Entering awards best promotional tool available to SA’s entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs in South Africa often struggle to generate a credible reputation in a turbulent sea of competition, which often consists of large market players. Local entrepreneurs are also generally financially limited and unable to utilise traditional promotional tactics and national-scale advertising campaigns.

Through entering competitions and awards, entrepreneurs are often able to overcome these challenges as these platforms are not only cost-effective, but if successful, can have a significant effect on the brand reputation and bottom line of a new company.

This is according to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards, who believes that South African entrepreneurs need to utilise every available business resource and opportunity that presents itself.

“In our country’s rapidly growing and highly competitive SME market, entrepreneurs are already facing a wide variety of challenges, while having to compete with the big market players of their respective industries. Entrepreneurs also face financial restrictions in attempting to promote their business and diversify themselves in a usually over-crowded market space,” says Naidoo.

“The benefits gained, as a finalist in the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of The Year ® competition, have been absolutely invaluable,” says Elian Wiener, the founder and MD of national strategic communications and PR agency, Epic Communications, and winner of the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 and Innovator of the Year 2011 titles last year.

“My participation in the competition has been instrumental in fuelling new business growth for Epic Communications. As a direct result of the contacts made and the exposure gained from the competition, we have secured new business worth more than R1 million per year in revenue.”

These sentiments are echoed by Marc Sternberg, MD of independent ATM deployer Spark ATM Systems, who says he has recorded improved business performance since winning the 2011 Overall Entrepreneur of the Year® award. “The acknowledgement that winning the award gave us has undoubtedly allowed us to accelerate our continued growth path through various new and exciting business opportunities. Our growth rate has actually accelerated this year to over 60% year-on-year in our core areas of ATM deployment and transaction fee income.”

Naidoo firmly believes that industry awards, such as the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards, are one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways for entrepreneurs to stand out from their competitors. “Entering competitions also allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to earn a credible corporate reputation or image, which can potentially be magnified by mass media exposure.

“Intangible assets, such as an excellent corporate reputation, can be used as a valuable promotional tool by entrepreneurs and, since it cannot be replicated by competitors, provides them with a sustainable competitive advantage over their competitors, which then translates into superior financial returns in the long run.”

The Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition is widely considered to be the pre-eminent competition of its kind in South Africa and has served as a springboard for past finalists and winners. Besides the chance to win prizes worth a total value of R1 345 000, which includes cash prizes of R200 000, finalists and winners are able to expand their networks and receive invaluable exposure for their businesses.

“The staggering rise in unemployment levels and a tightening squeeze in the formal employment market has resulted in job seekers and government turning their attention towards creating jobs in the SME and entrepreneurial sector of the economy.

“Government’s 2030 objectives state that 90% of all jobs created should be in the SME space and any platform established to recognise leading entrepreneurs, as well as educate prospective entrants to this sector are crucial in helping to reach this goal,” concludes Naidoo.

Competition catapults 2011 winner to further business success

2011 winner Marc Sternberg

The 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition acts as a catapult, driving growth, boosting self-confidence and improving internal efficiency for participating entrepreneurs and their businesses. However, the competition also aims to play a larger role in elevating the standard of entrepreneurial activity in South Africa, as well as fostering a national entrepreneurial spirit that directly translates into job creation.

The winner of the 2011 Overall Entrepreneur of the Year® award, Marc Sternberg, is the Managing Director of Spark ATM Systems, the leading independent Automated Teller Machine (ATM) deployer in South Africa. He says participating in the competition last year had myriad benefits for him personally, as well as for his company.

“To be recognised as a young and successful company has boosted the confidence of the staff tremendously and has also filtered into direct positive business results,” says Sternberg.

“Winning the competition has not only provided our company with a massive boost in confidence, but it has also greatly improved our brand’s credibility among existing and potential clients.” Sternberg also views the competition as an important networking opportunity to engage with like-minded entrepreneurs. “As a result of the award I was also able to network with other entrepreneurs and business innovators, sharing ideas and experiences that have allowed me to form new business and personal relationships”.

He highly recommends fellow entrepreneurs to enter the 2012 competition. “The process provides your company and its executive team an opportunity to use the competition as a benchmark to measure your business’s progress. It actually allowed us to conduct an internal audit of our business operations and sparked necessary improvements in our business processes”.

The competition also struck a personal chord with Sternberg. “Being a recipient of the 2011 award has ignited a personal interest in mentoring new and upcoming entrepreneurs. I’ve also learnt of the invaluable worth that entrepreneurship adds to the economy and of the huge dent it potentially can make in South Africa’s dire unemployment problem. Initiatives such as the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition are absolutely imperative to nurturing the social and economic well-being of South Africa.”