Artisan skills training centre collects Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award

Marthie-Jansen-van-Rensburg---Ekurhuleni-Artisans-&-Skills-Training-Centre---53

Marthie Jansen van Rensburg, founder of Gauteng-based Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre, walked away with the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award ® at the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition, held in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 3 September 2014.

Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre was established in 2006 following the identification of a need for an alternative way to the traditional schooling system. Students who did not have the academic ability to finish secondary schooling are given the opportunity to equip themselves with more practical artisanal skills, thus enabling them to become artisans or potential entrepreneurs.

Jansen van Rensburg says that there is currently a great shortage of well-trained artisans in South Africa and it is vital that similar places of learning become attractive to young South Africans in order to close the gap. “Too often, young students who do not have the academic ability fall by the wayside and do not consider the prospects an artisanal career may present. In light of this, our purpose is to rebrand these once underestimated career options as an attractive choice for young South Africans.”

According to Lionel Billings, a member of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel, whilst not a trained artisan, Marthie was able to identify a unique gap in the education sector to train and up skill young South Africans to become qualified artisans. “Having started the centre without any outside funding, Marthie, through her passion and drive, has been able to make a direct and real impact in an environment, especially the youth, where unemployment is a growing concern.

Billings adds that what makes Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre stand out, apart from the approach Marthie follows, is that artisans that graduate from the centre are employable. “The centre provides real and practical skills which also enable graduates to gain further training and accreditation.”

With a key objective to increase the number of skilled artisans added to the South African labour market, Ekurhuleni Artisans and Training Centre offers a number of courses spanning across different industrial trades from boilermaking and bricklaying to professional painting and carpentry. In addition, the training centre provides individuals with the necessary assistance in preparing for their trade test. Existing tradesmen who would like to sharpen their skills can do so with the refresher courses on offer.

Since opening its doors, Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre has successfully upskilled over 19,000 students and plans to double this number by 2020.

“We are very proud to receive this accolade for the work we have done thus far, but it definitely doesn’t stop here. While we take the time to relish in this milestone, we will continue to achieve excellence and add value to South Africa’s social development.” concludes Janse van Rensburg

For more information on Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre, please visit www.eastc.co.za.

Free State entrepreneur awarded Small Entrepreneur of the Year® award

Johan Eksteen, owner of Agricon Pty Ltd – a worldwide supplier of pelletizing machinery and equipment as well as agri–processing factories – was awarded the Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title at the annual 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition, held in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 3 September 2014.

With over 15 years of experience in the agriculture industry, Eksteen has gained a wealth of knowledge and expertise in pelletizing by working in countries such as South Africa, Uganda, Australia, Singapore and New Caledonia. Pelletizing, involving the processing of materials into small dry pellets, is a common practice in industrial procedures. This process is used globally by manufacturers of animal feed or recycling facilities that specialise in processing materials for reuse.

Eksteen identifies that this process can only be successfully accomplished with specialised equipment, namely a pelletizer. “Agricon has successfully been able to supply businesses with a variety of pelleting products such as; tobacco dust, rooibos tea, human sludge waste, organic fertilizers and vermi-compost, but also specialised industry specific pelletizing equipment.”

In addition to the manufacturing of machines and equipment, the company also provides training and on-site installation for clients, as well as support following a sale or the provision of spare parts.

According to Lionel Billings, a member of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® judging panel, Eksteen is a prime example of a true entrepreneur – someone who was able to not give up on his dream. “Through sheer grit and determination, Johan stabilised a struggling business, became a specialist and was able to infiltrate a difficult European market successfully with his unique business offering.”

Eksteen says that being granted the opportunity to have his business assessed by a successful and experienced panel of competition judges, as well as winning this division of the competition, has given added courage and confidence to expand his business even further. “Winning this award proves to me that the journey was worth all the hard work and sacrifices. It also provides my team and I with a new, invigorated feeling of enthusiasm to take Agricon even further.” concludes Eksteen.

For more information on Agricon Pty Ltd, please visit www.agricon-pelleting.co.za

Environment needed that is conducive to SME growth

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are widely considered a major contributor towards the South African economy and one of the biggest contributors to job creation, yet despite this, the SME community continue to face various challenges that limit their growth.

According to Lionel Billings, head for national consulting services at Business Partners Limited, government needs to create an environment that is conducive to SME growth so that businesses can flourish and contribute towards employment. “Small and medium businesses are the bedrock of every economy and society, and government and large businesses need to align their goals to incorporate SMEs.”

Billings, who was speaking at a Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® (EOY) workshop, a competition aimed at uplifting South African entrepreneurs, said it is estimated that there are 1.5 million SMEs in South Africa, of which, one million formal micro-businesses are employing five or less people.

The Business Partners Limited SME Index, which measures attitudes and confidence levels amongst the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) industry in South Africa, recorded confidence levels of only 33% that labour laws are conducive towards the growth of businesses. It was reported that the effort and cost to comply with the very modern labour legislation is often out of reach for most SMEs and inhibits them from employing more people.

Billings added that business and government needed to instil a sense of entrepreneurship in the country’s youth. “Government needs to cultivate and grow the correct type of culture in order to stimulate business growth within the SME sector.”

Guest speaker at the event, Mzukisi Stephen Dondolo, entrepreneur and chief executive officer of investment firm African Pioneer Ltd, addressed the need for entrepreneurs to group together and to lobby Government to improve the environment for SMES and to address the high level of unemployment.

“Government has created a platform that allows for black businessmen to enter the economy. On the one hand that has created ‘tenderpreneurs’, but on the other hand there are those hardworking entrepreneurs who take their hard earned money and reinvest it in the community.”

He adds that widespread corruption and ‘tenderpreneurs’ do not enable the economy to grow. “Corruption creates an environment where someone will have to increase the price of a service to pay for corrupt tenders. It only benefits ‘tenderpreneurs’, who do not invest back in the economy.

“Corruption has also led to the cost of doing business increasing, which prohibits entrepreneurs from entering the market, and results in the pool of taxpayers remaining small, or even shrinking further, while government expenditure continues to grow, leading to taxpayers being squeezed even more. It becomes a vicious circle that has a very negative effect on the economy and benefits only a select few.”

He says that to counter corruption and to bolster the working environment for SMEs, Government needs to pay more attention to the SME’s needs.

“Entrepreneurs must think positively and look for business opportunities as together, we, entrepreneurs, can conquer unemployment. If we can arrest unemployment and instead change it into employment opportunities, that money will circulate and create wealth in the community. Together we can lobby all the spheres of government to improve their service delivery,” concludes Dondolo.

Sanlam and Business Partners launch the anticipated Entrepreneur of the Year® competition in the Nelson Mandela Bay

Budding entrepreneurs from around the Nelson Mandela Bay last week packed into the plush Radisson Blu hotel along the Port Elizabeth beachfront for the launch of the anticipated Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® (EOY) competition.

Announcing the call for entries for 2013 – the closing date is June 16 – head of national consulting services at Business Partners Limited, Lionel Billings said entrepreneurs needed to be optimistic about the future of the country.

“Small and medium businesses are the bedrock of every economy and every society,” said Billings.

Reiterating the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country, Billings said business and government needed to instil a sense of entrepreneurship in the country’s youth.

It is estimated that there are 1.5 million SMEs in South Africa, of which 1 million are formal micro-businesses employing 5 or less people, he said.

“Government and large businesses need to align their goals to incorporate SMEs,” he said.

The guest speaker was former EOY winner and emerging Eastern Cape powerhouse in business, Mzukisi Stephen Dondolo, chief executive officer of investment firm African Pioneer Ltd. The firm has shareholdng in Coca Cola Fortune, Cerebos and The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex in Port Elizabeth.

Speaking about the need for entrepreneurs to band together and to lobby the government to better enable the environment for SMEs, Dondolo said: “It is an honour to come and talk at this function, because both Business Partners and Sanlam have contributed to growing small businesses in the country.

“We were once a recipient of this competition and it brings along a lot of recognition and a lot of joy. It was wonderful recognition to have.

“When I started out in the 1980s, I was the first black person in Uitenhage township to receive funding from Business Partners towards growing my business.”

Dondolo said he used his start-up funding to grow a bottle store franchise and then in the 1990s, tired of retail, he decided to enter the unchartered waters of the fishing industry.

“As a black man I had no idea about the fishing industry or how fish ended up on my table,” he joked. Yet Sanlam saw his business potential and invested in his company, he added.

“Sanlam took shares in my business and invested in me. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have been able to start up that business,” he said.

“Building a business starts with entrepreneurs. The government has created a platform for black businessmen to be able to enter the economy.

“Although on the one hand that has created ‘tenderpreneurs’, on the other hand there are hardworking entrepreneurs who take their hard earned money and reinvest it in the community.”

Dondolo said entrepreneurs were “engines of wealth creation and a creator of sustainable jobs”.He also spoke out against widespread corruption.

“The corruption creates an environment where someone will have to increase the price of a service to pay for corrupt tenders. It benefits ‘tenderpreneurs’ who will not invest back in the economy and allow the economy to grow.

“Corruption has also increased the cost of doing business, which prohibits entrepreneurs entering the market, and in the end the pool oftaxpayers remains smaller or even shrinks further while government expenditure continues to grow, leading to taxpayers being squeezed even more. It becomes a vicious circle which has a very negative effect on the economy and benefits only a very few.”

To counter corruption and to bolster the working environment for SMEs, Dondolo said entrepreneurs needed to band together and lobby the government to pay more attention to the need for SMEs in South Africa, to address the high level of unemployment.

“Entrepreneurs must think positively. Let’s look at our province and look for business opportunities. Together we can conquer unemployment. If we can arrest unemployment and change that into employment opportunities, that money will circulate and create wealth in the community,” he said.

“Together we can lobby all the spheres of government to improve their service delivery.”