Student-centric business named Innovator of the Year® in national entrepreneurial competition

Driven by his passion to find solutions to the growing crisis regarding high tuition fees, Mpodumo Doubada, founding CEO of Pimp my Book, has been named Innovator of the Year® at the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards ceremony, which was held on 6 September 2017 in Johannesburg.

Pimp my Book, an ever-growing chain of campus stores across the country, was founded on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks. After earning his first 10% commission on the sale of his friends’ textbooks, Doubada quickly saw the opportunity to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash, as well as purchase the books they need.

Originally set up in 2006 from his university dorm room at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Doubada’s fledgling informal business quickly flourished and he had students lining up to buy and sell used textbooks. Today, Doubada and his team of now 17 full-time staff members, operate a chain of four stores as well as an online store, where students country-wide are able to trade in used text books, thereby helping to ease the burden of the high cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

According to the competition’s judging panel, it was Doubada’screative drive and dedication toward the cause that made his business stand out above the rest. “This is a business that has identified a unique gap in the market – with an almost naturally captive audience. Doubada has done well to build his business which speaks to the unique needs of thousands of students across all disciplines, sectors, and regions – a need which is also well established and likely to exist well into the future,” the judges commented.

Doubada and his team not only found a workable solution to ease a burden that thousands of students face every year, but were also innovative enough to develop their own point-of-sale system for their unique business, allowing them to track all stages of transactions taking place – from the buying back of used text books, to the sale thereof – something which Doubada credits as one of the business’ greatest achievements thus far.

This young, enthusiastic and driven entrepreneur is committed to remaining innovative within his business, and the greater education sector, acknowledging that the private sector has an important role in this regard. “The solution for our current education crisis cannot only come from government. Private businesses need to play their part in making education more affordable,” says Doubada.

Furthermore, Doubada is a firm believer in teamwork and empowering his young team of diverse, creative individuals. Beyond what the business has already managed to achieve through innovative thinking, it is this go-getter attitude that has cemented Doubada’s title as a true Innovator of the Year®.

Visit for more information on Pimp my Book.

A business created for students, by students

Mpodumo Doubada – founding CEO of Pimp my Book, a chain of campus stores founded in 2006 at the University of Cape Town (UCT), is a young entrepreneur making waves in the education sector. 31-year-old Doubada from Cape Town founded the business on the premise of buying and selling used textbooks. Since the business was founded, Pimp my Book has expanded to serve a number of universities across the country.

Doubada recounts his own university experience, noting the shared struggle to source textbooks at an affordable price, and how this inspired him to launch Pimp my Book from his dormitory accommodation at the UCT. “I wanted to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash as well as purchase the books they need,” says Doubada, recalling his first year of university where he began selling his friends’ textbooks on consignment, taking a 10% commission on all sales made.

Within weeks, his fledgling informal business was flourishing, with students lining up to buy and sell used textbooks. However, the innovation however didn’t stop there. Doubada and his team of now 17 full time staff members, discovered that with increased demand and the setting up of formal stores, a proper, efficient point-of-sale system was required.

The struggle for Pimp my Book however was to find a system which allowed for the buying back of used textbooks, and not only recording the sale thereof. Doubada and his team worked with developers to create their own point-of-sale system unique to their business, which would allow them to track all stages of transactions taking place. “Creating a system that works for our unique business has been one of our greatest achievements, allowing us to expand to multiple stores. I no longer need to manage stock manually, but can monitor stock levels and performance for all stores from the convenience of my office,” he says.

Doubada is proud of his business’ innovation, and credits the success of the business to his team of young, diverse, creative individuals who have all brought their talents to the team. The team is also diverse in terms of experience – with many branch managers having been trained internally from entry level to management. “I look for people who are eager to make something out of their life – I do not train people on the job alone but rather teach them the character and discipline required to make our business work,” he explains.

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting as well as a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), Doubada has dedicated his entire career to Pimp my Book, and has big dreams to expand his stores into every university in the country. Ultimately, he believes that his business is making a positive contribution to tertiary education in South Africa, pointing to the Fees Must Fall movement which has come about in recent years in the sector. Pimp my Book provides a workable solution to thousands of students who cannot afford brand new textbooks – ultimately helping to ease the burden of the high cost of tertiary education.

Mpodumo Doubada is a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on his business, please visit the Pimp my Book website:   

Talented muso turns lessons to profit

It is no mystery that the entertainment industry is a tough nut to crack, a sentiment which is shared globally. However, local entrepreneur and 2015 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® entrant, Thando Nyameni, seems to have found the recipe for success.

Thando, a talented and multidimensional businessman from KwaZulu-Natal, is a singer, song-writer, and music producer who co-owns and manages Spotless Worx Entertainment, a Multifaceted entertainment company that is composed of a Record Label and an Events Management Company. He also owns Spotless Worx Klean along with his wife Nyameka ‘Pru’ Nyameni, which provides office and domestic cleaning services. In addition to these two full time jobs Thando is the chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal United Music Industry Association, a feat that he considers as one of his proudest achievements, and embraces wholeheartedly and has recently been elected to sit on the National General Council of the Creative & Cultural Industry Federation of South Africa.

Considering Thando’s upbringing in the industry, the journey to setting up his own music business was inevitable. He started singing at a very young age, and then joined theatre legend, Mbongeni Ngema, at the Academy of Excellence in Performing Arts, which exposed him to theatre, drama and music on a professional level.

“Regardless of what I was doing or where I worked at the time, I would often find myself in a recording studio or performing somewhere for free, and so I decided to follow this uncontrollable urge and make it my full-time job. I had been exposed to managing businesses at different levels whilst working in the private sector until the eminent entrepreneurship bug bit me,” says Thando.

Thando explains that it was when he was performing in and around KwaZulu-Natal that he, along with his wife – who has a human resources background, decided to start their own company. “We noticed that many artists in the country were, and still are, greatly exploited by some record labels. Some of these artists have had to leave KwaZulu-Natal to search for better opportunities in other more advanced provinces in terms of entertainment, such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.”

Thando says that he was able to grow two successful businesses by seeking help when he noticed he needed guidance. “We applied, and were accepted into Shanduka Black Umbrellas’ intense Incubator Programme, which proved to be instrumental in equipping us with the necessary skills and resources to enable us to run our business professionally.”

Thando’s wife, Prui, is the co-founder, and business partner at both entities. “She’s always had a passion for cleaning, and we believed it would make business sense to run the main company, Spotless Worx SA (PTY) LTD, as a parent company to both Spotless Worx Entertainment and Spotless Worx Klean, with the intention of turning it into a fully-fledged holding company,” says Thando.

Not new to the start-up business game, Thando is also the co-founder and former CEO of the now defunct Bhethatainment, which was also an entertainment company. He says that it was during this part of his life that he learnt many lessons he believes will aid him in growing Spotless Worx. “The number one lesson I learnt was to delegate more. I tried to do everything myself, and that limited my partners’ movements, and as a result we were unable to function properly as a unit. I have since realised that a company’s success is attributed to the team that supports the vision and mission of the company. Currently, my focus is in ensuring that we have a good team of people who believe in the vision of the company.”

Aside from his passion for music and business, Thando says his community project, Spotless Worx Entertainment Outreach Programme (SWEOP), which focuses on youth empowerment and HIV/Aids awareness, amongst other projects, is truly the heart of the business. “We believe that music can be utilised as a tool to help promote love and peace in action, which is what SWEOP is about. We focus on partnering with a number of charities with the idea of assisting where we can, and giving back to our communities through fundraising concerts and a variety of other music affiliated projects.”

Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Thando says that the greatest on-going challenge is the lack of funding, as they have been running the company on ‘sweat equity’. This however hasn’t stopped his team from winning three Shanduka Black Umbrellas Enterprise Development Business Awards, including two Regional Awards (Best Performing Company & Most Jobs Created Award) and a National Award for Best Performing Company in third place.

On his highs, he says moving the business from a home to an office environment is the biggest step they’ve taken so far, and is rewarding as it has resulted in increased productivity for the team. Thando urges entrepreneurs to seek mentorship, as business in practice is not business in theory. “Being part of a successful incubator taught me how to create a realistic and functional business plan that now serves as our constitution and guide.”

2013 EOY entrant journey to business success in competitive financial industry


Many business owners don’t grow up dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur, but grow into the career path later in life. This was the case of Jeanie Harvey, owner of Camelot Business & Financial Solutions, an accounting and tax business which also offers accounting tutoring lessons, and an entrant in the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition.

While working as a financial manager in the franchise industry in 2011, Jeanie was approached by her then CEO’s wife to assist with her accounting service business. Inspired by this experience, Jeanie considered opening a similar business, and soon after began her entrepreneurial journey.

After conducting extensive research and due diligence, she decided to pursue the opportunity and made the leap to start her own business. “I understood that to be successful in this venture, I had to give it 110% of my time and therefore made the decision to resign from my position as a financial manager,” says Jeanie.

As a new entrepreneur she realised that to ensure the new venture’s success, a clear set of objectives and outcomes was vital for her new business, as well as for her own learning and development as a new business owner.

Jeanie took time to carefully draft a business plan, which included her past experience, a list of services she wanted to offer based on her skill set, as well as her potential target market. “This helped me identify my strengths and enabled me to motivate my services to small business owners who were seeking to outsource their payroll functions, bookkeeping, tax, and monthly SARS returns. I also made the decision to register as tax practitioner with SARS and the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT).”

Once all the due diligence was completed and plans put in place, Camelot Business & Financial Solutions was established in 2012 with just two clients utilising the business’s accounting services. One short year later, Jeanie extended her service offering to include accounting tutoring lessons to high school and first year university students.

When asked about the some of the entrepreneurial challenges she faced, Jeanie says that starting a new business with very few clients is a challenge in itself, as well as building a name for the business in an established industry. “A new business requires dedication and a lot of hard work, but you must believe in yourself and the product you have to offer – this will ultimately determine your success.”

The challenges are worth the effort, when you love what you do and when you are able to reap the rewards of your hard work and establishing something from nothing, says Jeanie. “Being able to see my accomplishments thus far, how my client base has grown, as well as my growth as an entrepreneur is very rewarding.”

These triumphs, and love for what she does, is also clearly visible when Jeanie shares her clients’ stories of success. “A new client was saddled with significant penalties from SARS, and was at the time very pressured and stressed as a result. I managed to get the penalties revoked and will always remember seeing his immediate relief and experiencing his appreciation for my services.”

While Jeanie has only recently opened her business – the inherent entrepreneurial trait of always seeking new opportunities is clear. In the near future, Camelot Business & Financial Solutions aims to expand the business’ service offering to include training and employment of individuals who share the same passion and dedication.

With a bright future ahead of her, Jeanie encourages fellow entrepreneurs to remain steadfast and not to buckle under that the pressure, and regularly reflect on what you have accomplished thus far. “Be thankful for your accomplishments and always consider new opportunities and possibilities,” she concludes.

Calculate the value of existing and new clients

Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market

There are basically three ways in which to grow a business, namely:

  1. by getting new clients;
  2. increasing the share of wallet, and
  3. increasing the frequency of transactions with existing clients.

Determining the value of a client can therefore be very useful. There is definitely a difference in the way we look at a potential client that is worth R50 vs R50 000 to our business.

Below is a formula you can use for such a calculation:

The value of existing client base ($) = N x V x F
N = number of clients (number)
V = average amount spent by clients at your business (value)
F = the number of times a year they spend the above-mentioned amount at your business (frequency).

The value of every new client you add = ($ x Y) / N
$ = the value of existing client base
Y = number of years the client remains with your business
N = number of clients.

This information gives you a better insight into the value of your existing client base and of new clients.

There are a few more questions the answers to which could help you focus your marketing actions for maximum results.

  • What are your clients’ spending patterns? (These provide insight into which products and services sell the best.)
  • How did clients hear of your product or service? (This enables you to determine which marketing elements work best, so you can make more use of them.)
  • List your existing clients (also approach them to buy other products or services from you – make special offers available).

If you are not serving a customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.
Jon Carlson (Swedish businessman, CEO of SAS Group)

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Bosses must support retirement planning

With 51% of surveyed pensioners not making ends meet and 62% of job changers still not preserving their retirement savings, South Africa’s employers and business owners have a vital role to play in solving the country’s retirement savings shortfall.

This is the conclusion drawn by Sanlam after analysing the results of its 2013 Sanlam Benchmark Survey. Dawie de Villiers, CEO of Sanlam Employee Benefits (SEB), says National Treasury is keen to address the issue, but proposed measures will likely only take hold in 2015. This is why Sanlam believes its research points to the need for employers to step into the breach.

“According to the principal officers of stand-alone retirement funds, 47% of retirement fund members turn to human resources (HR) for retirement queries throughout their working lives and 32% ask HR for advice at retirement,” says De Villiers. But only 52% of employer funds have formalised strategies to advise active members. And the fact that only 26% have a built-in preservation strategy as a default option ends up perpetuating the trend for employees to spend their savings before retirement when they resign or are retrenched, adds De Villiers.

“An employee’s retirement journey starts on day one of employment and continues for the rest of their life,” says De Villiers.

Taking into consideration that employees would have contributed to some form of retirement vehicle for an average 28 years by the time they retire, it is disconcerting to think that nearly three decades of saving would not be enough to secure a comfortable retirement. De Villiers feels this is enough hard evidence for employers to step in and nudge their staff towards making informed decisions about their retirement financial planning.

Since the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution benefit structures, the risk and responsibility for retirement provision has rested largely with the employee. De Villiers does not advocate a return to the “paternalistic era” of the 1980s, but believes current results are unsatisfactory.

Most employees do not seem to care very much about retirement planning, with only 10% bothering to review the retirement benefit option they selected when they joined the fund. “They consider retirement as a very distant event and are not interested in the detail around it. In fact our research shows that people only seek financial advice on average 12 years before retirement,” says De Villiers. “If the employer or business owner works with every employee to develop a retirement strategy that fits into their overall financial plan and also helps them to understand the consequences of certain actions or inaction during their employable years, we would see a marked improvement in retirement statistics in this country.”

Happily, three out of four pension funds surveyed do offer pre-retirement counselling, but only 41% have a stated target pension. Retirement industry stakeholders such as trustee boards and benefit and asset consultants should make a real effort to ensure that the fund structure can support a successful retirement for each individual member, says De Villiers. Retirement funds need to gently nudge their members towards making decisions that would benefit them in retirement, without being prescriptive or taking away member choice, says De Villiers. And to make this a reality, many more employers need to put in place counselling strategies and ensure skilled resources are allocated to ensure their successful implementation, adds De Villiers.

“Over the past number of years our research has consistently pointed to a need for regulatory change in the retirement industry and we are extremely pleased that the wheels have been put in motion with Treasury,” says De Villiers. But until these proposals become reality, employers can do much to aid matters, concludes De Villiers.

Sanlam Employee Benefits is a leading provider of group life and disability benefits, institutional investments, risk services, fund administration, derivative based structured solutions to institutions and retirement funds through a number of specialist divisions. For more information visit the Sanlam Employee Benefits webpage or call 0860 100 539.

When opportunity knocks, answer it

Winner of the 2011 Medium Entrepreneur of the Year® award

Being results-driven, setting achievable goals and loving what you do is, according to Troy Carelse, CEO of Foaming Concepts, the secret to running a successful business.

Troy CarelseFoaming Concepts is a manufacturing company that converts a product called flexible polyurethane, which is used as a raw material to produce premium bedding, lounge suites and office furniture. Started by CEO Troy Carelse in 2006, the company is situated in Wadeville, Johannesburg, and prides itself on quality workmanship, competitive pricing and lead time. ‘Foaming’ is attributed to the core of the business’s manufacturing activity and ‘Concepts’ refers to the business’s innovative way of producing flexible polyurethane foam and the manner in which it services its clientele.

Carelse studied towards a diploma in mechanical engineering and holds a business management diploma from the Henley Business School (UK). A qualified fitter and turner, he has been in the industry for approximately 13 years, and was previously employed as managing director at Loungefoam – a subsidiary of Steinhoff Holdings International. “I had seen an opportunity in the market that had not been targeted i.e. supply of flexible urethane to the independent manufacturers of bedding and lounge suites, as I felt they were being held ransom by existing suppliers due to the controlling market,” he explains. “This meant that certain buyers of flexible urethane such as Restonic, Serta, Simmons, etc. previously had to purchase this product from Vitafoam (a subsidiary of Steinhoff), and they also had to compete with companies such as Edblo and Sealy – also owned by Steinhoff. During my time at Steinhoff, I had felt that this arrangement was unfair and, when I saw an opportunity to set up a foam manufacturing company to service these independents, I grabbed it.”

According to Carelse, what makes Foaming Concepts unique in this industry is based on four important factors, namely:

Price – Because of our low overhead structure, we believe we can offer the most competitive price.

Lead time – Even with this lean team, we still have the ability to service customers within one to two day periods.

Quality – Our quality of the product is on par with the latest in Europe as our manufacturing equipment has been sourced abroad.

Innovation – We are actively involved with our customers by assisting them with re-engineering of their products and processes in order to achieve better efficiencies and costs in their businesses. “I firmly believe that in any successful company, your key asset is the stakeholders that support you and the relationships that you have with them. This includes employees, clients, suppliers and shareholders,” he reiterates.

Staying motivated

Carelse is happily married to his wife of 25 years, Ursula, and they have two sons: Dane and Grant. He creates a balance between his career and personal life by always setting aside time for his family when returning home from work. “My bonding time includes activities such as playing golf with my sons and socialising with friends and family. The strength that I draw from my family support system is what motivates and drives me.”

“Looking at myself,” he continues, “my advice to other business owners and entrepreneurs is the following: I think one has to be results driven and therefore setting realistic and achievable goals is important. A good business plan is key to any successful business.” He goes on to mention that developing the skill of problem-solving and decision-making will certainly lead to some success, as will the ability to communicate effectively. “Measuring and quantifying is vital – you cannot manage what you cannot measure – and good leadership qualities are also a necessity. One has to lead by example,” explains Carelse. “But over and above, I believe that a good value system such as honesty, accountability, commitment, loyalty and a positive attitude, also contributes toward success.”