It’s never too late to start your own business

50 is the new 21 age for entrepreneurs

There is a common misconception among many budding entrepreneurs that starting a business is a journey that is best initiated at a young age. Entrepreneurship is however not just for the youth, and can be embarked upon at any stage of life.

This is according to Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson for the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who says despite the success stories about young individuals pursuing entrepreneurial ventures – such as  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (then 20) and Airbnb’s Brian Chesk co-founder (then 26) –  these individuals are the exceptions rather than the norm. “The average entrepreneur tends to be a middle-aged professional who, through experience, has identified an opportunity to establish a business and fill a gap in the market.

He points to research conducted in the US by Kauffman Foundation titled the Anatomy of an Entrepreneur. Surveying over 500 high growth founders, it revealed that the typical successful high growth entrepreneur is 40 years old, and that there are more than twice as many successful entrepreneurs over the age of 50 compared to under the age of 25.

Our experience with the competition confirms that there are still are a number of ‘older’ entrepreneurs making a name for themselves – those that have had a successful career and have since developed a business after identifying  a gap in the market, says Engelbrecht. “Our 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® category winner, Jonathan Pepler, spent 30 years in the corporate retail sector before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey in the construction industry.”

Engelbrecht adds, the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year® overall winner, Tommy Makhatho – owner of BiBi Cash & Carry – is another example. “While he had entrepreneurial aspirations from a very young age, Makhatho’s business only thrived later in life due to the experience he had accumulated. Having left school after standard nine in 1976, he went on to pursue many avenues from hairdressing to a distributing of hair-care products. In 1998, Makhatho opened the first Bibi Cash & Carry Family Supermarket and subsequently Bibi Wholesaler and Bibi Cash & Carry. The retail group has grown in profit and size significantly, and today, Makhatho  employs over 500 people.”

The average age of an entrepreneur in South Africa is between 22 – 45 years, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) South Africa 2014 report. Although there is no prescribed age to pursue entrepreneurship, each age group has its advantages, explains Engelbrecht. “Young entrepreneurs benefit from their propensity to take risks, a characteristic that is synonymous with entrepreneurial traits, as well as a youthful energy to persevere should a risk not pay off at first.

“However, in contrast, older entrepreneurs have the advantage of experience, as well as the ability to take more calculated risks given that they are likely to have more weighing on the risks they opt to take, such as family or investment responsibilities. Older entrepreneurs, those with more working experience, also tend to have more skills in running a business and wider networks to utilise for business gains.”

Engelbrecht says that the fear of ‘being too old’ to start a business shouldn’t be a reason that aspiring entrepreneurs don’t take the leap. “Some aspiring entrepreneurs shrug off the idea of owning a business out of fear that their internal clock has long ticked past the proverbial deadline. This mind-set needs to change.

“There are many successful business men and women who, after years of experience in the workplace – whether near to or far from retirement – find that their minds and bodies are still active and fit enough to begin a new venture, even well into retirement years.”

Engelbrecht concludes with a reminder that it is never too early or too late to start a business – with calculated risks, sufficient research, a good business plan and the right support – opportunities for success are always in sight.

Top business tips for 2014

Our 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners share their top business tips

Education is an on-going process and according to Christo Botes, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, this is especially true for entrepreneurs, who are faced with new challenges on a daily basis. He says that seeking guidance from fellow entrepreneurs is vital for both the business’s and entrepreneur’s growth.

Botes says that a successful entrepreneur should never stop investing in the most powerful, trusted and best business tool at their disposal – themselves. “Running a business can be challenging and it takes hard work and perseverance to achieve success. However, by continuously networking and seeking guidance and advice from fellow seasoned entrepreneurs, one can obtain valuable advice from those who have walked, or are walking, a similar path.”

The 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners share their best business tips for entrepreneurial success in 2014 with local entrepreneurs:

2013 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® and co-founder of The Daily Buzz, Chris Brown:

Employees are a key asset to the success of any business. Ensure you put the correct people in the correct positions and look after them accordingly, as they will then in return take care of your business.

Anton Rossouw, owner of Life Path Health and 2013 Medium Entrepreneur of the Year®:

Conduct a detailed and thorough viability study and research financial projections. Identifying project scenarios will allow business owners to plan for the worst case scenario. While it may never play out in practice, having done these forecasts will proactively prepare the business for the future and will assist in recognising and dealing with any pitfalls that may come about in the future.

Margaret Hirsch, owner of appliance chain group Hirsch’s and the winner of the 2013 Lifetime Achievement award:

Master your trade. Instead of being an all-rounder, find your niche and become the expert that everyone needs – specialised skills are in high demand, so rather remain focused and become a specialist in a specific trade.

Jonathan Pepler, owner of Silverline Group and winner of the 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® award:

Develop a strong business plan. The key to any successful business is to create a firm foundation, which can be achieved by establishing a concrete business strategy. Business owners must have a realistic strategy and action plan with set timelines in place. This will assist entrepreneurs in staying focused on what they want to achieve, when they want to achieve it and provide guidelines on how they going to achieve it.

Tommy Makhatho, owner BiBi Cash ‘n Carry and overall winner of Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® and Job Creator of the Year:

Do not go into business for the sake of money. Business owners should focus on creating wealth that will be built over time. The value in business is not what you get every day, but what you are investing over time.

Botes adds that whether entrepreneurs are already in business, or looking to start a business, it is beneficial to continually network with fellow entrepreneurs. “Top entrepreneurs attend networking seminars and workshops, even if they feel they have already ‘mastered’ the subject. They do this because they realise that the key to being a successful entrepreneur is on-going learning and networking with fellow entrepreneurs, which provides a great opportunity to learn the secrets of success from other established business owners.”

Innovative construction company awarded Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® Award

Jonathan-David-PeplerFounder of construction business Silverline Group, Jonathan Pepler, has been recognised for his remarkable accomplishments during the early stages of a business life cycle by being awarded the 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® title in the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® Competition, which was held in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 4 September 2013.

The Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® category which celebrates entrepreneurs who have been in business for less than three years, acknowledges Pepler’s success of becoming one of the largest light frame steel construction companies in South Africa in just a few short years.

In addition to providing conventional construction services, Silverline Group specialises in constructing light frame steel structures, a high-performance environmentally-friendly alternative building solution not widely used in South Africa. Modelled on international best practice used in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, light frame steel structures are fast gaining popularity in South Africa, due to the fact that it offers an effective method of construction that produces no waste and 80% less carbon footprint than conventional building methodology.

This innovative building method also reduces the time needed to construct a building considerably and as a result, more businesses are opting to make use of this method as it allows them to start operating and making a profit much earlier than expected. A recent example of this is the new McDonald’s in Goodwood, Cape Town, which was able to open the outlet four months earlier, compared to the time it would have taken with traditional brick and mortar building techniques.

Due to the growing demand for this product, Pepler made the decision to franchise the company, making it the only franchised construction business in South Africa, and one of very few in the world. The company also provides significant support, mentorship and skills training to its more than 30 franchisees, which Pepler believes is a major factor behind the business’ success.

Pepler says that winning the competition serves as encouragement to further push the envelope to be more efficient, more effective and to make a greater impact on the environment, as well as the people and businesses which benefit from their product.

As a result of Pepler’s achievements, not only has an alternative and sustainable construction practice been created within South Africa, but his company and franchises are a major contributor to job creation and economic growth.

According to Kobus Engelbrecht, a member of the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® judging panel, Pepler stood out in the Emerging category due to his exceptionally well executed business idea and the enormous growth potential of the business.

“The building method Jonathan uses is not unique internationally, but within South Africa it is not widely used and has he set out to successfully convince the major role players in the local market to accept this building method. Banks, for instance, chose not to finance buildings constructed in this way, but Jonathan managed to convince them otherwise.

“Jonathan also successfully franchised his business, which enabled him to grow it into a business with a national footprint in a short space of time and without the need for a large amount of capital,” concludes Engelbrecht.

For more information on Silverline Group, please visit their website