Martin Beyers is no Richard Branson; he does not instantly draw you into his world with a wealth of charisma.
Neither is he a Steve Jobs; intent on taking over the world one iPod at a time.
He also does not remind you of Lakshmi Mittal; the creator of a global empire.
Yet, Beyers beat hundreds of South African business owners to win the 2010 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition.
The reason for his success in the competition – and in business – is that Beyers is the embodiment of real entrepreneurship.
Vision, creativity, innovation, careful planning, passion and hard work are the best adjectives to use.
The competition saw entrepreneurs from across the country vie for the title of Entrepreneur of the Year ®. They were subjected to strict judging criteria to ensure that the business was not only sustainable, but also exceptional.
Out of the 331 entries, 12 finalists emerged. Out of these, three category winners were crowned alongside the overall Entrepreneur of the Year ®:
- Emerging Entrepreneur: Lovely Letsoalo – Wespark Itumeleng Pharmacy
- Small Business Entrepreneur: Martin Brown – Radical Holdings
- Medium Business Entrepreneur: Theo Bakkum – Awesome Snacks
Entrepreneur of the Year ®
This year’s competition saw a dramatic change to the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards as the competition was opened up to all entrepreneurs in South Africa.
The award was initiated in 1989 by private small and medium enterprise (SME) financier, Business Partners to give recognition to the vision, innovation, perseverance, drive and commitment of the individuals who run successful small and medium enterprises.
In partnership with Sanlam, the competition was able to spread its net wider this year and introduced the three new award categories.
Business younger than three years old could compete for the Emerging Entrepreneur award and businesses with turnovers of up to R20 million could compete for the Small Business Entrepreneur award. The last category, the Medium Business Entrepreneur award, was reserved for businesses with turnovers greater than R20 million.
Each winner received R10 000 but the Entrepreneur of the Year ® 2010 walks away with R100 000 in cash and the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive exposure in the public domain.
CERadvance manufactures specialised ceramic solutions which are used in industrial processes. The Jet Park based business is a niche player in a market filled with large conglomerates.
It has been able to differentiate itself through pure innovation and this caught the judges’ eyes.
Judging convener, PwC Partner Stefan Beyers, explains that CERadvance’s ability to look far into the future and to develop products on a continual basis is exemplary.
This is because Martin Beyers has been able to turn his ideas into profits and build a sustainable operation.
“We looked at many different types of businesses. It is always difficult to choose a winner because each case is so unique,” Stefan Beyers says.
Jan Steenkamp, Executive Head, Cobalt Solutions, Sanlam echoes this, saying that the quality of entries in this year’s competition was extremely high.
But, Steenkamp also says that Beyers stood out because he is able to use his creativity to come up with solutions that add value to a client.
Beyers explains that he entered the competition as he has learnt to constantly revaluate himself and the business.
Through the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® judging process, people outside of his daily reality – the judges – could enter the operation, identify shortcomings and successes and help him to improve.
“Winning acknowledges that there is a legitimacy to the business, that it adds value and that it is worthwhile. Entrepreneurs want to know that they are on the right path.
“You constantly have to revaluate yourself to ensure that you are on the right path because the small business reality constantly changes.”
Business Partners Managing Director, Nazeem Martin, says that the competition is first and foremost an attempt to celebrate entrepreneurship.
“If this country is going to go anywhere we need to ensure that entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development is celebrated.
“Entrepreneurs need to take their rightful place as role models in South Africa so that when young people leave school or university, they consider it as a viable career option.
“The diversity of entries is an indication of the burning desire on the part of entrepreneurs to receive some form of recognition for the effort put into building these businesses and for creating jobs,” Martin says.
“Opportunity driven entrepreneurs, the ones that take advantage of a gap in the market, are the ones who usually create sustainable businesses. We have to celebrate entrepreneurs and honour them if we want to unleash the potential South Africa has in its youth.”
Steenkamp echoes this, saying celebrating entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit will act as an inspiration to others who have not yet made the leap into the small business environment.
The voice of SMEs
“We also want to ensure that the competition remains a national platform that brings real value to small business owners in their own businesses and the larger operating environment,” he adds.
“Through the competition and its workshops and seminars, we have created a platform for entrepreneurs to interact with their counterparts and be heard nationally. The SME space is often very lonely and the lessons learnt by these business owners over the years need to be shared.”
The Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards will further build on this platform next year, starting with an SME conference in March. Here, SME decision makers will be able to voice their opinion of the operating environment presented in South Africa and the challenges faced.
The seminars, workshops and conference will focus on areas such as financial planning, financial fitness assessment, business opportunities and advice and access to finance. Information on legal developments and changes to the regulatory environment will also be shared with delegates.
Furthermore, the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® project will interact directly with public sector officials to ensure that the SME voice is heard in the highest offices.
“Our vision is that it becomes the prime conference on entrepreneurship in the country,” Martin explains.
“We believe that entrepreneurs are the true heroes of the South African, and indeed world’s, economic society.”