From car boot sales to click sales

Online retail rockets local fashion brand’s sales

Current figures show that online retail accounts for around 1%, or R9 billion, of total retail sales (including groceries) in South Africa. This is expected to grow to 3-4%, or R27 billion, by 2020. But while our shopfronts may be moving online – they continue to overwhelmingly cater toward sample-sized western physiques that fail to resonate with many modern African women.

It is within this environment that home-grown fashion retailer, Plus-Fab, has really taken off.  The company offers fashion and swimwear for plus-size women via online retailers, Superbalist and Zando as well as The Space, which has physical outlets in major shopping centres. 

Owner Ouma Tema was inspired to start Plus-Fab by iconic South African women who were shunned and even ostracized because their physical stature did not conform to the ‘norm’. “We offer fashion savvy, modern-day plus size women clothes that not only fit, but accentuate their curves and more importantly restore confidence. We design and make quality clothing and swimwear that embrace as opposed to cover up curves.  Our motto is ‘not just the right size’,” says Tema.

Having begun by selling clothes from the boot of her car, Tema largely attributes PlusFab’s success to their online presence, saying it has had a huge impact on their bottom line by boosting gross profit margins from 29% in 2018 to 83% in 2019.  “Some of our online retailers order and hold the stock so they carry any risk, which allows my team and I to get on with designing and producing our range to meet their demand,” says Ouma Tema who started the business in 2010.

Tight marketing budgets are no longer a barrier for smaller businesses like Plus-Fab.  Following the merger of Superbalist and Spree, Superbalist is now one of the largest players in online fashion in South Africa.  “With larger online retailers a reality in South Africa, we have access to customers that we would not normally be able to reach without a huge marketing budget.  In addition, most of our customers are social – on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, so we make sure that we are very visible on these platforms and responsive to our customers,” says Tema. 

But their success has not been without its challenges.  “Chinese counterfeiters are a major problem for us.  They steal your designs and literally make them overnight and at a lower price, killing the jobs that we are trying to create and sustain,” says Tema.  The increased footprint of the Plus-Fab range and counterfeit threat has required Tema to allocate significant funds to protect her brand through registering trademarks.  “It’s been important for me to protect my name and brand.”

From the humble beginnings of being self-funded and operating from the boot of her car and then her garage – Tema believes that PlusFab was built upon fearless females.  “Today, we are 100% black owned and we have a fully-fledged production factory that employs 16 people, the majority of whom are women. “You empower a woman and you empower the nation!” concludes Tema who is the product of a single mother and who believes that the future is female. “I believe by empowering women economically, we can reduce the number of women in abusive relationships.”

Ouma Tema is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on Plus-Fab, please visit her website: https://www.plus-fab.com.

Going viral – where content is king but the audience is queen

‘Going viral’ has been a trending buzzword for a few years given the explosion of social media and the fact that content can and usually does go viral when you least expect or want it to! In South Africa, digital marketing has increased at a rate of 35%, hardly surprising given that 40% of the country’s population uses social media, with estimates that this will double in the next five to ten years. There is some disagreement, though, among experts as to what ‘going viral’ constitutes – how many views or likes does it take for something to go viral? Estimates range from 100 000 to 5 million.

Mike Sharman is the man behind Retroviral, a creative digital agency in Cape Town that works predominantly with what he refers to as ‘challenger’ brands.  “Going viral is not about eyeball or vanity metrics, it’s about creating a conversation about the brand, about getting eyeballs onto content and getting people excited about the brands we represent.  We love making stuff go viral but, at the end of the day we want to help our brands emotionally connect with audiences and ultimately make more sales.  We mobilise audiences online in order to make the business impact offline.”

In terms of market segmentation, Sharman explains that five years ago we were talking demographics, whereas today we refer to psychographics.  “You can’t put people into boxes anymore otherwise you won’t be able to connect with them.”  Psychographic targeting segments according to factors like shared personality traits, beliefs, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. Sharman says this helps to get inside the customers’ head in order to emotionally connect with them through digital content.  “Content is still king, but the audience is queen,” he says.

The company, now in its ninth year refers to themselves as storytellers who love what they do.  The company has made more brands go viral, globally, than any other agency in Africa and while Sharman and his team don’t take themselves too seriously, they’re proud of the many local and international awards they’ve received for their work. 

“As a small business, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved.  We’re creating jobs that didn’t exist and focus on supporting a network of suppliers who are also SMEs and SMMEs.  Small business is the lifeblood of an economy and we’re committed to growing South Africa one entrepreneur and one staff member at a time.”

Another key aspect to successful digital marketing is the role of Influencer marketing, a growing global trend.  Sharman’s influencer tool – webfluential.com – has 40 000 influencers, is used by 10 000 brands, has made eight South African influencers millionaires and has a global, digital audience of 1.4 billion people.  “I’m a massive fan of how creativity can change the world, for the better and we are the poster child for this revolution.  You don’t have to be a traditional professional (doctor, engineer, accountant, lawyer) to be a commercial success.”

Sharman attributes much of his early success to his book, The Best Dick. “The book became our best business card, responsible for generating tangible revenue, based on contacts made – and converted – from the book launch and national, business PR.  The Best Dick has been the most valuable tactic for Retroviral’s new business generation,” says Sharman.

Sharman and his team believe in rolling up their sleeves and have leveraged their entrepreneurial grit and hustle traits to solidify their customer base, growing their top line by 20% and revenue from R18 million to R22 million in the last financial year.

“We leverage tech and the various platforms to innovate, but our mantra is to ‘keep it simple’.”  It seems his recipe for success is working.

Mike Sharman is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on Retroviral Digital Communications, please visit the website: https://retroviral.co.za/

Keeping the lights on for a living

For businesses in the retail industry, lighting plays a critical role in creating the best possible customer experience. So much so, that the right retail lighting is said to be able to boost a business’ bottom line by driving higher sales. Someone who knows this all too well is Mario Roos, who along with his wife, Hayley, founded LighTec – a Western Cape-based pro-active lighting and electrical maintenance business.

Established in 2017, LighTec services around 1000 South African retail stores every month, but this healthy business flow did not happen overnight. “LighTec started on a shoe string budget and has grown organically over time, without any outside funding,” says Roos. “We started with just one technician – myself – and an assistant, and have grown to 16 staff across South Africa in just two years.”

With big plans for the future, Roos is confident that this high level of business growth will continue. “Given the current challenges that South African businesses are facing with regards to rising electricity costs, we have recently shifted focus in a big way to energy efficiency projects with new LED technology, to alleviate the pressure on the national grid.

“We provide in-depth energy analysis and payback periods for energy projects, which is becoming increasingly demanded by South African stores. With this recent diversified service offering, it is our aim to have 100 staff in the next five years, which will enable us to serve more than 4000 retail store a month.”

While business is looking up now, Mario warns that the entrepreneurial route is not for the faint-hearted. “To start and grow a small business like this takes a lot of guts, and then a lot of sacrifice is required to keep it going in the right direction. I have had to sell things so that the crew could have fuel, I have had to pawn my personal laptop and car so that the crews can have enough stock and fuel for that month.

“The important thing, however, is that the crew is as committed as I am in this regard. We do not have the resources that some of the other bigger companies have, so if one of our vehicles breaks down, our technicians may have to be the mechanics as well.

“In this sense, we work for each other, as we know the end goal and believe that the rewards will be greater than the temporary sacrifices. This is why our technicians around the country always go the extra mile for our customers. After all, our motto is “lighting made easy”, and to do this, service delivery is paramount,” he concludes. Mario and Hayley Roos are finalists in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on their business, please visit the LighTec website: https://lightec.co.za/.

The rise of the ‘Accountpreneur’

Accounting, the age-old practice of recording, classifying, and reporting on business transactions, is not typically associated with the passion-driven and notoriously risky realm of entrepreneurship. But there is a growing trend of accounting graduates who are breaking the mould and making their entrepreneurial mark.                                                                                          

One such local “accountpreneur” is Lyle Malander, the trailblazing founder and director of the Malander Group, who says he was driven by his passion to create employment opportunities and contribute to the struggling local economy. “There is an abundance of talent in South Africa, and we have the ability to compete with businesses on a global level – it is just a matter of getting out there and making it happen,” says Malander, who is only 33 years young.

Hailing from Cape Town originally, Malander relocated to Johannesburg to complete his articles at Deloitte after studying chartered accountancy. He then went to Chicago on secondment for three months, before returning back to Joburg to join Deloitte South Africa full-time. It was during this time that he made the decision to spread his wings and take a leap of entrepreneurial faith, establishing Malander Advisory, a chartered accounting and financial advisory firm, in 2015.

“At this point, it was just myself and my now co-Director, who I managed to recruit very early on. Our two-man team was very much focused on financial advisory to begin with, but the business grew organically after we managed to land our first major listed client. This led to hiring our first employee in 2016, and things just took off from there.”

The Malander Group has since expanded to comprise Malander Placements, a recruitment firm, and Malander Digital, an IT firm. Today, the business directly employs 22 people, including those in the recently-opened London office. With clients across various sectors and industries, Malander Advisory has also created employment opportunities for over 90 chartered accountants and financial professionals.

In 2018, the business expanded further by entering into the Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprise (SMME) space with the establishment of M-inent – a new Malander business offering a cloud-based solution to facilitate the growth of SMME businesses based both locally and abroad. “Originally, our focus was only larger, listed companies, but we’ve recently gotten involved in the SMME sector by providing cost-effective solutions to less established businesses,” he explains.

Throughout the expansion of the Malander Group, Lyle says an emphasis has been kept on professionalism and maintaining a strong corporate image and brand. “I believe that this, coupled with our consistent focus on service delivery, has been at the heart of the business’ growth strategy. Ensuring that deliverables are consistent and of the highest quality is ultimately the best form of marketing.”

Malander was named the overall winner of the prestigious top 35-under-35 award by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) in 2018, and Malander Advisory was a finalist in the South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA) for the firm of the year in 2018.

Adding to these achievements, Lyle Malander is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on his business, please visit the Malander Group website: https://www.malander.co.za/.

Dream comes true for HR entrepreneur from Gugulethu

Indima HR Consulting was started in 2007 in a bedroom, under a duvet with just a laptop and cellphone.  Cikizwa Nekile laughs as she talks about her business and its humble beginnings.  Today, the business has three full-time employees, 118 placements under management and lists many of Cape Town’s blue-chip company as its clients. 

Growing up in Gugulethu and living with her aunt and six cousins in a one-bedroom house provided Nekile with some tough life lessons, ones that ultimately resulted in her desire to be financially independent and master of her own destiny.  After matriculating at Vista High School, a school she selected, she studied financial accounting at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.  After accepting a job at Quest Personnel, a well-established recruitment and staffing company, she realised she wanted to change direction and started a Diploma in HR Management while working fulltime. 

Her career saw her spending 5 years with Quest and 6 years with BOE before joining Woolworths in 2004.  “I worked on the franchise arm of the business helping franchisees to set up stores.  I basically took care of their HR function from start to finish.”  During her time with Woolworths Nekile realised that her dream was to start her own HR business.  With lots of support from her then manager, she took the plunge.

“My first client was Sanlam Investment Managers, which over time grew to include other parts of their business.”  Her client base grew through word of mouth referrals, which helped her to develop solid relationships with her clients, most of whom she still works for today.   Given her growing client portfolio, Nekile grew her own support base roping in her husband Lungela as well as employing Thokozani Dube and Melanie Elepen who keep the business running smoothly. 

Most of Indima’s work is in the private sector although she is starting to do some government work.  “Contract management is now the focus of the business.  We’ve grown from 12 placements under management to 118. In some cases, we recruit the contractor, or the company will, but once appointed, we manage the person completely from an HR and payroll perspective.”

Nekile acknowledges that she is playing in a saturated market so needs to stand out in a very big crowd.  “Reputation and excellent customer service is very important especially for referral work.  The business has been around for almost 12 years and I have more than 25 years’ experience in the industry so that counts for a lot.  I am passionate about what I do and really love my job – it’s not just about making money!”  

Being a small operation Nekile believes that their agility and client centricity has helped them to adjust and respond to market trends and offer what the market is looking for. 

Cikizwa Nekile is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on her business, please visit Cikizwa’s LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cikizwa-nqolobe-9ba9497/

From the cape flats to the world

The story of SA’s award winning black winemaker

A local winemaker is not only making award-winning wines, but also changing the lives of thousands of learners in the Western Cape every day. 

Carmen Stevens’ journey to becoming an award-winning winemaker is one of determination, resilience and undeniable brilliance. Stevens grew up on the Cape Flats and as a young girl, fascinated by the vineyards and cellars depicted in Mills and Boon Novels, always dreamt of one day becoming a winemaker herself. 

“I’ve always known I would be a winemaker. But truth be told, as a young girl living in the Cape Flats, I had very limited knowledge of how to make my dreams a reality,” says Stevens. “In addition to my limited access to information on the industry, let alone the art of making wine, I had never heard of winemakers that look like me,” she quips.

Faced with the hurdle of lack of funding to further her education, Stevens turned to her friend’s uncle who worked in the lab at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, for advice. “He told me to apply at Elsenburg College or Stellenbosch University. So I applied to study winemaking at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch twice in 1990 and 1991, but was told I could not study there because of the colour of my skin.”

Cognisant of the socio-political climate in South Africa at the time, Stevens applied again in 1992, but was turned away again because she had no military experience. “I was finally accepted in 1993 and graduated as the first black winemaker in South Africa.” 

After cutting her teeth in the local winemaking industry with stints at Distell, Kunjani, Welmoed, Naked Wines and Amani, including 10 years in California representing Distell’s brand, Tukulu, Stevens established her own label in 2011. 

Carmen Stevens Wines is an independent, small batch winery and the only black-owned brand in South Africa. 95% of her wines are exported to the UK and USA under the Catoria label (a blend of her daughters’ names – Caitlin and Victoria) and marketed via online wine retailer, Naked Wines.  From humble beginnings, the business today processes 150 tons and in 2018 had a turnover of R8.1 million. 

Stevens attributes the business’ success in an already saturated wine producing market to constant innovation. “We are big on innovation! We even produce a vegan-friendly wine and have created two new offerings; a Petite Sirah and Carmenere, using Australian and Chilean grape varieties respectively.” 

Stevens’ goal is to have a home for her wine and her own vineyards within the next five years.  “I’d like my customers to be able to experience what we do and taste our wine with us,” says Stevens.

Deeply committed to her community, Stevens is aware of the importance of a good education and healthy nutrition. In the year she established her own label, she knew she wanted to give back and make a difference, so she started the Carmen Stevens Foundation. 

Working closely with Naked Wines and her extensive network of overseas clients (“Angels”), Carmen started supporting the efforts of the Peninsula School Feeding Association (PFSA) with a soup kitchen. Her investment in really getting to know her customers through her strong online presence and inspirational story has resulted in many of them becoming regular supporters of her Foundation.  “The generosity of our ‘Angels’ and our ongoing fundraising campaigns over many years have raised millions for the PFSA. Over the last two years, more than one million meals have been served to over 6 000 learners affected by poverty in 11 communities in the Western Cape, including Kraaifontein, Belhar and Elsies River. The initiative also employs 42 women who prepare the food,” she adds.  

Stevens concludes by admitting that her journey hasn’t been easy – “but I hope that it inspires young girls that look like me to follow their dreams and keep knocking until all the doors open”.

Carmen Stevens is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on her business, please see her profile of the Naked Wines website: https://www.nakedwines.com/producers/carmen-stevens.

Women-owned management consulting firm takes on multi-billion rand industry

How 3 women started a business from scratch that’s set to dominate SA’s competitive consultancy and advisory market

South Africa’s management consultancy and business advisory services market is worth more than R70 billion, this is according to Consultancy South Africa, a platform for South Africa’s consulting industry. This booming industry is made up of over 60,000 individuals, ranging from consultants, business advisors and business coaches. So how easy is to stand out in this crowd and be successful given the saturation of the consulting market?

Jessica Tandy, Anne-Marie Pretorius and Seugnet van den Berg are the dynamic partners of Bizmod, a Level 2 B-BBEE IT and management consulting company that partners with its clients to co-create solutions for positive impact in their organisations. 

“We met each other while collaborating on a project in 1997, decided to join forces and bought out the then owners of Bizmod,” says executive director, Jessica Tandy.  With no clients or assets, the three started from scratch to build the business.  With a keen sense of wanting to make a difference and give back, they introduced a fourth partner, the Women’s Trust, which essentially has a 28% stake in the business.  “We believe that real growth and prosperity can only be achieved through the entrepreneurial development and empowerment of women.”  The Trust has partnered with Africa Food for Thought, a PBO that provides food security for more than 18 000 children in Western Johannesburg and Womaniko, an organisation led by women that facilitates the development of women entrepreneurs and provides support for their local business ventures.

The company offers consulting services in business, technology, information security and compliance projects.  “We operate in a highly competitive environment and believe we’ve perfected the formula to enable us to outprice our competitors and still deliver a world class offering.” 

Bizmod focuses on managing its expenses and is highly efficient in deploying its resources.  “For now, this model is sustainable, but we are looking at other product offerings that could provide us with a sustained income stream going forward,” says Tandy.

The consulting firm has not only survived but also thrived in very tough economic conditions.  “We’ve managed to grow and nurture our employees and consultants. In 12 years, we have expanded Bizmod from three to currently almost 50 employees.  Our growth has empowered us to create jobs and consistently place our clients in a better position by helping them to solve their problems.  We’ve succeeded in building something out of nothing and a huge win has been being able to give back to our community through our CSI work,” says Tandy.

Bizmod is acutely aware of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the skills that companies will need to succeed.  “We’ve been intimately involved in designing and setting up an innovation hub for one of our clients and we’re currently implementing innovative solutions for digitization, focusing on human capital changes,” says Tandy.  The Bizmod team firmly believe that their robotics and intelligent automation services, change management and creative offerings position clients to remain relevant in driving user adoption and automation in response to new technologies and the 4IR.  

The future looks bright! Jessica Tandy, Anne-Marie Pretorius and Seugnet van den Berg are finalists in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on Bizmod, please visit the website: https://bizmod.co.za/


Local Entrepreneur making moves with mass marketing solutions in Africa

Accurately tracking your return on investment (ROI) on an often very costly advertising campaigns, featuring mainstream channels , among others, television, billboards, radio, as well as traditional magazine and newspaper adverts has always been extremely complicated.

2Engage, a customer engagement and incentives solutions business, has been working predominantly in Africa for the past nine years offering marketing solutions that can accurately measure and generate a positive ROI for companies operating in the retail sector.  “We use technology and not mainstream media to help our clients to effectively engage with customers outside of South Africa,” says MD Andrew Weinberg.

Weinberg is a seasoned entrepreneur having started his first business; ‘Rent a wreck’ while a first-year student at the University of Cape Town.  Several entrepreneurial ventures later, he recognised a gap in the mass market for brands to engage more effectively with their respective customers.

The company’s Retail Engage division focuses on connecting FMCG and lifestyle brands with customers in peri-urban and rural areas.  2Engage currently works across eight African countries and operates with more than 180 independent, traditional grocery retailers.

“Our retail solution is called Bonsella, which gives brands the opportunity to access this growing market, which has been a ‘blind spot’ for many brands due to the lack of measurable media and communication platforms in the independent retail sector.  South Africa’s leading brands leverage our platform to interact and understand this market, which contributes over 50% of South Africa’s shoppers.

“Brands use Bonsella to improve sales and category share by putting their products in our stores.  Customers who are registered with Bonsella are incentivised to purchase the products and receive instant airtime rewards at the till.”

More than 1 million shoppers are currently registered with Bonsella and are rewarded each time they shop.  “70 000 members sign up every month for the rewards programme, which has proven to successfully grow customer acquisition and retention, as well as reinforce value-enhancing behaviour,’ explains Weinberg.

The company’s team of 430, which Weinberg estimates will more than double in the next three years offers many job opportunities for unemployed youth, as well as the unique opportunity to participate in robust brand research.  “We have 300 permanently employed field staff who execute on various campaigns and who can, within a day, complete more than 1500 interviews with customers, at a fraction of the cost.”

This data platform is another major factor in the business, which is already being monetized with local brands.  “With 2.5 million members anticipated by the end of 2019, we have a very rich and unique data set, which will be a major growth point for the business as we enrich it,” says Weinberg.

So, what key factors have led to 50% growth year on year for the business?

Weinberg attributes the company’s growth and success to its unique concept, which is flexible and sustainable and has the potential to grow the business exponentially and globally. “We have already had significant international interest in our product and are currently in talks with leading retailers in Brazil and Asia.”

Another factor is 2Engage’s database, which, given its  footprint and growing member base, will soon be the biggest independent database in South Africa that is POPI (The Protection of Personal Information Act 4) compliant.  “Our unique technology is also a key success factor.  It is a completely bespoke development, written and based on specific business operations and input from clients, enabling us to build unlimited innovative solutions. It offers us constant agility and our clients a solution that can be tailored to meet their unique needs,” says Weinberg.

If the last nine years has been anything go on, the sky seems to be the limit for Weinberg and his team as they continue to innovate with effective marketing solutions for mass markets around the world. Andrew Weinberg is a finalist in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on 2Engage and Retail Engage, please visit the website: http://www.2engage.co.za/retail.html.

We must continue to celebrate and support our entrepreneurs – says expert

2020 BUSINESS/PARTNERS Entrepreneur of the Year® competition is now open for entries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that there have been over 184 976 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide with approximately 116 of these being in South Africa, at the time of writing. While this international disaster is impacting the health and wellbeing of citizens, it is predicted to have dire consequences for economies across the world, possibly more severe than the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

As we are seeing with China, small and medium businesses will bear most of the brunt of this economic downturn. The March 2020 McKinsey & Company COVID-19 Briefing Note reports that while the economic activity has restarted in China, small businesses are facing labour disruption with fewer workers returning to work and consumer confidence down. 

As South Africa comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic and implements solutions to keep people safe and the economy growing, it is vital for the Government and the country’s citizens to continue supporting entrepreneurs and their businesses. This is according to Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the BUSINESS/PARTNERS Entrepreneur of the Year® competition who was announcing that the 2020 competition is now officially open for entries.

“As a recognised driver of job creation, entrepreneurship is instrumental to the economic recovery of South Africa, where unemployment currently sits at a record high of 29.1% and is likely to increase further as a result of the outbreak,” says Mjadu

The local entrepreneurial ecosystem will need to be extremely resilient and well supported in order to overcome the difficult challenges the country faces. We look forward to getting more details around the package of interventions that Government will implement to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 as announced by President Ramaphosa on Sunday, she says.

To honour and continue to support the dedicated South African entrepreneurs who have taken it upon themselves to be the change the country needs despite these difficult conditions – and in the face of increasing adversities – Mjadu encourages entrepreneurs to enter the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by BUSINESS/PARTNERS, which is now officially open for entries.

Mjadu says that local competitions of this nature are not only important because they promote entrepreneurship in South Africa as a viable career path; but because they shine the spotlight on entrepreneurs in times when our economy needs it most.

“Platforms like this stimulate and support entrepreneurship by celebrating the successes of the fearless entrepreneurs who work tirelessly – often with little recognition – and contribute to growing the local GDP and creating employment – especially during these unprecedented times.”

Celebrating its 32nd year, the BUSINESS/PARTNERS Entrepreneur of the Year® competition comprises of six categories, and Mjadu invites entrepreneurs from businesses of all sizes to enter.

“The categories of the competition range from Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year® to Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® and Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®. There are then additional prizes for the Job Creator of the Year and Innovator of the Year, as well as the coveted award for Overall Entrepreneur of the Year®.”

Prizes valued at over R 2 million can be won, which include cash prizes of R70 000 for each main category winner, and R200 000 for the overall winner. Competition winners will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure. Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can download entry forms online at www.eoy.co.za as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the competition’s social media platforms www.twitter.com/@EOY_SA and www.facebook.com/EOY.SA. The closing date for the competition is 31 May 2020.

How to best prepare your business for the new year

Source: Business Partners Limited

While recent statistics regarding South Africa’s economy may be discouraging, many local business owners remain optimistic. This optimism is reflected by the 74% of South African business owners who noted confidence in their business growth in the next 12 months, despite the challenges they face; as per the latest 2019 Business Partners Limited SME Index.

In order to boost their chances of success, Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) – one of Africa’s leading business loan and equity providers and 2019 Gold winner: SME bank of the year (Africa) – believes that now is the perfect time for these businesses to re-examine their competitive edge and prepare for the year ahead.

“There is always space for innovation in business. Even as consumers tighten their purse-strings, a steadfast business-minded individual will always see a gap in the market. In many ways, a tough economy can actually offer up some valuable lessons, and businesses might even find themselves evolving into something better as they are forced to adapt to survive.”

In preparation for 2020, Lang advises that business owners should reflect back on the past 12 months and take note of lessons learned. “Analyse the numbers and make a record of any trends to pinpoint what worked and what didn’t. It’s also a good time to troubleshoot, resolving any recurring challenges within the business and looking at ways to better streamline internal systems and processes.”

When setting new goals, Lang believes it’s best to be specific and get all the stakeholders on board ahead of time. “For example, consider new ways to boost business sales – whether it’s brushing up on your digital presence, focusing on refining your database, or reassessing rates and pricing. Ask yourself whether your business model is still compelling enough to compete in a tough economy.”

The beginning of a year is also an opportunity to check in with your staff as they return from leave to gauge their level of enthusiasm and well-being. It is also a good time to assess any resource gaps to determine where new appointments should be made in the near future. Lang recommends using the excitement of the new year to touch base with present and potential clients, suppliers or partners and to implement a challenging project for your team to make use of their higher-than-usual levels of discipline and commitment.

“While it might seem tedious, don’t neglect the business admin,” he adds. “Make sure to give your business a clean slate for 2020 by getting all paperwork in order,  whether it’s the financials, tax affairs or legal documentation. Allocate some time to get everything organized and easy to locate, even if this means having to update your internal filing systems.”

In order to remain competitive, Lang reminds business owners to keep track of any oncoming trends that may impact their industry. “Some things to watch out for in 2020 include a more personalized customer experience; the rise of the remote worker and the gig economy; voice searches through the likes of Siri and Alexa; an increasing need for better cybersecurity; and the further adoption of mobile money in Africa,” he concludes.

Tags for the webmaster: Business planning, innovation, business strategy, business trends, business owner, business loan, business finance, Jeremy Lang, BUSINESS/PARTNERS, Business Partners Limited, Siri, Alexa, customer experience.