Challenges that EOY winners overcame on the path to success

We chatted to the 2012 EOY winners about the various challenges they have experienced in their careers thus far:

William Duk, owner of Plantation Shutters and the overall winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition shares some of his challenges:

The biggest initial challenge that we faced was getting the momentum going again in a business that was going into liquidation. When the rescue plan was put in place there was a significant monthly cost base that needed to be covered so it was a very slow start. A key learning personally was not to get ahead of oneself and keep trying from a marketing perspective in order to measure what works and what doesn’t.

There was definitely no one big tipping point during the growth period, but rather an accumulation of small incremental steps which definitely stretches one’s patience at times, as well as one’s cash flow!

At the end of the day, whatever the challenge is, the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, so one cannot be scared of trying different things or being innovative to get around whatever the challenge is.

Tabisa Nomnganga, owner of Bravo Promotions and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® Award on her most challenging moments as an entrepreneur:

My family and friends thought that I was crazy leaving permanent employment – everyone in my circle thought it was too risky and they believed that working for a reputable company and earning a decent salary was the only way to go. For this reason, they were unable to offer me the support I needed, especially in the beginning when the business wasn’t doing so well.

Another challenge I faced was after I had recruited qualified personnel to work with me, I still couldn’t delegate tasks appropriately as I didn’t have enough confidence in them. At that stage I wanted to handle all tasks myself and therefore had to learn to trust people.

Trevor Davids, owner of Trevor Davids Plumbing and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Medium Entrepreneur of the Year® Award, discusses some of the challenges he has wrestled with:

One of the biggest challenges we have faced over the past three years, since the beginning of the economic downturn, has been the cash flow restraints which the business was subjected to due to the various late and short payments that we received from clients who in the past had excellent payment records.

To overcome this challenge we had to adopt a more vigorous process regarding credit control and kept a tighter rein on expenditure within the company.

Currently, we also experience issues in the building industry when it comes to on-site theft. This problem is escalating due to the current economic climate and high unemployment rate in South Africa. To overcome this challenge we have had to tighten the control of on-site material storage areas and have employed a security company to patrol building sites as an additional security measure.

Warren Graver of EnviroDeck and winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Small Entrepreneur of the Year® Award, discusses how EnviroDeck has not always been a successful business and how he has overcome various challenges throughout the years:

Although I noticed a considerable gap in the market for sustainable green decking products (versus traditional timber products) I was very unsure about how to present the product to an existing market that I had no experience in.

The market and various market players were very reluctant to change and therefore proved extremely tough to influence as no one had ever seen or heard of such innovative products in the past.

I found myself in another challenging situation as a result of not doing sufficient supplier research. After landing the first shipment of the product, the supplier closed its doors and I was left with stock that I could not sell into our market. This error in judgement on my behalf meant that the initial start-up capital was quickly absorbed into obsolete inventory that would never be sold – even at discounted rates.

To combat these challenges I have since managed to become a business ‘all-rounder’ with the necessary entrepreneurial skills to understand the specific market that I operate in.

Stuart Forrest of Triggerfish and the winner of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Innovator of the Year® Award shares some of the challenges that he has been through:

One of the biggest challenges we faced was raising money for a long-term project that hadn’t been tested before. It took years of work to raise all the money we needed for our first animated feature film, and then nearly a year to get all the legal work together.

It was an immensely complicated process as we had partners in Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the process of coming to agreement on any single point took weeks. While this was happening we had to support around 10 staff who were on retainer, so we were raising money for that at the same time.

Then when we suddenly got the money, we had to ramp up to 80 people within a few months, which was a huge learning curve for our small studio. When you have 80 people who need to be constructively working every day, it is logistically an enormous job and mistakes are very costly.

We essentially had to manufacture 1,500 “shots”, or short three second clips that are together to tell a coherent, funny and entertaining story. Thankfully, we had the most amazing team on the planet and it turned out perfectly.

Photos: 2012 EOY winners

After months of searching and assessing, the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition winners were announced at an awards ceremony held on Thursday, 6 September 2012 in Johannesburg.

Category winners

Emerging Entrepreneur: Tabisa Nomnganga, Bravo Promotions
Small Business Entrepreneur: Warren Graver, EnviroDeck
Medium Business Entrepreneur: Trevor Davids, Trevor Davids Plumbing
Innovator of the Year: Stuart Forrest, Triggerfish Animation Studios
Job Creator of the Year: Madelé Ferreira, Mooihoek Boerdery

Overall winner

Entrepreneur of the Year® 2012: William Duk, The Plantation Shutter Co.

2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winner named


After months of searching and assessing, the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition winners were announced at an awards ceremony held on Thursday, 6 September in Johannesburg.

The overall Entrepreneur of the Year® Winner for 2012 is William Duk of The Plantation Shutter Co. (Pty) Ltd, a business that designs, manufactures and installs adjustable window and door shutters.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, William was awarded the overall title because of his hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to transform a bankrupt entity into a thriving, profitable business that services a national clientele.

The competition, widely considered to be the pre-eminent of its kind in South Africa, has served as a springboard for past finalists and winners. Nimo says that the competition aims to honour, benefit and uplift South African SMEs, as well as celebrate excellence in entrepreneurship, thus serving as an inspiration to others trying to succeed in the world of business.

Other category winners that managed to beat hundreds of other South African business owners to win awards are Tabisa Nomnganga of Bravo Promotions, who was awarded the Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award, Warren Graver of Envirodeck who took the Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award home and Trevor Davids of Trevor Davids Plumbing, who won the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award.

The Job Creator of the Year title was awarded to Madelé Ferreira of Mooihoek Boerdery and Stuart Forrest of Triggerfish Animation Studios was awarded the Innovator of the Year title.

Nimo says that all of the winners demonstrated exceptional entrepreneurial skills and submitted promising entry forms. “All of the 2012 winners were subjected to strict judging criteria to ensure that their businesses were not only sustainable, but also profitable and ethical. The winners were selected from a group of 22 finalists by the competition judges.

“By successfully uplifting local entrepreneurial role models, as the Sanlam / Business Entrepreneur of the Year® competition aims to do, South Africa will be able to build a society that celebrates entrepreneurial activity and success.

“Creating an entrepreneurial society is crucial in stimulating job creation in our country, as well as ensuring that South Africa becomes economically competitive globally,” concludes Nimo.

Staying ahead of the game proves rewarding

Western Cape plumbing business owner awarded Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award

Founder and owner of plumbing business, Trevor Davids of Trevor Davids Plumbing, was awarded the 2012 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title in the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® Competition.

trevorJudges of the competition awarded the 2012 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® to Trevor due to his vast business knowledge and his positive approach to remain at the forefront of the industry’s technological advancement which also helps him to be both more effective and efficient.

Trevor Davids Plumbing has been trading since 1993 and primarily provides a broad range plumbing services to the construction industry in the Western Cape. Over the years the business has established itself as one of the largest Level 1 BEE plumbing contractors and is a preferred service provider for many large construction companies due to its capacity, proficiency with large projects and constant high quality workmanship.

Since obtaining finance from Business Partners in 2002, Trevor has more than doubled sales and increased profits considerably and currently provides work for 140 employees.

Due to its small, cost effective infrastructure the business has managed to service both large construction companies and individual homeowners at the same time. The business has lent its services to larger organisations such as Murray & Roberts, Stefanutti Stocks, Granbuild, New Age Property Developers and many more.

According to Trevor, his success has developed as a result of building and maintaining long-term relationships with new and existing clients and due to the fact that the company strives to deliver value to clients by continuously reinvesting in the business, not only investing in the best modern equipment available, but by also ensuring that they remain at the forefront of the market.

According to Stefan Beyers, a member of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel, Trevor is a tradesman who built his business through hard work, dedication, tireless effort and continuous learning. “His sound business management skills as well as his knowledge of the industry have enabled him to develop the successful business he has today.”