Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Mpodumo Doubada
Winning year: Innovator of the Year® – 2017

Winning business: Pimp my Book is a successful chain of campus stores across the country, founded on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks. After earning his first 10% commission on the sale of his friends’ textbooks, founder, Mpodumo Doubada, quickly saw the opportunity to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash, as well as purchase the books they need.

It’s been almost a year since you won the Innovator of the Year title in 2017, how has business been since then?

Over the last few months, business has been very good. We do operate a seasonal business, but even taking this into account, we experienced a bumper season. We have since signed two big clients – bringing in an additional 800 students to our direct market.

The direct spin-off from the EOY competition has also been amazing to watch.  We’ve seen a far more positive reception from various universities and corporates – who have now heard about us through the media and are a little more open to trying our innovative approach.

Have you made any new developments in your business since winning?

At the time of our win, our tech division was relatively new. It has now been rolled out across all our stores and is bringing in more and more business. We have seen a significant increase in laptop sales in the Cape Town area alone. 

Also new, is our new Hatfield store in Pretoria – targeting students of the University of Pretoria and UNISA.

We are also working on an exciting new project for an international market – and we will share more details about this in due course.

On a personal note, I was very fortunate to be selected as a finalist in the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative. In June, I will join the other candidates from Sub Saharan Africa as we travel to the United States to learn from our American peers – with the aim to bring leadership skills back to Africa. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your stint in the EOY competition?

I’d never seen myself as an “innovator”. Whenever I think of the term, I always think of high tech or new inventions. The competition showed me that in fact, innovation is just about doing things differently. If you change the way something has traditionally been done to solve a problem – then you are an innovator. This was a big eye-opener for me.

One of the toughest things to face during the competition, was the questions posed by the judges. Their questions required a fair amount of self-evaluation. Up until this point, I didn’t recognise the full impact of what we do – until others told me what a great job we were doing. The process really opened my mind to see the changes we make to the communities we serve.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

Be authentic about yourself and your business. You need to you know your business and industry inside and out as the judges will interrogate this at a deeper level than you ever have – so you need to be prepared to do the same in preparation.

Above all – let your passion shine through anything you prepare.

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.

www.chipper.co.za

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. www.iyezahealth.co.za  
  • 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. www.zenzelefitness.co.za
  • 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. www.icebolethugroup.co.za
  • 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. www.ilawugroup.co.za/
  • 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. www.pimpmybook.co.za

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.”

Student-centric business named Innovator of the Year® in national entrepreneurial competition

Driven by his passion to find solutions to the growing crisis regarding high tuition fees, Mpodumo Doubada, founding CEO of Pimp my Book, has been named Innovator of the Year® at the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards ceremony, which was held on 6 September 2017 in Johannesburg.

Pimp my Book, an ever-growing chain of campus stores across the country, was founded on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks. After earning his first 10% commission on the sale of his friends’ textbooks, Doubada quickly saw the opportunity to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash, as well as purchase the books they need.

Originally set up in 2006 from his university dorm room at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Doubada’s fledgling informal business quickly flourished and he had students lining up to buy and sell used textbooks. Today, Doubada and his team of now 17 full-time staff members, operate a chain of four stores as well as an online store, where students country-wide are able to trade in used text books, thereby helping to ease the burden of the high cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

According to the competition’s judging panel, it was Doubada’screative drive and dedication toward the cause that made his business stand out above the rest. “This is a business that has identified a unique gap in the market – with an almost naturally captive audience. Doubada has done well to build his business which speaks to the unique needs of thousands of students across all disciplines, sectors, and regions – a need which is also well established and likely to exist well into the future,” the judges commented.

Doubada and his team not only found a workable solution to ease a burden that thousands of students face every year, but were also innovative enough to develop their own point-of-sale system for their unique business, allowing them to track all stages of transactions taking place – from the buying back of used text books, to the sale thereof – something which Doubada credits as one of the business’ greatest achievements thus far.

This young, enthusiastic and driven entrepreneur is committed to remaining innovative within his business, and the greater education sector, acknowledging that the private sector has an important role in this regard. “The solution for our current education crisis cannot only come from government. Private businesses need to play their part in making education more affordable,” says Doubada.

Furthermore, Doubada is a firm believer in teamwork and empowering his young team of diverse, creative individuals. Beyond what the business has already managed to achieve through innovative thinking, it is this go-getter attitude that has cemented Doubada’s title as a true Innovator of the Year®.

Visit www.pimpmybook.co.za for more information on Pimp my Book.

A business created for students, by students

Mpodumo Doubada – founding CEO of Pimp my Book, a chain of campus stores founded in 2006 at the University of Cape Town (UCT), is a young entrepreneur making waves in the education sector. 31-year-old Doubada from Cape Town founded the business on the premise of buying and selling used textbooks. Since the business was founded, Pimp my Book has expanded to serve a number of universities across the country.

Doubada recounts his own university experience, noting the shared struggle to source textbooks at an affordable price, and how this inspired him to launch Pimp my Book from his dormitory accommodation at the UCT. “I wanted to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash as well as purchase the books they need,” says Doubada, recalling his first year of university where he began selling his friends’ textbooks on consignment, taking a 10% commission on all sales made.

Within weeks, his fledgling informal business was flourishing, with students lining up to buy and sell used textbooks. However, the innovation however didn’t stop there. Doubada and his team of now 17 full time staff members, discovered that with increased demand and the setting up of formal stores, a proper, efficient point-of-sale system was required.

The struggle for Pimp my Book however was to find a system which allowed for the buying back of used textbooks, and not only recording the sale thereof. Doubada and his team worked with developers to create their own point-of-sale system unique to their business, which would allow them to track all stages of transactions taking place. “Creating a system that works for our unique business has been one of our greatest achievements, allowing us to expand to multiple stores. I no longer need to manage stock manually, but can monitor stock levels and performance for all stores from the convenience of my office,” he says.

Doubada is proud of his business’ innovation, and credits the success of the business to his team of young, diverse, creative individuals who have all brought their talents to the team. The team is also diverse in terms of experience – with many branch managers having been trained internally from entry level to management. “I look for people who are eager to make something out of their life – I do not train people on the job alone but rather teach them the character and discipline required to make our business work,” he explains.

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting as well as a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), Doubada has dedicated his entire career to Pimp my Book, and has big dreams to expand his stores into every university in the country. Ultimately, he believes that his business is making a positive contribution to tertiary education in South Africa, pointing to the Fees Must Fall movement which has come about in recent years in the sector. Pimp my Book provides a workable solution to thousands of students who cannot afford brand new textbooks – ultimately helping to ease the burden of the high cost of tertiary education.

Mpodumo Doubada is a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on his business, please visit the Pimp my Book website: www.pimpmybook.co.za.