Mutual benefits for businesses adopting green alternatives


Due to the growing pressures of climate change on a global scale, consumers are increasingly becoming more knowledgeable about their impact on the environment, due to initiatives such as Earth Day, celebrated worldwide annually on the 22 April. This has also led to an increase in the demand for businesses that supply environmentally-friendly products and services.

This is according to Christo Botes, spokesperson for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that there has been a gradual growth in the number of South Africa entrepreneurs creating eco-friendly service-focused businesses.

“This trend could mainly be ascribed to consumer demand, especially the more sophisticated and demanding consumer, and the entrepreneurial trait of always looking out for new opportunities of carving out a niche market for him or herself and be the “first mover” when it comes to new product lines and/or alternatives.”

A recent BBMG Conscious Consumer Report revealed that nearly nine in 10 Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well and that 87% of respondents are more likely to buy from companies that are committed to environmentally-friendly practices.

Botes says that this change in consumer behavior is also gaining momentum in South Africa and provides a gap in the market for local entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to not only make a difference in the environment in which they operate, but to also ensure they remain competitive and current. “Many consumers are looking for ways to minimise their impact on the environment and as a result, ‘going green’ is increasingly being regarded as an attractive business strategy.”

One such entrepreneur who noticed this gap is Warren Graver, founder and director of Envirodeck, who saw an opportunity to providing an alternative to timber in the decking sector.

Graver says that the growth of green products in this industry has been phenomenal, not only in international markets, but also increasingly in South Africa. “Nowadays there are opportunities for business owners to capitalise on in terms of implementing more sustainable products and practices for their customers.

“Business owners need to continually look at sustainable products and practices to remain competitive. For example, in the market that I operate in, there is a huge drive coming from architects and designers who are designing full green projects in line with international trends, and those companies who have not recognised the trend of sustainable practices are frequently losing market share to innovative green product offerings.”

Graver says that the concept of green decking versus traditional timber was an easy business decision for him but that the company initially felt resistance from the industry who were reluctant to change practices due to a lack of awareness around the benefits of such green alternatives.

“Through intense research and product sourcing, it revealed how timber is fast becoming unsustainable, unmaintainable and ultimately expensive due to unjustifiable costs to maintain. But although I noticed a considerable gap in the market for a smarter option, it proved extremely tough to penetrate a market when no one had ever seen or heard of such innovative products.”

He adds that while eco-friendly products have now become the buzzword amongst South Africans and that the demand for green alternatives is increasing due to consumer awareness, business owners must still be mindful to the fact that the market might be hesitant to initially switch from their original purchase.

“It is imperative that green alternatives introduced remain competitive against the traditional markets. While customers want to be more environmentally friendly, the industry is still price sensitive compared to the traditional industry and a consumer will likely only select a green product if it provides a cost saving to the consumer.

“Our products, for example, are not only manufactured with recycled material, thereby providing sustainable benefits to climate change, but they also don’t have to be maintained which provides a cost saving throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

Botes says that while the trend of living a more eco-friendly existence is on the increase, it is still crucial for businesses to do sufficient research when entering a new market. “While entrepreneurs usually identify a problem or gap in the market where they are able to offer an alternate solution, it is crucial to ensure that this solution is integrated into a business plan that promotes the concept effectively and efficiently to the correct market.”

Our 2012 winners share the benefits of entering the competition

The 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition is officially open for entries! We asked our 2012 winners about the various benefits that they have seen as a result of the competition thus far, as well as their advice for potential entrants.

William Duk of The Plantation Shutter Co: Overall Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winner

“Although I think it is still too early to measure the precise financial impact, but the positive media exposure that we obtained following winning the award, is beyond comprehension. Over time, this in turn translates into a significant positive financial impact. No marketing budget could ever be big enough to purchase the level of exposure that has been generated. I feel that we could relate to someone coming from relative obscurity and winning an Olympic Gold.

Winning the award is the best possible public acknowledgement that an entrepreneur and his or her business can receive for all the effort and hard work that goes into building a business. For me, the award is not about “me”, but rather about every single person in the business that has contributed during our journey thus far. The resulting energy can definitely be felt in the business.”

Tabisa Nomnganga of Bravo Promotions: Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year

“To be awarded the Emerging Entrepreneur Award in 2012 has increased my confidence, as well as my client base. Since winning the award in September my bottom line profits have definitely increased by over 40% from the previous financial year, and the publicity I received provided me with a platform to let the people know I have a worthy business. I would definitely encourage entrepreneurs to enter the competition in order to see how their business ideas fare in front of the experts.”

Madelé Ferreira of Mooihoek Boerdery: Job Creator of the Year

“The prize money that I received has made it possible for me to plan a trip to California in order to visit research facilities where new plant materials and new strawberry cultivars are being developed. The award has also boosted the professional relationship between Mooihoek Boerdery and the various chain store groups that we supply to. In addition, the award has lead to recognition in the form of an award by the Kouga Municipality (Eastern Cape) Business Chamber.

This award boosted the faith that I have in myself. I could never have imagined that one day my business and I would win such an award, or grow to be such a successful enterprise.”

Stuart Forrest of Triggerfish Animation Studios: Innovator of the Year

“Triggerfish had been operating under the radar for many years, and our focus had been on our projects – not on our business. We decided that the company needed to raise its profile, so entering the competition was a great opportunity to do that. We were beginning to talk to funding partners and strategic partners, and we needed to expand our network and increase our credibility.

Winning the Innovator of the Year was perfect, because we were looking for partners who were attracted to innovation. It’s been very helpful to say at the bottom of our introductory email to potential clients that we were chosen as Innovator of the Year by prestigious brands such as Sanlam and Business Partners. It means that there has been a certain level of analysis performed and we have been recognised as a valuable company.”

Trevor Davids of Trevor Davids Plumbing: Medium Entrepreneur of the Year

“Winning the 2012 Medium Business Entrepreneur award was an awesome experience, which drew a positive response from all of our clients. I advise 2013 participants to remain positive no matter the difficulties they may face. Considering the current economic climate, they should be proud that they have been considered, as this is an achievement in itself.”

Warren Graver of Envirodeck: Small Entrepreneur of the Year

“Winning Entrepreneur of the Year® has benefitted Envirodeck tremendously due to increased mainstream publicity – which often proves unaffordable for a small business. In addition, the networking opportunities that the competition provides has also helped me make better business decisions, due to sound advice that I have received from successful entrepreneurs.

A 2013 entrant should have a strong understanding of how marketing and finance combine to make a successful business. This needs to be conveyed in an overall business plan that is simple for the judges to understand. Remember that simplicity in presentation is key and that key facts should be elaborated on in order make your business stand out.”

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.

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.

Making eco-friendly an award winning idea


Green businessman claims small business entrepreneur of the year® award

Warren Graver, founder and director of Envirodeck, an industry leader in environmentally conscious and sustainable decking products, was awarded the 2012 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® title in the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® Competition.

This year’s competition saw 12 finalists qualify for the 2012 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® category, which celebrates entrepreneurs who, irrespective of the duration the business has been active, posted a business turnover of R20 million or less in the 2011 tax year.

Due to the increasing demand on natural resources and the growing awareness to safely dispose of or re-use non-biodegradable waste, Warren saw an opportunity in the market for a practical alternative solution to timber in the decking sector.

Fast forward eight years and today Envirodeck supplies environmentally sustainable decking and finishing products, as well as tangible solutions for customers across South Africa and Namibia. As a result of the phenomenal market growth in Southern Africa, Envirodeck is now also expanding into Angola, Botswana, Nigeria and Mozambique over the next five years.

Warren attributes his entrepreneurial success to intense research and product sourcing. He says that research continues to fuel the business as innovative technology is constantly growing and evolving within the industry. Another one of Envirodeck’s strengths is partnering with like-minded and professional business partners who share the same passion and energy for the industry.

According to Dr Kerrin Myres, a member of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel, Envirodeck stood out amongst the other finalists for many reasons. “Warren is riding the wave of the green movement in South Africa, something that only a handful of entrepreneurs are doing right now. Using a high quality raw material, he creates original outdoor products with flair and great design. Envirodeck is a business with a great future.”

For more information on Envirodeck, please visit their website