SA’s best entrepreneurs announced in premier entrepreneurial competition

Following a gruelling judging process and assessment of 15 successful finalists, South Africa’s premier annual entrepreneurial competition, Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, announced this six year’s winners at an awards ceremony held on 6 September 2017 in Johannesburg. The event saw Willem van der Merwe, owner of Africa Biomass Company, receiving the coveted title of this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year®.

Speaking at the event, spokesperson for the competition, Christo Botes, says that while selecting one entrepreneur to be the overall winner was no easy task – especially given the exceptionally high standard of this year’s finalists – van der Merwe was a notch above the rest in terms of the raw entrepreneurial nature of his business.

“Through the establishment of Africa Biomass Company (ABC) – which specialises in land clearing, wood chipping, and wood recycling – Willem [van der Merwe] has not only created a successful business by clearing landowners unwanted trees, he has also shaped a new industry in South Africa by introducing the novel concept of wood recycling,” he says.

The five 2017 category winners are:

  • 2017 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year®: Sizwe Nzima and Siraaj Adams, owners of Iyeza Health. Having started as a bicycle delivery company that delivered chronic medication from health clinics in Khayelitisha to patients’ homes in the township, Iyeza Group has evolved into a health logistics company with a wide array of capabilities.  
  • 2017 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year®: Itumeleng Phake, founder and owner of Zenzele Fitness Group. Zenzele Fitness Group is a dynamic fitness and wellness company that is making health and fitness more accessible to South Africans in middle and lower LSM groups.
  • 2017 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®: Nomfundo Mcoyi, founder and owner of Icebolethu Group. Established as Icebolethu Funerals in 2009 as a funeral parlour, with a complement of just five staff members, the business has evolved into a prominent funeral services conglomerate with international presence and around 300 employees.
  • 2017 Job Creator of the Year®: Siphiwe Ngcobo, owner and founder of iLawu Hospitality Group. Founded in 2009 as a humble five-bedroomed B&B in Pietermaritzburg, iLawu Hospitality Group has since expanded to become one of the well-recognised hospitality and catering brands in KwaZulu-Natal, providing countless jobs to the community.
  • 2017 Innovator of the Year®: Mpodumo Doubada, founder and owner of Pimp My Book. Pimp my Book, an ever-growing chain of campus stores across the country, was founded in 2006 on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks and making them significantly more affordable to students.

Now in its 29th year, the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners provides prizes worth R2 million.  Each of the five category winners received R60 000, and the overall winner received R160 000, towards further growing their businesses.

Beyond these monetary prizes, Botes 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 and form valuable partnerships as a result of their success in the competition.”

Holistic funeral service provider named Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®

Nomfundo Mcoyi, ex-educator and now managing director of KwaZulu-Natal-based business – Icebolethu Group – was named the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® at the annual entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards ceremony, held on 6 September 2017 in Johannesburg.

Established as a funeral parlour named Icebolethu Funerals in 2009, with a complement of just five staff members, the business has evolved into a prominent funeral services conglomerate with around 300 employees. 

Today, the company consists of seven divisions offering an all-encompassing funeral service operating under the umbrella of Icebolethu Group and boasting 43 branches in and around KwaZulu-Natal, as well as a branch in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Considering that the funeral business is a highly competitive industry, especially in the South African small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, Mcoyi stood out to the competition’s judging panel by managing to yield tremendous growth for her business by capitalising on the already ripe market and providing a customer-centric service, while still demonstrating dignity and care to her community. “Mcoyi truly understands the market and their needs, and this has provided her with a competitive advantage over many other small firms in the industry,” the judges add.

Discussing why she believes her business is worthy of this prestigious award, Mcoyi recalls her humble beginnings after taking the decision to quit her job as an educator and start her catering business, only to be left with nothing following her divorce in 2009. In order to provide for her children, she then started a small funeral parlour based in the township of Hammersdale, KwaZulu-Natal.

In less than a decade, she has grown this one small parlour into the network it is today. “This was done by offering more than just a funeral policy to our clients,” explains Mcoyi. “Unlike most other providers in the country, we grew Icebolethu Funerals into a one-stop-shop offering clients everything from funeral services, to catering and tombstones.”

Mcoyi also attributes her business’ success to its rigorous marketing and advertising strategy that is designed to tap in to the needs of the community. “Our unique branding, combined with consistently providing an excellent service offering, has resulted in us capturing a large portion of a highly competitive South African market,” Mcoyi added.

When asked about her future plans following winning the 2017 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title, Mcoyi says that she plans to expand her business further throughout South Africa, starting with Cape Town.

For more information on Icebolethu Group, please visit the website:

Financial services group providing holistic approach to the funeral industry

The Icebolethu Group is today a prominent financial services conglomerate of seven company divisions that together offer customers an all-encompassing funeral services offering. Much like a one-stop-shop for funerals, the business is able to take care of all funeral-related needs, from the tombstone and event catering to floral tributes, funeral policies and philanthropic requests. The Icebolethu Group even owns a private cemetery as part of its diverse product offering.

None of this would have ever been possible, however, if ex-educator Nomfundo Mcoyi hadn’t have made the bold decision back in 2008 to venture into the industry after identifying a gap in the local funeral business.

“I was motivated by the need for a reputable funeral service provider that caters for all and, as such, started Icebolethu Funerals – a funeral parlour – with a group of just five people in 2008. Through hard work, unwavering dedication and ambition, Icebolethu Funerals is now a very well established business, and continues to operate as the backbone company of the Group which now has 43 branches in and around the KwaZulu-Natal province.”

Icebolethu Funerals has even opened a branch in the United Kingdom to cater for the needs of South Africans and people from the SADC region living in the UK, says Mcoyi. “This cover offers funeral arrangements, whether it be in the UK or country of burial repatriation, catering and tombstone. It allows policy holders living in the UK to cover themselves, as well as those that are back at home.”

In the funeral policy business, Mcoyi explains that it is all about tapping into as many communities as possible. “Insurance is a numbers game and without numbers, a business won’t make money. Through aggressive advertising and marketing strategies, unique branding, and consistently excelling in our service offering, we have managed to capture a large portion of a highly competitive South African market and continue to capitalise on the growth within the funeral industry.

When asked about her future plans for the business, Mcoyi says she has her eyes set on Cape Town. “We’ve now captured the market in KwaZulu-Natal and have an international Icebolethu Funerals branch in the UK. My next stop will be Cape Town because I’ve studied the funeral business in the region and have yet to see anybody do what we do in terms of offering a holistic funeral services solution.”

Nomfundo Mcoyi is a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARETNRS. For more information on her business, please visit the website: