Competition to inspire SA’s next entrepreneurial generation continues to evolve

South Africa’s premier entrepreneurial showcase going strong since 1988

Entrepreneurial prospects are plentiful in South Africa as every sector has a product or service that can be improved upon. Entrepreneurial endeavours therefore depend on the individual’s determination to not only notice the particular gap in the market, but act on the opportunity in order to capitalise on a potentially lucrative business opportunity.

The history of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, now in its 27th year, demonstrates the opportunities available in the country. Since 1988, the competition has produced 51 winners across various categories and of these winners, at least 18 have set up businesses that were started in competition to their previous employers, which were large established brands or businesses.

Christo Botes, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition says that this illustrates that a ‘million dollar idea’ doesn’t need to be a new creation for a business to be successful. “The benefits of taking the first vital step from being employed with a large corporate to becoming a small business owner can be boundless, not only for the entrepreneur, but for the business’ potential future employees. Throughout the years, we have been privileged to witness firsthand the pivotal role entrepreneurs play in job creation and GDP contribution in South Africa.”

Botes points to three previous winners that today form part of sizable stock exchange communities:

  • Greg Petzer and Ken Fletcher of Diverse Labelling were the 1992 Entrepreneur of the Year® winners, and today form part of the Astrapak Group listed on the JSE;
  • Dedreich and Ryan Otto of Megatron were the 2004 Entrepreneur of the Year® and today form part of the Ellies Group listed on the JSE;
  • Ben Levitas of Astore Africa was the 2003 finalist of the Entrepreneur of the Year® and his company is now a subsidiary of Hudaco Industries listed on the JSE.

“A few others have also sold their businesses to large corporations for sizable amounts, such as the 2001 Lifestyle Entrepreneur of the Year® winners, Liyaqat and Soraiya Parker of Foodworld and Saveworld Stores, who sold their business to the Shoprite Group. These achievements highlight the possibilities that could transpire based on a simple business concept that is executed well.

In terms of job creation, one of the competition’s past winners, Pierre Conradie of the Alpha Group, Job creator of the Year now employs more than 1 200 employee, while many others have significant numbers employed in rural and semi-rural communities, such as the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year® and Job Creator of the Year® winner, Tommy Makhatho. Owner of BiBi Cash & Carry, a retail group situated in the rural area of Qwa Qwa in the Free State, Makhatho currently provides jobs to more than 800 employees.

“The 2014 winners alone, which consist of six entrepreneurs, have created employment opportunities for 414 people,” says Botes.

The competition, which embraces local entrepreneurship by offering an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase their achievements, includes an overall Entrepreneur of the Year® winner, as well as various category winners ranging from small business, medium business, emerging entrepreneur to a job creator and innovator award winners.

Of the 51 titles awarded over the last 26 years, over 30% (16) were awarded to female entrepreneurs, of which five were for the overall Entrepreneur of the Year®. More than 37% of all winners are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. “In the past five years the competition awarded eight black entrepreneurs and seven female entrepreneurs, which clearly shows that there has been a positive improvement in the success of female and previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the country,” adds Botes.

Botes says that it is also interesting to note the regional demographics of the overall winners over the years. “The entrepreneurs are relatively evenly split between the provinces, indicating thriving business throughout the country and that there isn’t necessarily a benefit to those that operate in South Africa’s main large metropolitan areas.”

He says that the competition’s judging panel looks forward to ‘unearthing’ the next group of entrepreneurial talent in 2015. “In particular we will continue to share the inspirational stories of the entrepreneurs, not only to acknowledge their feats and role in uplifting South Africa’s economy but also to inspire others to follow in their footsteps,” concludes Botes.

The 2015 entries will open in February 2015. For more information, please visit