Holistic funeral service provider named Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®

Nomfundo Mcoyi, ex-educator and now managing director of KwaZulu-Natal-based business – Icebolethu Group – was named the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® at the annual entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS awards ceremony, held on 6 September 2017 in Johannesburg.

Established as a funeral parlour named Icebolethu Funerals in 2009, with a complement of just five staff members, the business has evolved into a prominent funeral services conglomerate with around 300 employees. 

Today, the company consists of seven divisions offering an all-encompassing funeral service operating under the umbrella of Icebolethu Group and boasting 43 branches in and around KwaZulu-Natal, as well as a branch in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Considering that the funeral business is a highly competitive industry, especially in the South African small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, Mcoyi stood out to the competition’s judging panel by managing to yield tremendous growth for her business by capitalising on the already ripe market and providing a customer-centric service, while still demonstrating dignity and care to her community. “Mcoyi truly understands the market and their needs, and this has provided her with a competitive advantage over many other small firms in the industry,” the judges add.

Discussing why she believes her business is worthy of this prestigious award, Mcoyi recalls her humble beginnings after taking the decision to quit her job as an educator and start her catering business, only to be left with nothing following her divorce in 2009. In order to provide for her children, she then started a small funeral parlour based in the township of Hammersdale, KwaZulu-Natal.

In less than a decade, she has grown this one small parlour into the network it is today. “This was done by offering more than just a funeral policy to our clients,” explains Mcoyi. “Unlike most other providers in the country, we grew Icebolethu Funerals into a one-stop-shop offering clients everything from funeral services, to catering and tombstones.”

Mcoyi also attributes her business’ success to its rigorous marketing and advertising strategy that is designed to tap in to the needs of the community. “Our unique branding, combined with consistently providing an excellent service offering, has resulted in us capturing a large portion of a highly competitive South African market,” Mcoyi added.

When asked about her future plans following winning the 2017 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title, Mcoyi says that she plans to expand her business further throughout South Africa, starting with Cape Town.

For more information on Icebolethu Group, please visit the website: icebolethugroup.co.za

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: icebolethugroup.co.za

Local entrepreneurs to grab ecommerce opportunities

Technological advancements have changed the way in which the South African business landscape operates, and this is increasingly leading to many opportunities for local entrepreneurs and businesses.

One such advancement stemming from the evolution of the internet is the rise of eCommerce – a platform used to market, promote, sell and buy goods and services online. Christo Botes of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition says that with this sector experiencing rapid growth both locally and globally, South African entrepreneurs have a chance to capitalise on the opportunities which will arise, as the industry is still in its infancy on the African continent.

Botes says that the eCommerce sector in South Africa accounts for a very small percentage of the retail industry, and overall GDP contribution, when compared to developed markets. He points to a report1 by McKinsey & Company which states that Africa’s iGDP, the measure of the Internet’s contribution to overall GDP, remains low at 1.1%. South Africa reported 1.4%, which is significantly below that of global players such as the United Kingdom (5.4%), the United States (3.8%) and China (2.6%).

The rise in access to internet and mobile services, coupled with a growing middle class, will however see South Africa’s eCommerce figures rise in years to come. Earlier this year Google South Africa stated that the country’s eCommerce industry is expected to continue its growth in 2015, having seen a 37% increase in query volumes during 2014. The McKinsey & Company report also recently revealed that eCommerce could account for 10% of retail sales in Africa’s largest economies by 2025.

With the future of eCommerce looking bright in South Africa, local entrepreneurs should seek to establish themselves online, says Botes. “While business-to-consumer transactions are growing rapidly, with South Africans increasingly turning to online platforms to purchase goods and services, the growth of online business-to-business (B2B) transactions offers major opportunities for entrepreneurs as customers increasingly seek business services online.

“New online ventures offer a relatively low barrier to entry, and entrepreneurs can establish themselves on a playing field with larger competitors as in many cases the customer isn’t able to tell the difference between a small and large company,” says Botes.

Highlighting the rising opportunities for smaller players, PayGate CEO, Peter Harvey, revealed that five years ago the company would upload 10 start-ups onto its payment gateway for every established business, but that the ratio is currently 100:1.

Botes says that opportunities are abound for local businesses. “The rise of eCommerce includes various opportunities for small businesses ranging customer services, technical support or security and payment offerings for businesses e-platforms. It isn’t just limited to the selling of goods or e-tailing, and entrepreneurs should think out of the box when considering potential business ideas.”

While the eCommerce phenomenon offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to establish a business in this flourishing market, Botes says that entrepreneurs with an established business should also be looking at growing their online presence if they have not already done so.

“Entrepreneurs also need to adapt the way in which they communicate with their customers. Having an online presence has the ability to positively impact marketing and sales efforts, and entrepreneurs should be embracing these channels to discover how the Internet can transform and grow their businesses. A local bakery, for example, who may be predominately servicing its surrounding community, could expand its customer base across the city by introducing an online platform for their business in the form of social media platforms or a website.

“The development of a business website is no longer an expensive cost to the business, but instead can be designed affordably with easy to use, do-it-yourself website builders such as Woza and WordPress.”

He adds that it is important for entrepreneurs to gauge where their traffic is coming from, and what is the best platform to reach their target audience is. “Entrepreneurs need to ensure their communication channels are matched to their audience’s preferences, as there isn’t a one size fits all approach to online channels,” concludes Botes.