MOD: turning adventure into an innovative business MOD: turning adventure into...

MOD: turning adventure into an innovative business


28 Feb, 2024
Co-owners of MOD, Donnet and Stan, standing in their product workshop

Donnet Dumas and Stan Engelbrecht were overlanding in Namibia when they were inspired to start their business, MOD.

The pair lived in their Suzuki Jimny, or as they call it, their ‘tiny-home-on-wheels’ for two months as they adventured across the country. “While we were out in the middle of nowhere, we kept on saying, ‘if only we had…’; we were coming up with product ideas that would make adventuring in our little car simpler, easier, and more practical,” says Donnet.

As there were no products in South Africa designed to make adventuring in their Jimny more practical, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

“The camping and 4×4 market in South Africa has been stuck in a rut, producing the same products, in the same colours, for the same type of people and the same cars for years,” explains Donnet. “We wanted to apply a new way of thinking to things. We wanted to create products that were fun, unique and practical. And our Jimny forced us to think differently about everything we designed.”

Along with designing products for their Suzuki Jimny, they also focused their attention on creating products for cyclists. An avid cyclist himself, Stan always struggled to find simple, clever solutions to problems he sometimes faced on his adventures.

After a couple of years of product development, MOD was officially launched as an online store in May 2023. 

Read more: 11 online business ideas for budding entrepreneurs

We caught up with them to find out more about their business journey, and how they worked with South African brands to bring their vision to life. 

A man walking through the desert wearing a navy shirt with a MOD bottle holder slung across his shoulder.

What’s in a name

When Donnet and Stan considered a name for their business, they had certain criteria it needed to meet.

The adventure enthusiasts wanted a name that was simple and not tied to a specific market. They also wanted their name to be the logo, which would help with their brand identity as it would be etched into their products.

‘MOD’ fit all their criteria and linked together the various ways in which they thought about their brand. 

“In the auto industry, to ‘mod’ your car means to make changes to the stock standard model and make it unique,” says Donnet. “MOD also stands for modular – something that forms part of our brand thinking, and for modern – a new and innovative approach to product design.” 

Fit for purpose

MOD was born out of a desire to create simple solutions to problems the co-owners encountered, and their product range is reflective of this desire. All of their products undergo an extensive design and manufacturing process before they are taken to market.

To start, the pair deliberates on the problem they’re trying to solve. Stan then mocks up a few ideas using a 3D drawing app. These designs take into account the material that’ll be used, the parameters of the materials and how it’ll be manufactured.

Once the designs are finalised, the product moves into the prototyping phase. “Depending on the product, we will usually go through two prototype iterations,” says Donnet. “We then test durability and strength and see if we can simplify the product and bring the material weight and the cost down in any way.”

Once they’re satisfied with the product, they move on to creating assets that’ll help them market the product to their audience, including taking photos and videos as well as writing product descriptions.

“There are a lot of steps, but making sure each of these is done properly ensures you build a quality, long-lasting brand.”

Read more: 6 factors you should consider when starting a business

Pushing the boundaries

MOD is Donnet and Stan’s first foray into the auto industry. Building their business from scratch, the co-owners had a lot to learn. They soon realised that South Africa lacked a lot of the high-quality material they wanted to use for their products.

This led to them spending a large amount of time scouting for small parts or materials that met the quality standard they wanted to offer their customers.

“We’ve had to get creative and mostly find solutions by asking a lot of questions, making a lot of phone calls, and looking at different industries to see if there aren’t things that we can use in different ways for our products,” Donnet explains.

Despite having to scour the country for raw materials, they were adamant about trying to find the elements they needed in South Africa. ”The country’s manufacturing sector will never grow or improve if small businesses don’t push manufacturers to places they have never been before,” says Donnet. “So we look for other local businesses to work with on a daily basis.”

An image of Stan crafting new MOD products

Local is lekker

Their desire to work with South African businesses extended beyond the products they were designing. When it came to building their website, they turned to two local brands: Shopstar and SnapScan.

“As a small business, we needed an affordable online store solution when we launched. MOD launched with products specifically designed for a very niche market, which is a risk – but one we strongly believe in.”

They chose Shopstar not only for their affordable prices but also because they want to see South African businesses grow and improve. “The same can be said for SnapScan – we personally use SnapScan all the time and have done so for years – it’s just so simple,” explains Donnet. “So it made sense for us to implement it as a payment method for our customers.”

“Getting signed up with SnapScan was really easy, and we were ready to take online payments within 48 hours. We were new to setting up online payments and plug-ins, but SnapScan and Shopstar laid out the steps in clear terms, which were really simple to follow.”

Read more: 6 ways SnapScan can help your business collect payments

The adventure continues

Ten months after Donnet and Stan officially launched MOD, they’re continuing to innovate and create products for those seeking practical solutions on their adventures.

Their range of products has helped them build a small but loyal community on Facebook and Instagram made up of other Jimny enthusiasts. 

Going forward, they plan to keep making products that fulfil their hearts’ desires. “We have always said to each other, as long as we’re still having fun, we’re still going to keep going,” says Donnet. “Of course, we’d love more people to find out about us and buy our products. This will help us keep pushing boundaries and making adventures happen.”

Want to help MOD continue their adventure? Browse their online store, or follow their adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube

Written by

Megan is a Content Strategist at SnapScan, with a book-buying habit that is spiraling out of control.

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