SA’s leading entrepreneurial competition now open for entries

The contribution of local entrepreneurs to the South African economy is generally underestimated. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) contribute close to 50% of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and generate more than 60% of new jobs created in the economy. This is according to Ben Bierman, chief financial officer at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who was speaking at the launch of the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, in Johannesburg today.

Now in its 28th year, this renowned competition pays homage to courageous South African entrepreneurs who dedicate themselves to their enterprises / businesses driving growth, creating much needed jobs and contributing towards economic development in the country.

The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2015 / 2016 Global Report states that while on average, 42% of working-age adults in the monitored economies see good entrepreneurial opportunities in their markets, as many as one-third of potential entrepreneurs are constrained from starting a business due to the fear of failure.

Speaking at the event, Bierman says that South Africa needs to pro-actively address this fear of failure by creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that provides support and business finance and celebrates entrepreneurs’ hard work and achievements. “When SMEs are established and grow, new employment opportunities are created, staff is trained and skills are developed, company profits increase and ultimately the economy flourishes as a result.”

Bierman says that while South Africa has recently experienced tough economic conditions that may not necessarily enable SMEs to grow, opportunities do exist for those entrepreneurs who continue to identify gaps in the market and transform these into viable businesses. “We need to make a concerted effort to recognise and honour these entrepreneurs who continue to inspire others to venture into the world of business.”

He points to last year’s competition winners as examples of those succeeding in their industry and possessing true entrepreneurial spirit – persevering no matter how impossible it may seem at times.

“The 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year® overall competition winners, Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner, co-owners and founders of The Creative Counsel (TCC), were recently awarded the All Africa Business Leaders Award (AABLA), which recognises game changers on the continent. They were also acquired last year by French advertising giant, Publicis, in a deal understood to be the biggest in South African agency history. Most importantly, this year TCC launched an incubator programme for black-owned businesses as a way to inspire and grow the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“Our 2015 Innovator of the Year® and Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title winners, Nadir Khamissa & Ahmed Shaazim Khamissa – owners and founders of Hello Group – were also recognised by the EY Southern Africa World Entrepreneur awards platform due to their remarkable tenacity and determination in building a leading business in the local fintech space.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, is a platform to reward and acknowledge these entrepreneurs’ hard work. Prizes valued at R 2 million can be won, which includes cash prizes of R425 000. Competition winners will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure.

Bierman says that in 2016 the competition continues its search for entrepreneurial talent in all sectors of the economy. “The judges are looking for entrepreneurs that have succeeded against the odds, either by carving out a niche market for the product or service offering, or by succeeding in a very competitive environment. Perseverance and endurance, innovation and agility are some of the qualities we look for in the entrepreneur.”

Bierman adds that there are also a number of quantitative competition measures, such as turnover growth, profitability, owners’ equity growth, positive cash flows and job creation that play a part in the competition’s judging process.

Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can download entry forms online at as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the competition’s social media platforms and The closing date for the competition is National Youth Day, 16 June 2016.