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.”

Young fitness maverick makes big strides in entrepreneurial competition

Itumeleng (Tumi) Phake, founder and owner of Zenzele Fitness Group has been awarded the Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title at the annual 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards ceremony, held in Johannesburg on 6 September 2017.

Launched only in 2014, Zenzele Fitness Group – a level 1 B-BBEE gym management business which operates fully-equipped gym facilities at various corporates, universities and government institutions across the country – is making waves in the fitness and wellness sector by creating gym packages and solutions that are accessible to lower and middle LSM markets.

 “As long as our client can provide suitable space at their business premises, we will design, furnish, outfit, operate and manage a fitness facility for their employees, that allows them to see real results in their workforce,” says Tumi.

Furthermore, by working with medical experts, Zenzele Fitness is able to develop personalised programmes for members based on their individual aspirations and wellness needs. In addition to incorporating fitness goals, these programmes can also incorporate disease intervention (for members with ailments such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and hypertension), culminating in a holistic, customised wellness solution. 

The judges were extremely impressed by Tumi’s vision and entrepreneurial drive. “This business is young, but it’s very scalable and, in a sense, limitless. This young man is going to continue to shake up the fitness sector as he is on the right track to breaking down the misconception that fitness and wellness in South Africa is only accessible to the wealthy,” commented the judges.

Having been in operation for just over three years, the business already employs over 50 staff members with 13 gyms across the country and has secured management contracts at South Africa’s top blue chip companies. Most recently, Zenzele Fitness secured a deal with Discovery Health to run their new fitness facility – proving that this business is in it for the long-run.

Tumi says that being selected as a winner in the competition is a great honour and will provide the motivation needed to take the business to the next level. “This is just the beginning of Zenzele Fitness and I plan to continue pushing boundaries and tapping in to new markets going forward.”

Visit for more information on Zenzele Fitness Group.