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:

Building a business from the inside out

Nowadays, brands spend so much money on marketing and advertising but often forget about the employed workforce who have to implement what is communicated to the outside world. This is according to creative strategist, Lindy Scott, who is the Managing Director and founder of Conceptual Eyes – a Gauteng-based creative agency specialising in corporate internal communication.  

Identified as one of the top 40 women in the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) industry, 29-year-old Scott, who has a background in Fine Art, Digital Marketing, Strategy and international teambuilding experience, says that Conceptual Eyes designs and implements business content throughout an organisation.

“We focus on ensuring that the entire team is aligned with the company strategy, as well as preparing  employees on what to expect and deliver, and that they have a full understanding of what the business objectives are. This is achieved through visual tactics and strategy workshops with employees, who then build the business outwards.”

Through this process, Scott says that employees often have the solutions to problems currently plaguing a business. “Internal staff will often recognise and wrestle with potential issues long before senior personnel are aware of them. By creating a platform for discussion, we allow employees at all levels to share their insight, which often results in the implementation of simple, yet practical solutions. The value of this cannot be emphasised enough.”

Furthermore, the agency inspires creativity, promotes healthy internal communication, and helps to create a positive organisational culture. “Conceptual Eyes is lean, fast and able to draw creativity out of both employees and stakeholders. By investing in each individual, businesses will reap tremendous and often surprising rewards. Anyone can be creative, even if they are not artistic.”

To date, Conceptual Eyes has secured an impressive client list, including large mining companies, a variety of large corporations in the financial sector and the Glasgow Caledonian University, amongst others.

Scott’s vision for the business is to create a global footprint and add value to every delegate they engage with. “Conceptual Eyes is planning on opening a division in the UK in 2017 and have recently launched the Conceptual Eyes Creative Academy – a 360 degrees approach to strategic thinking – which we’ve based off of the business’ very own methodology. With this, we hope to continue empowering our clients and their employees to be more creative, designing and facilitating the process of creativity for the business.”

Lindy Scott is a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on her business, please visit the Conceptual Eyes website:

Family ties that bind businesses

Tamsyn Ferreira, 2015 Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® entrant and owner of Alifurn Outdoor Living – a family owned and run outdoor furniture business – started her business five years ago from humble beginnings in a garage. Since then Alifurn Outdoor Living has grown leaps and bounds, and has firmly established itself as an innovative and reliable partner in the leisure furniture sector.

Tamsyn qualified as a Financial Manager in 2004, and followed the trend of the time by travelling to the UK with her then boyfriend (now husband), Wayne, after successfully applying for a two year work/travel visa. “After a six month contract at Shell Oil’s Treasury Centre, I was offered a permanent position, which extended our stay in the UK for four years. Despite the amazing experience that the position offered, I knew that South Africa was where our hearts were, and having both grown up in Ballito, we wanted our children to have similar happy childhoods that we were afforded,” says Tamsyn.

Three years later Tamsyn was married, working at a large corporate in South Africa and starting her own family. It was during this time that she realised that she craved independence and the freedom to raise her children on her own terms whilst still forging a career for herself. Her father, Gary, then offered her the ‘terrifying’ opportunity of being her own boss after spotting an opportunity in the form of a struggling furniture manufacturing business that was being operated from a garage.

“I had no manufacturing, nor furniture-making experience, but with my business background, and my father’s vast clothing manufacturing knowledge, we decided to purchase the business. I wanted to support my family, but also wanted to create opportunities for those in our community who had no access to training and give them the same opportunity I was looking for – the opportunity to give their children a brighter future,” says Tamsyn.

Since 2011 Tamsyn has poured her heart, mind and soul into building Alifurn, with the continued support and input from her father. “We have grown from five employees in a tiny garage to a large factory run business which employs 20 people.”

Tamsyn says that she wears many hats in the business as she juggles the sales, human resources, marketing, accounting, as well as the administrative functions. She is quick to add that whilst this has been a huge undertaking, she has enjoyed putting into practice what she learnt from her B.Com (Financial Management) degree, as well as learning about manufacturing and running a business.

Alifurn is committed to being proudly South African and therefore only makes use of locally produced materials to create quality products. “My aim is to meet the needs of my customers in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally viable. Job-creation and community development are also top of our priority list, and we strive to develop employee skills through training programmes so that they are equipped for other opportunities that arise.”

When asked how she succeeded in growing the business, Tamsyn says that the task wasn’t easy, as the business hasn’t always had the positive reputation it has now, and therefore relied heavily on word of mouth marketing tactics and client referrals. “Excellent customer service and astounding quality will result in a favourable reputation with your clients. The time, effort and pride that each employee puts into every aspect of Alifurn shines through to the customer with every interaction.”

Tamsyn explains that the greatest challenge the business faces is seasonality, due to the nature of the products at Alifurn. “Such products are subject to inconsistent trade during the winter months, forcing us to re-strategise and look to other markets where seasonality isn’t such an impact, such as interior decorators the hospitality sector.

“Growing a business in a global recession, amongst industrial strikes and national electricity shortages has also forced us to be strategic. Although the recession meant tighter budgets for everyone, homeowners and the hospitality industry alike, I refused to compromise on quality or my core values in a bid to cut prices.”

Tamsyn advises that business owners should seek advice from a mentor at the beginning of any venture as the journey can be a rollercoaster of emotions. “Networking with like-minded people and taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge that people around you possess will ultimately lead to success.”

Looking to the future, Tamsyn hopes to grow her business’ knowledge by being exposed to like-minded entrepreneurs, such as past winners of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition. She also wishes to use the competition as a platform in which to grow Alifurn further, which will enable her to employ more staff.

Separating the boys from the women

Malani Padayachee, MPA Consulting, 2011 finalist

Juggling three kids and a very successful company takes perseverance, stamina and an innovative mindset – characteristics that 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year® Awards finalist, Malani Padayachee-Saman, possesses all too well. Being at the helm of MPA Consulting Engineers and having majority women equity shareholding in a very male dominated sector, is what she believes makes her company unique.

Established on 1 July 1997 and situated in Randburg, Gauteng, with a satellite office in Middleburg, MPA Consulting Engineers was the first organisation with a majority women equity ownership to be registered with the Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) in 1998, and is currently only 1 of 2 such organisations registered with CESA. Providing consulting civil and structural engineering services to both public and private sector clients, the company has the expertise and knowledge to run with projects from feasibility all the way through to implementation.

After graduating with a BSc Civil Engineering from the University of Durban-Westville (1991), and later with a diploma in Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand (1998), Malani was employed by a consulting engineering practice firm where she worked for five years.

“Thereafter I received a scholarship from the British Trade and Industry and was placed with a consulting engineering practice in the UK for a year,” she recalls.

“It was during this period that I discovered just how competent South African Engineers are and was inspired to write a business plan, which I simply rolled out on my return to the country.”

Having worked abroad and after gaining her professional registration (Pr Eng – Registered Professional Engineer), Malani decided it was time to take the leap toward entrepreneurship.

The feminine touch

MPA Consulting Engineers believes that it is adequately placed to function as role models to other females who want to enter the engineering sector.

“We have already been instrumental in developing two other females within the sector who currently run very successful businesses,” Malani continues.

“While we are a small company, employing 30 individuals (most of whom are professionals), we participate in all areas of civil and structural engineering services thereby offering clients a one-stop service. In addition, we are instrumental on structured joint venture arrangements, working on large-scale projects. Assuring that our clients receive nothing less than service excellence is what makes us a cut above the rest.”

Engineering is a scarce profession in South Africa yet engineers are crucial in ensuring a country’s development. Malani says it is imperative that more young people are encouraged to select engineering as a preferred career path and, more importantly, consulting engineering is appropriately suited to women as they possess a number of inherent qualities and abilities that assist in rendering a good project.

“This career path does require perseverance and dedication, and ensuring that you surround yourself with good mentors who add value to your business.”

And, she adds, never compromise on IT.

“I see employment creation and participation of women in the construction sector as a key focus area and as an organisation, I believe that we have an important role to play in moving our country forward in both these areas and become leaders not only locally but also across the African continent.”

A balancing act

Malani is married with three children – a 13-year-old and a set of twins (10-year-old). Running a family alone isn’t easy but she owes the success of both her business and personal life to a good support system.

“I am a believer that true success is not measured by how successful you are but more so by how successful your children become. I would like to believe that one day, as a result of my influence on work ethics and social interactions, etc, that I will stand a proud parent.”

It is difficult achieving a work-life balance but Malani ensures that she prioritises her time efficiently. It also helps, she says, to ensure that all the necessary support structures are in place.

“I also find that as a working mother you become very innovative in your home environment, and often find time-saving mechanisms for simple everyday tasks.”

A member of the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE), SABTACO, Business Women’s Association (BWA), and Women in Finance (WIF); as well as serving on a number of councils such as the Engineering Council of SA (ECSA), CESA, and the SA Society of Trenchless Technology (SASTT), Malani is more than just a successful entrepreneur – she is a female force to be reckoned with!