cash deposits, which are free in South Africa. Now, that untapped market of entrepreneurs can easily access the services they need —and take advantage of free features.
And, as its customer base grows, SA Webhosts keeps up with their evolving demands.
“More people are looking for website development, so we decided to upgrade our website builder,” Johann said. “We now use ItSoEzi, which is our sister company. Our customers can quickly register on ItSoEzi.com and access its top-of-the-line web builder.”
ItSoEzi has a wide variety of templates and a simple drag-and-drop interface. That functionality means that both novices and experienced developers can make the most of its features — and it’s free for all SA Webhosts customers.
Today, SA Webhosts and ItSoEzi provide accessible and affordable web hosting tools to all South Africans, even those who don’t have access to the traditional services that many international hosts take for granted.
Keeping Up With the Fast Pace of Ecommerce
Although ecommerce sites are using SA Webhosts, the industry in South Africa still isn’t quite as developed as it is in the United States or Europe.
“When I visited the United States in 2004, my friend asked me to bring a Superman T-shirt back home. But I couldn’t find one anywhere. None of the shops I visited had anything like it,” Johann said. “So I ended up ordering one online while I was still in America, and it was delivered to me in 24 hours. I was amazed because we didn’t have anything close to that kind of service in South Africa.”
Although South African ecommerce has made great strides since 2004, online businesses still are not at the point where they can deliver goods to customers within a day of someone ordering the product. This persistent gap inspired Johann to develop his own ecommerce website building tools that get SA Webhosts clients closer to those capabilities.
“I’m quite passionate about improving our services because I think it could do great things for the South African internet economy,” said Johann. “Plus, I just think that building platforms is cool. We’re rolling out a ready-to-use online ecommerce solution which is similar to market-leading applications but better, cheaper, and more attuned to the needs of this country’s market. It will separate our company from our competition, and make SA Webhosts a more comprehensive all-in-one solution.”
The new website builder will allow users to create an ecommerce site within minutes. Because all of the payment gateways are already set up, internet entrepreneurs only need to add categories, products, and prices. The feature puts SA Webhosts on the leading edge of South African ecommerce.
Focused on the Needs of Customers in South Africa
What began with an underwhelming ecommerce experience leading up to the 2010 World Cup culminated in the creation of a South African internet host that caters to the nature of the country’s market. And while customers appreciate how SA Webhosts meets their unique needs, they’re also grateful for its responsive and helpful customer service team.
“Some hosting providers believe that cutting prices will make more customers buy their products. I don’t think that kind of value is what people are looking for,” Johann said. “What most customers really want are user-friendly systems and great customer support. When our clients call us, we don’t just point them in a direction and say, ‘You need to do this, that, or the next thing.’ We do the work for our clients while we have them online.”
And its customers have taken notice. One client, the Chairman and CEO of JetVision Holdings, has worked with SA Webhosts since 2012, and he praised the company in an online testimonial.
“I’m a very difficult customer to please, however, with Johann and his team, I have not experienced one day that made me feel less than greatly impressed,” he said. Another client, Daleen Botha of King Print, agreed, writing, “They’re the most hands-on and efficient service provider I have ever come across. Not only are you guided through the signing up process with the minimum of stress, but you also get something quite rare — great after-sale service.”
SA Webhosts delivers specialized South African hosting service with a personal touch, which is precisely what Johann envisioned when he started.
“When customers call and speak to me, they think that I’m an old friend because of the way I interact with them,” he said. “My staff and I treat the people who call us as more than just numbers. That’s something that won’t ever change.”