Seven SA star entrepreneurs recognised at premier competition

Mining engineer, Samuel and Motlapele Molefi – founders and owners of Modi Mining CC – were named this morning as the overall winners of the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. Modi Mining provides contract mining services to companies specialising in the South African mining sector.

Speaking at the event that celebrated three full decades of discovering and cultivating the best entrepreneurial talent that South Africa has to offer, spokesperson for the 2018 edition of the competition, Gugu Mjadu, said that the Molefi couple was selected as the overall 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® winners because of the remarkable growth and expansion their business has exhibited, in spite of a harsh economic climate.

“Despite operating within an industry that continues to face significant challenges, Modi Mining has experienced average growth of over 30% per annum since starting operations in 2011, increasing net asset value from below R1 million in 2012 to over R80 million last year. This is truly impressive!” says Mjadu.

Other 2018 category winners are:

  • Beverley Gumbi, the founder and owner of Isivuno Container Business (“Isivuno”) was awarded a special Judges Prize in this year’s competition.  The judges prize was introduced in 2014 and seeks to acknowledge a business that may not yet be at the same level of the other entrepreneurs (in terms of size and turnover), but makes an impression on the judges due to the business’ social impact and future potential and the business owner’s attitude and positive entrepreneurial outlook.

Mjadu says the judges believe that Gumbi has the entrepreneurial attitude and determination required to go far. “Beverley’s energy is just contagious and, while she is a female with no engineering experience or technical training, she is tackling a traditionally male-dominated industry and making a success of it!”

As part of this year’s 30-year celebration of the annual competition, the judges also recognised the illustrious South African entrepreneur and property developer, Dr. Richard Maponya, with a Lifetime Achiever award.  

“Dr Richard Maponya is an entrepreneur par excellence and his family name is synonymous with entrepreneurship in South Africa. He did not only make a success of business in an era when black entrepreneurs faced many obstacles that prevented them from being successful but has built a formidable business empire in the democratic South Africa which should remain for generations to come.

Dr Maponya is a legend and excellent role model for entrepreneurs in South Africa across all genders and races. It is a true honour that he has availed himself to accept our Lifetime Achiever Award.”

The competition provides prizes worth R 2 million, which include cash prizes of R70 000 per category and R200 000 for the overall winner, towards further growing their businesses. Beyond these monetary prizes, Mjadu adds that each winner will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and associated marketing and national media exposure to further drive their business’ success. “Past winners have also gone on to win other prominent national and international awards as a result of their success in the competition and form valuable partnerships with fellow winners and finalists.”

Now in its 30th year, this competition and others like it serve a particularly important purpose in South Africa, concludes Mjadu. “Entrepreneurial competitions of this calibre serve a dual purpose – they are a celebration of the hard-working self-starters in the country, and also act to inspire budding entrepreneurs who have the potential to create employment and economic growth at a time where the country is facing numerous challenges in this regard.”

Finalists announced for premier entrepreneurial competition’s 30th edition

Celebrating three full decades of discovering and cultivating the best entrepreneurial talent that South Africa has to offer, the highly esteemed Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS has announced the shortlist of 15 standout entrants who have made it through to the final round of this year’s competition.

According to Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 edition of the competition, the 189 entries that were received this year really upped the game in terms of entrepreneurial talent. “Every year, we think that we’ve seen it all, but each year we find ourselves being further blown away by the level of talent being exhibited by the South African entrepreneurs who enter the competition.”

In alphabetical order, the finalists for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS are:

Andrew and Glenn Eriksen – Cango Wildlife Ranch; Beverley Gumbi – Isivuno Containers Business; Chike and Damaris  Igwegbe – Green City Solutions, t/a Mustbuy; Christina Ester Geldart – Marven Studios; Esi-Gifty Agbohla – Eli-Bionatural International;  James Barrington-Bronwn – NewSpace Systems; Kerry and Craig Motherwell – Foxolution SE CC; Leboneng Mathebula – Gridbow Engineers; Louw Barnardt and Dana Pretorius – Outsourced CFO; Muhammed Simjee and Sofiah Docrat – A2D24 Dot Com; Pepe Marais and Gareth Leck – Joe Public; Phillipa Geard – Recruit My Mom; Praveshen Naidoo – e-Waste Africa; Terence Naidu – EnvisionIt Stock and Tshegofatso Samuel and Motlapele Molefi – Modi Mining.

These 15 finalists operate in various sectors of the economy and are based across the country, says Mjadu. “While the majority of these finalists originate from Gauteng (47%) and the Western Cape (33%), we received entries from all provinces and KwaZulu-Natal (13%) and the North West (7%) are both also represented in the finalist list this year.”

With a wide variety of industries being represented, from mining and engineering to recycling and advertising, there is one thing that Mjadu says all 15 finalists share in common – their invaluable contribution to the South African economy. “The SME sector continues to play a vital role in the South African economy, so these trail-blazing self-starters need to be celebrated for what they are – job creators and economic change-makers,” Mjadu adds.

She explains that the next step in the independent judging process is the selection of the overall 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® winner, as well as winners for each of the five categories, namely emerging, small business, medium business, job creator and innovator. “By running the evaluation process through three different filtering stages, we are able to ensure that every finalist is put under the microscope to avoid any human error or bias from tainting the results.”

The 2018 finalists stand the chance to win prizes worth R2 million, which include cash prizes of R70 000 per category and R200 000 for the overall winner. “Beyond monetary prices, previous finalists have benefitted greatly from the various networking opportunities and associated media exposure that the competition offers. Past winners have also gone on to win international awards and form valuable partnerships as a result of their success in the competition.”

With competition winners being announced on 5 September 2018 at the official awards breakfast in Johannesburg, Mjadu says that the judges have got their work cut out for them this year. “The calibre of entrants this year looks to be extremely high so deciding on winners will be no easy feat. We wish all finalists the best of luck – you’re all already winners in our eyes,” concludes Mjadu.

Finding the start-up sweet spot

Entrepreneurial lessons from generations of entrepreneurs

Picturing a typical entrepreneur – the chances are you visualize a young, mission-driven techie with a mind-blowing idea that will make him or her the African version of Mark Zuckerberg.  While the fast, digitized millennial entrepreneur’s approach to business is highly beneficial for future success; there’s a lot to be said for more seasoned entrepreneurs and the wisdom they have gained during their years in the game.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that instead of pitting one generation against the other – entrepreneurs looking for guidance should seek out a sweet spot between the two – as there are important lessons to learn from both:

Entrepreneurship is a tricky road at the best of times. In South Africa, the business ownership path is littered with a number of macro and micro environmental challenges making entrepreneurship even more difficult. These include access to markets, successfully navigating the legislation landscape and accessing finance. With this in mind, it is important for entrepreneurs to seek out advice from as many trusted sources as possible – to ensure they learn and gain insight into how to prepare their own business for success.

As the world of work shifts and evolves, it’s important to recognise that business lessons can come from all generations in the entrepreneurial world.

This includes millennials, who characteristically approach life and business with a fresh ideas and a new perspective on existing methods. Some valuable lessons from the millennial entrepreneurs include:

1. Be different – and not just in your USPs

Millennials are generally recognised for their ability and enthusiasm to stand out and be different. Differentiating from your competitors in the market with Unique Selling Points (USPs) is something all the entrepreneurial text books will tell you – but ‘being different’ goes beyond this. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to show their unique characteristics, to embrace diversity and look for opportunities outside of the proverbial box.

2. Question everything

Characteristically, millennials are curious. There is plenty to learn from this character trait – being willing to question why things are done in a certain way, and being brave enough to question if historical processes are still relevant and efficient. There is nothing wrong with changing the way something is done if it doesn’t suit your business. Standard practices are ineffective if they don’t evolve with your changing business needs.

3. Do and do quickly

Millennials were born into the technological age – they have grown up in a world filled with instant gratification, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and always-on connectivity through the internet, smart phones and social media. As a result, these entrepreneurs tend to work faster and this plays into the growing global trend of ‘failing fast’ – the skill of knowing when to stop planning and execute, and additionally, to recognise and stop doing something when it is not working.

On the other hand, seasoned entrepreneurs, who are perhaps more traditional and methodical, also have priceless tips and best practices as well as lessons on what not to do – all of which are valuable takeaways:

4. Be open to learn

Many established entrepreneurs admit to regretting their youthful arrogance when they first started their business. They have realised through years of experience that learning comes in many forms – advice from a business mentor, lessons through reading or even from receiving harsh criticism. Entrepreneurs should be open to looking at every situation as a learning opportunity – if something didn’t go well, what can be changed? If something went well, how can it be further improved or how can that process be applied to other areas?

5. Be deliberate

Part of building your business is building a network of clients, suppliers and other internal and external stakeholders. More seasoned entrepreneurs will attest to the value of being mindful about who you conduct business with – essentially, you want to trust your suppliers and stakeholders as they are an extension of your own brand. You want to deliberately pick out and nurture these networks as they are the relationships that will take your business further.

6. Don’t be afraid to fail

More established entrepreneurs, having been in business for a good while longer than millennials and having suffered more than a few set-backs themselves, will explain that the key is not to become despondent when things don’t work out. Failures are natural, and necessary for growth. As long as you actively learn from mistakes and proactively take steps not to repeat these in the future – failures can be the most valuable stepping stones to success.

Six ways for businesses to become pillars of the community

Many businesses make a point of giving, from sponsoring sports gear to donating goods to a nearby charity. By helping out in this way, the thinking goes, the business fosters goodwill and loyalty in the community.

But charitable giving is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which businesses can contribute towards the welfare of the communities and cement their position as good corporate citizens. Gugu Mjadu, executive general manager: marketing at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), lists six ways in which businesses are sure to become pillars of their community.

Make your business profitable

In a certain sense, it sounds like the polar opposite of being community minded or charitable. But being profitable is the single biggest contribution that a business can make to the community in which it is based. It means that the service it provides is sustainable, and that community members will be able to rely on it being there next year and the year after.

Being profitable means that the jobs provided by the business to members of the community are stable, dependable and long-term.

In contrast, the respect earned by the big-tipping type of business owner who prioritizes buying flashy cars over business sustainability is as superficial and short-lived as the business itself.

Train your staff

All over the world, small and medium businesses are responsible for a huge amount of work-place training, simply because they cannot afford to appoint fully trained workers like big corporations can. They appoint youngsters with the understanding that the salary will not be great to start off with, but there will be lots of training. And in a small-business setting the worker is often in close proximity to the owner, who can constantly give expert feedback and on-the-job training.

In South Africa, where state-provided basic education and vocational training is to a large extent struggling, the role of the small business in keeping vocational skills alive has become absolutely critical. The few workers who are well trained and educated tend to work for bigger companies, while small businesses tend to employ untrained youngsters from their community in return for on-the-job training.

Yet the idea of training sits uncomfortably with many small business owners, who fear that all their investment in the on-the-job training of a youngster will be lost when they are poached by bigger businesses as soon as they are proficient.

It is bound to happen at some stage to every small business, but the fear is overrated. Research shows that one of the best ways to instill loyalty in workers is by providing skills development. The few who do leave for better-paying jobs are indeed the business owner’s contribution to the industry skills pool, which, although it may not be immediately apparent, benefits every business in the long term.

Be visible to the community

A business owner’s presence in the community provides another crucial contribution to the development of South Africa, which urgently needs role models to show the youth that self-employment or entrepreneurship is a valid and worthy alternative to working for someone else.

Business owners do not have to be flashy or glamorous in order to make an impression on the youth. A solid presence as a role model can be established by low-key involvement such as giving talks at schools or serving on the board of a local community project. And here charitable giving can play its most important role. When business owners sponsor the kit of a local soccer team, for example, the value they provide as role models is worth much more than the price of the donation.

Mentor young entrepreneurs

Apart from the general role modeling that business owners can do in their communities, they can also focus on imparting skills and knowledge to up and coming young business owners in their industry.

Even though they are strictly speaking competitors, the bond developed by mentorship is beneficial to both businesses. Experienced business owners can refer overflow work to the young entrepreneurs they mentor, and can strengthen their capacity by forming joint ventures with them.

Experienced business owners can also join, or set up, formal mentorship programmes. BUSINESS/PARTNERS, for example, has a pool of more than 300 business owners in its mentorship programme. Many of the participants are retired business owners who want to contribute to South Africa’s economic development by sharing their extensive experience with the younger generation of business owners.

Be vocal about issues that hurt your business

Workers have well established structures and methods to make a noise and exert pressure when they feel their rights are being threatened. Students are again finding their voice to raise awareness about their plight. But the voice of the business owner is largely silent, even in the face of serious damage inflicted by unnecessary red tape. Big business, when they do speak up, often do not face the same challenges as small businesses.

An important part of the problem is that business owners are too busy to spend much time participating and setting up local business associations. But it also has to do with a lack of a culture of activism. Join your local chamber or business association, even if it is dominated by big business, and even if you contribute just an hour or two per month. In their numbers, the voice of small business can become powerful.


You don’t have to change the world like Google, or shake up industries like Elon Musk. Incremental and localized innovation is hugely beneficial to the community. Every time a business introduces something as simple as SMS notifications to its clients, or a new method copied from overseas, life becomes a little more convenient, products and services a little better or cheaper, and the business itself a little stronger.

Alternative ways to seek education – think entrepreneurship

Despite the high demand placed on tertiary education in South Africa, only a small percentage of the 700 000 recent high school graduates are expected to be placed in institutions of higher learning as the new academic year begins. Largely owing to finances, or a lack of space to accommodate current and new students, many school leavers are unsure of how to further their education for future career paths or making a living.

Whilst the benefits of a formal tertiary education are well documented, it is not the only opportunity available to post-matriculants. Rather than adding to the statistics of the unemployed, students should think entrepreneurially about furthering their education, says Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS.

She says that similarly to becoming a successful entrepreneur, there is no single path to becoming a success in the workplace. “It doesn’t start and end with a degree – the determination to succeed, innovation and a passion for a chosen field also contribute to success. While in many instances a formal education is advantageous and encouraged, it does not guarantee a successful work career. For instance, some of the most successful entrepreneurs do not possess an educational qualification, but have succeeded in growing an established and thriving business.”

With the unemployment rate currently recorded at 27,1% (according to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey – Q3 2016), it is crucial that displaced students find other ways to learn and further themselves within their careers, even if it is for the short-to-medium term until they are able to further their education at a tertiary establishment.

“Tertiary institution applicants who were not accepted into those institutions should use this time as an opportunity to take their education into their own hands by seeking mentorship and exploring how to learn new, hands-on skills from an established business owner in their chosen field. This way students will gain not only knowledge, but valuable hands-on experience, which can prove to be invaluable when starting their chosen careers later on,” says Mjadu.

With the 38,2% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 reportedly unemployed during the third quarter of 2016, the private sector and entrepreneurs have the opportunity and responsibility to proactively and positively contribute towards the growth of the local economy by providing practical learning opportunities to the youth.

Mjadu explains that this approach will not only assist in job creation, but the hiring of interns can also be beneficial for businesses, especially entrepreneurial businesses. “Interns can bring fresh ideas to the table, and in order to give them the most valuable experience, they can work across various departments to find their niche.”

Mjadu says that youth considering this option should find the right match to ensure the best learning outcomes. “Firstly, young individuals should contemplate the choice of entrepreneur to shadow. It is important to carefully assess who to approach to shadow or learn from, what you would like to learn from them and why, as well as what to offer the entrepreneur in return. Applicants should make sure their qualities and skills match that of the company in order to motivate why they are fit for the position.

Secondly, the youth need to be persistent. Most entrepreneurs who are willing to provide such learning opportunities are not necessarily looking for qualified graduates – but enthusiastic, hard-working and passionate candidates.

She adds: “Being an intern is much like being an entrepreneur – you need to find the right person to invest in your career. If you are hungry to learn and have a good work ethic, keep seeking out these opportunities.”

Mjadu concludes: “In order to assist in rectifying the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa, the youth should be encouraged to explore entrepreneurial workplace options that will upskill them. Likewise, business owners should create more opportunities for the youth in their businesses and support the younger generation of potential entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial ventures.”

Is it riskier than ever to start a business?

As 2016 nears an end many begin to re-evaluate the year that was, both personally and professionally. As a result this is typically the time of the year new life and professional goals are developed. This is also characteristically a time when hopeful entrepreneurs consider whether the approaching year is the correct time to pursue their business idea.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who says that many aspiring entrepreneurs spend the festive season break considering possible business ventures, and questioning whether the risk of leaving their steady nine-to-five job to start an entrepreneurial business will be worth it.

Mjadu says that this is a valid contemplation given the current economic and market landscape, which may create more hesitation than inspiration where entrepreneurship is concerned. “In an economy awash with threats of investment ratings downgrades and political instability, small businesses have struggled this year.”

She also points to the recently released Statistics SA unemployment rate for South Africa, which has now risen to 27.1% of the labour force – the highest rate in 13 years. She says that this sharp decline is a clear indication that big businesses are struggling to survive, and are therefore shedding jobs to stay afloat in a tough market. “If big businesses are struggling to expand and create jobs, the conditions are that much more strenuous for smaller businesses,” says Mjadu.

In addition, various local business confidence surveys highlight that business owners are influenced by economic conditions. Mjadu points to the results of the third quarter 2016 Business Partners SME Index, which revealed that 75% of respondents believe that the current landscape is impacting their business’ profit margins. “The reality is that entrepreneurship is no easy ride, and the economic environment in which a business has to operate directly impacts the success of a business,” says Mjadu.

She adds however that a bumpy economic setting isn’t reason to put off a business venture, as these challenging conditions may actually bring about business opportunities. However, Mjadu stresses that there should always be a balance between risk evaluation and opportunities when making the decision to start a business. “While starting a business might always be considered a leap of faith in your own ability, most times the difference between a successful venture and a failed one is having a thorough knowledge of the industry in which you want to operate and being passionate about the business opportunity you have identified.

Mjadu adds: “Also important is for entrepreneurs to be extra vigilant in their due diligence processes, seek the guidance of a business expert to assist with the process as this will inform their decision on the level of risk that can safely be taken for their business.”

While there will never be a ‘perfect time’ to start a business, Mjadu says that 2017 is likely to paint a slightly better economic picture. “The recent decision by Standard & Poor’s to not drop South Africa’s investment rating to junk status is a positive indication of imminent change. The country is working hard to put measures in place to recover economic growth and meet growth objectives in the New Year, and these are positive signs for aspirant entrepreneurs.”

Regardless of macro-conditions, Mjadu reiterates that risk will always be involved when making the decision to start a business, and should remain top of mind. “Entrepreneurs should expect the business environment to constantly fluctuate in terms of the risk it presents to small businesses. However, if entrepreneurs focus on strategically analysing this risk and ideas to mitigate the risk involved, paying extra attention to their business plan and cash flow forecast, there is no better time than the present to take the leap into entrepreneurship,” concludes Mjadu.

SA’s top entrepreneurs recognised at 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition

South Africa’s premier annual entrepreneurial competition, Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners, has named Johan Eksteen, second-time finalist and owner of Agricon, as the overall winner of the 2016 competition in Johannesburg this morning.

Speaking at the event, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners, Gugu Mjadu says that Eksteen was selected as the overall 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® winner due to his strong entrepreneurial attitude and the remarkable growth and expansion that his business has exhibited since first entering the competition two years ago.

“Since being named a finalist in the 2014 competition, Agricon has not only expanded and experienced rapid growth in turnover, but has also made improvements in its business processes which have contributed to its growth,” says Mjadu.

She adds that the high calibre of business acumen and entrepreneurial talent of the finalists this year made it no easy task for the judging panel to decide on six category winners from the 15 deserving entrepreneurs who were selected to advance to the final round of judging.

Other 2016 category winners include:

  • 2016 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year®:Vanessa Jacobs, founder and owner of Sow Delicious. Sow Delicious® is an edible gardening store, whose easy-to-grow vegetable and herb Slab of Seed® invention is making edible gardening more accessible for the ordinary, non-gardener consumer.
  • 2016 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year®: Meisie Nkosi, owner of Bella Bonni Guest House. Four star graded Bella Bonni Guest House, based in eMalahleni (Witbank) and encompassing 18 rooms, has managed to stand the test of time during challenging economic conditions since opening its doors in 2006. 
  • 2016 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®: Carl Pretorius, founder and owner of Just Trees. Recognised for its economically strong, yet environmentally friendly business practices, Just Trees is a wholesale tree nursery that supplies specimen container grown trees to the trade throughout South Africa, as well as to certain export markets.
  • 2016 Job Creator of the Year®: Michael Roberts, owner and founder of Khonology. Founded in 2013 in a response to skills shortages in the South African technology sector, Khonology has played a significant role in bridging the gap between academia and corporate expectations for graduates entering the workforce by equipping them with vital technological and financial skills.
  • 2016 Innovator of the Year®: Stacey Brewer and Ryan Harrison, co-founders of SPARK Schools. SPARK Schools is a network of primary schools dedicated to delivering sustainable, affordable and high quality education by using a blended learning programme, which combines traditional classroom teaching and online learning, to individualise education for all students.

Now in its 28th year, the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners aims to honour, recognise and uplift South African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by providing a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their achievements and elevate their business profiles – as well as their profits.

Mjadu says that given the current job market and economic landscape, now more than ever, South Africa needs to rally behind and support local entrepreneurs. “Given South Africa’s high unemployment rate of 26.6%, the country needs to promote entrepreneurship and support its main job creators – local entrepreneurs. Agile by nature, entrepreneurs are eternal optimists and will continue to see opportunity rather than challenges when faced with adversity.

“The 2016 group of 15 finalists have created 1071 job opportunities. This is just a small handful of South Africa’s many entrepreneurs. The more we recognise our local economic heroes, the more we can inspire other individuals to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey,” says Mjadu.

The competition provides prizes worth R2 million, with the overall winner receiving a cash prize of R150 000 and the other category winners receiving R50 000 each. Each winner also receives diagnostic analysis of their businesses coupled with valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and associated marketing and national media exposure to further drive their business’ success. Mjadu says that while the cash prize is always valuable to a business, the true value in the entrepreneurial platform lies in the networking opportunities secured through the competition’s network.

Mjadu concludes that the success of this year’s winners is testament to the thriving level of entrepreneurial talent and success present in the country. “In addition to celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship, we hope that this impressive group of winners will inspire others to succeed in the competitive and innovative world of business.”

Should entrepreneurs pay attention to economic “noise”?

The South African economy had a bumpy start to 2016, impacting both small and large businesses alike. Recent attention grabbing headlines – from interest rate hikes, petrol increases and talk of a possible credit rating downgrade which has been averted – make it challenging for business owners to feel positive amongst the gloomy news.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that as it is difficult enough for established businesses with a sound client base to feel positive in turbulent economic times, relatively unestablished entrepreneurs in the process of starting or growing a new business venture are even further impacted.

She says that in such times, entrepreneurs need to carefully assess which types of economic ‘noise’ present in the media and marketplace they should pay attention to, and carefully consider what to take into consideration when developing strategic growth plans – both in the short-term and the long-term.

Some of the more prominent news recently, says Mjadu, is the country’s low growth forecast for the year. The recently released IMF World Economic Outlook report reveals that South Africa, Africa’s most advanced economy, is expected to see economic growth halved in 2016 to 0.6%. The report attributes this decline in growth to “lower export prices, elevated policy uncertainty and tighter monetary and fiscal policy”.

Another issue that’s currently dominant in the media is the electioneering by political parties as they campaign for votes in the upcoming local government elections, scheduled for August this year, which usually impact government programmes. “During any election year, policy decisions are often halted as Government politicians shift focus to campaign efforts, and this can provide uncertainty for both entrepreneurs and investors,” says Mjadu.

She adds that the fluctuating rand also reluctantly forces many businesses who source products and goods overseas to increase their prices in order to maintain profit margins, thereby possibly impacting client loyalty.

Lastly, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) also hiked the repo rate by 25 basis points in March 2016, resulting in the repo rate rising to 7% and the prime lending rate rising to 10.50%. “While this impacts all businesses, in particular, it impacts early stage entrepreneurs more as the lending rate is higher today than six months ago, or even a year ago.”

While faced with this negativity, Mjadu says that entrepreneurs cannot afford to pay attention to every negative economic situation and should instead analyse how each indicator will or potentially harm the business, and then plan accordingly to put pre-emptive or corrective measures in place.

“In the short-term, business owners should take the economic ups and downs, such as interest rates, into consideration as interest rates are expected to continue to rise this year. If possible, business owners should seek to increase loan repayments to avoid paying more interest. Similarly, if interest rates or inflation rises, customers won’t have much disposable income to spend. Businesses need to know how such market indices can have an immediate impact on business.”

She adds though, as much as it is important to keep an eye on daily influences that directly affect a business and how these will impact cash-flow and month-to-month bottom line, small business owners should allocate more time and focus on long-term objectives. “It is sometimes impossible to plan for all the short-term ups and downs, but by focusing on the business’ larger annual milestones and then planning realistically how you are going to achieve these, a business is more capable of surviving volatile periods.

Mjadu concludes: “While there were many macro-economic factors influencing investor and business confidence in the economy during the first quarter of 2016, many local businesses continue to survive and some even thrive. This is because there are reasons for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to feel confident in the economy as with time invested to seek opportunities true entrepreneurs – those that see potential, rather than challenges – will continue to find the many gaps and business opportunities available in the South African economy.”

Value in having an expert evaluate your business

Five reasons entrepreneurs should enter business competitions

Entrepreneurs running small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are required to assume many roles and wear many hats as they often don’t have the resources and staff complement available to manage all the necessary day-to-day activities and challenges that the environment presents. Entering a business competition is therefore often the last thing on an entrepreneur’s mind and may seem to be an additional, unnecessary task. However, taking time to reflect on the business can assist in identifying problems and aid in developing growth strategies.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that apart from the cash prize money, which can be put towards funding the growth of the business, entering a business competition allows entrepreneurs to gain a different perspective of their businesses, which can often prove to be more valuable than funding.

“It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a business and get distracted with the various tasks and challenges. Presenting a business to a judging panel not only forces entrepreneurs to reflect on their businesses, but also exposes entrepreneurs to experts who can analyse the businesses and point out aspects that they may have overlooked during the rush of running and managing the  businesses.”

Mjadu adds that as access to capital to grow a business is considered one of the top challenges for many entrepreneurs, taking part in a business competition is one of the most cost-effective measures to grow awareness of the business without dipping into the business’ resources.

Mjadu shares five reasons why entrepreneurs should consider entering a business competition:

  1. The cash prize money: While not the most important aspect in the greater scheme for the business, a cash lump sum offers entrepreneurs the potential to either pay off existing business finance debt or use the capital to expand the current business or fund new avenues.


  1. Expanded network of likeminded people: A business competition brings together a group of people with the same objective – to build and grow a successful business. Apart from the opportunity to learn from fellow entrepreneurial entrants, entrepreneurs are able to engage with credible business experts and mentors involved in the competition and have the opportunity to draw on their business knowledge and insight. Some business competitions also offer an alumni network that entrepreneurs can tap into for new ideas and wisdom.


  1. Access to business experts and independent analysis of your business: As part of an entry process, the competition judging panel is required to analyse the entrant’s business to gauge worthiness of being named a winner in the competition. Through this process, entrepreneurs can gain an independent and fresh perspective of the business, as well as learn valuable lessons about their business plan and model.

    For example, the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS has three stages to its judging process. Consisting of five independent judges, who represent different areas of the business community, the evaluation process includes a preliminary screening of the entry forms, followed by a review of financial information, and lastly an interview with each finalist and on-site visit to the business. This in-depth process allows entrepreneurs to gain greater insight and awareness of opportunities and challenges that exist. Entrepreneurs should embrace the opportunity to have their businesses scrutinised by a group of experts.


  1. Acknowledging a business’ true value and capabilities: Entrepreneurial competitions offer the necessary push for entrepreneurs to analyse their own business’ worth. Entrepreneurs are often so involved in the operations of the business, that they don’t realise the true success of the business and what it may be worth. This downplayed perception of success can hinder a business’s growth path and prevent it from capitalising on potential opportunities.


  1. Increase the profile of your business: Building a positive reputation is often a key challenge that business owners encounter on their entrepreneurial journey as smaller businesses can’t compete with larger market players’ marketing spend and advertising campaigns. Not only are entrepreneurial competitions cost-effective to enter, but if entrants are successful as finalists or winners, the awareness thereafter can have a significant knock-on effect on their business’ brand and bottom line.

Now in its 28th year, the free-to-enter 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS is open to entrepreneurs from all industries and for businesses of any size. For more information, please visit Entries close 16 June 2016.

SA entrepreneurs need your love this Valentine’s Day – they are creating jobs

Are we, as a society, showing enough appreciation to our local entrepreneurs, and expressing just how important they are to kick-starting South Africa’s sluggish economy? This is the questioned raised by Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners Limited.

In light of Valentine’s Day later this week, Mjadu says that South Africans should consider channeling some of their love towards family, friends and associates who have taken the inspiring leap into entrepreneurship. “While entrepreneurs should be acknowledged regularly for their efforts to society, they are often the unsung heroes of a country’s economic development and job creation.”

She points to the recently release Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2015 / 2016 Global Report which revealed that from the 60 economies surveyed in the report, on average, 68% of working-aged adults perceive entrepreneurs to hold a high status in their respective societies and 61% believe they receive positive attention in the media.

Mjadu says that given small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a major contributor to job creation and economic growth, this percentage should be much higher.

“Societal attitudes indicate how entrepreneurship is regarded in an economy, and can, in turn, impact potential entrepreneurs’ ambitions in the future. This month of ‘love’ (February), as commercial as the day may be, offers the ideal opportunity to celebrate with an entrepreneur you may know, and provide the reassurance and acknowledgment that their hard work and contribution is appreciated and isn’t in vain. By doing this, we are ensuring that those around us, especially future generations, see entrepreneurship as an inspiring and celebrated career option.”

In an efficiency-driven economy such as South Africa, two thirds of working-aged adults perceive entrepreneurship as a good career choice. The 2015/2016 GEM Global report also revealed high societal values about entrepreneurs in South Africa as the country ranked 15th out of 60 economies in terms of the status given to entrepreneurs.

While these figures paint a positive picture, Mjadu says that more needs to be done to express and elevate entrepreneurs’ status in society. “Entrepreneurship in South Africa is still largely driven by necessity, rather than opportunity. We need to celebrate entrepreneurs more often in order to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable career option, rather than a fallback plan. This is one of the core reasons the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners Limited was launched originally as it serves as a platform to showcase entrepreneurs’ efforts and achievements.”

Mjadu however stresses that society at large can, and should, play a much larger – and daily role – in ensuring that entrepreneurs feel supported while pursuing this tough journey.

“Starting a business venture on your own can be difficult and lonely, but the love and support of those close to you make the challenges more bearable, which could be a determining factor between failure and success. So when you next visit your local supplier, friend, or family member who has started a business, give them a hug and thank them for their hard work and contribution to South Africa’s economy,” concludes Mjadu.

Make your appreciation public! This Valentine’s Day – post a photo on Twitter of you hugging an entrepreneur or proving your entrepreneurial love with the hashtag #HUGanEntrepreneur (@EOY_SA)