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.”

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:

Finalists announced for South Africa’s premier entrepreneurial competition

Now in its 29th year, the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS has built up a stellar reputation of attracting and celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship. Following a tough preliminary round, a shortlist of 15 standout entrants has made it through to the final round of the 2017 edition of the competition.

Kobus Engelbrecht, the competition’s spokesperson, says that while the overall number of entries saw a slight decline this year, the calibre and level of diversity exhibited by the 2017 entry pool was outstanding. “The judging panel was extremely impressed with the quality of this year’s entrants and was particularly pleased about the rising number of promising black businesses being showcased in this year’s selection of finalists, making up 60% of the entries that are through to the final round.”

The 15 finalists also operate across various different sectors throughout South Africa, says Engelbrecht. “This year’s finalists – the majority of which originate from Gauteng (53%) and the Western Cape (33%) – represent a widespread range of industries, from funeral and fiduciary services to fashion and fitness.

“We would like to thank and congratulate each and every entrant, as these are the individuals who bring about positive change and fuel job growth – something that is particularly pertinent at present, given that South Africa’s unemployment rate is at a 13-year high,” Engelbrecht adds.

In no specific order, the finalists are:

Pepe Marais and Gareth Leck – Joe Public United

Pepe Marais and Gareth Leck, based in Gauteng, are the entrepreneurial duo behind Joe Public – one of the largest independent, 100% South African owned advertising groups in the country.

Nelisiwe Magubane and Corrie Van Der Wath – Matleng Energy Solutions

Gauteng-based Matleng Energy Solutions is a South African black woman owned company led by Nelisiwe Magubane, in association with Corrie van der Wath, which strives to solve clients’ energy related challenges through the effective implementation of new and/or existing technologies. Matleng Energy Solutions is a finalist in the competition for the second consecutive year.

Jacques Groblaar – Stadium Management SA

Formed in 2008 by Jacques Groblaar, SMSA has become the “Gold Standard” in the field of full risk stadium and venue management in Southern Africa and currently manages FNB, Orlando, Dobsonville and Rand Stadiums on behalf of the City of Johannesburg.

Nomfundo Mcoyi – Icebolethu Group

Icebolethu was founded by Nomfundo Mcoyi in 2009, motivated by the need for a reputable funeral service provider that caters for all. Today, Icebolethu has 43 branches in and around the KZN region.

Willem Van Der Merwe – Africa Biomass Company

Established in 2004 by finalist Willem Van Der Merwe, Western Cape-based Africa Biomass is a wood chipping company that found the solution to the disposal of waste wood.

Mpodumo Doubada – Pimp My Book

Cape Town-based Mpodumo Doubada founded Pimp My Book, a chain of campus stores, in 2006 at the University of Cape Town and has since grown to serve the students of the University of South Africa, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Free State and the University of Johannesburg.

Shamil Ismail – Primaresearch

Formed in October 2015 by Shamil Ismail, Western Cape-based Primaresearch is an independent, sell-side, equity research firm that focuses on consumer-facing companies, servicing roughly 40 clients, including some of the largest fund managers in SA.

Joe Hamman – Novus Group

Founded in 2014 by Joe Hamman and located in the eastern suburbs of Johannesburg, Novus Group is a privately owned and operated business that specialises in providing media monitoring and media analysis services.

Siphiwe Ngcobo – ilawu Hospitality Group

One of the fastest growing accommodation and catering companies in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, iLawu Hospitality Group was founded in 2009 by Siphiwe Ngcobo.

Itumeleng (Tumi) Phake – Zenzele Fitness Group

A former banker with seven years’ experience in investment and banking, Tumi Phake is the founder of Zenzele Fitness Group, a fitness and wellness company that operates 10 gym facilities across South Africa.

Malesela Rachel (Ouma) Tema – Plus-Fab

Geared towards the fashion savvy, modern day plus size woman who is looking for fashion that not only fits but accentuate her curves, Ouma Tema’s Plus-Fab – emerging out of Gauteng – is a fashion and lifestyle brand for fuller figured women.

Siraaj Adams – Iyeza Group

Having started as a company that delivered chronic medication from health clinics in Khayelitsha in Cape Town to patients’ homes in the township by using a bicycle as the only means of transportation, Siraaj Adams’ Iyeza Group has evolved into a Health logistics company with a wide array of capabilities.

Dirk Coetzee and Merwe Moelich – Dirk Coetzee & Associates

Western Cape-based Dirk Coetzee & Associates offer various tax and accounting services to SMEs and Individuals, but specialise in the fiduciary industry, with the submission of income tax returns for deceased estates and trusts making up the core of their work.

Refilwe Marumo – Mighty Comms

Refilwe Marumo from Gauteng is the founder of Mighty Comms, a 100% black woman owned South African Company which has carved a niche in the South African ICT sector.

Lindy Scott – Conceptual Eyes

Gauteng-based Lindy Scott is the woman behind Conceptual Eyes, a creative agency specialising in internal communication for large labour employers.

Engelbrecht explains that one of these deserving finalists will be named the overall 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® winner. The next step in the process will be the awards ceremony, which will also include announcing winners for the categories of emerging business, small business, medium business, job creator and innovator of the year.”

In addition to the prestigious titles, Engelbrecht says that prizes worth R2 million are up for grabs at the awards ceremony. “Each of the five category winners will walk away with R60 000, and the overall winner will get R160 000.

“Beyond monetary prizes, previous finalists have benefitted greatly from the competition’s various networking opportunities and associated exposure. Past winners have also gone on to win international awards and form valuable partnerships as a result of their success in the competition.”

Winners will be announced on 6 September 2017 at the official awards breakfast in Johannesburg. “We eagerly await the final stages of this year’s competition and wish all the finalists the best of luck,” concludes Engelbrecht.