Past winner catch-up: where are they now?


2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Elian Wiener

Winning year: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® and Innovator of the Year – 2011

Winning business: Epic Communications (now MSL) is an award-winning integrated communications and public relations agency with offices in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. The company specialises in helping businesses build and protect their brands and reputations.

It’s been 7 years since you won the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® and Innovator of the Year titles in 2011, how has business been since then?

There have been significant developments for myself and the business since 2011. In the subsequent years, we have continued on our rapid expansion path as we continue to lead the evolution of the communications industry in Africa. Most notably, Epic Communications, which has rebranded as MSL, was acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2014. Publicis Groupe is one of the world’s largest advertising and communications companies in the world. This acquisition has enabled us to bring global best practices to bear for our clients as well as offer a more integrated marketing solution in collaboration with our Publicis owned sister agencies in Africa.

Have you made any new developments in your business since winning?

We have always placed innovation at the forefront of what we do, which has been key in an industry that is rapidly changing. Over the last five years, we have evolved from a traditional public relations agency to an integrated communications agency that seeks to guide our clients through this ever changing marketing landscape. To do this we have completely restructured our business into full service integrated marketing teams and added new offerings in the digital, social media, influencer, reputation management, training and reporting spaces.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your stint in the EOY competition?

I learned the importance of maintaining a competitive advantage. As a business grows, it naturally loses its start-up advantages – which need to be replaced with others to remain competitive. For us this means constantly reviewing our vision, structure, skill sets, service offering and market positioning. Winning multiple awards at the EOY competition in 2011 also helped to boost our profile and introduce us to a strong network of companies, many of which have gone on to be clients of ours.   

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

Spend time and effort on your entry. It is crucial to really think about what makes your company special – its vision and the value it adds to all stakeholders.