2012 winner, William Duk, takes his business to new heights


In light of the recent launch of the 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which aims to honour, benefit and uplift local entrepreneurs, William Duk of Plantation Shutters and overall 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year, shares his experiences and discusses how his participation in the competition is still having a positive impact on his business.

Duk says that winning the award was a very powerful affirmation and acknowledgement of all the hard work that everyone in the business had put it over the six year period since reviving Plantation Shutters. “There was an extra degree of pride or confidence that suddenly everybody had, based on the credibility that something like this award brings. This, for me, was and has been the most significant aspect of the award.”

Duk’s entrepreneurial success began with a classic stroke of luck. He was in the process of purchasing an industrial building just outside of Cape Town when he stumbled upon a small bankrupt company operating within the premises, and in the spur of the moment, made the decision to take over the business.

Within five years of purchasing Plantation Shutters, a business that designs, manufactures and installs adjustable window and door shutters, Duk doubled the work force and increased its turnover tenfold. The various positive spin-offs from winning the competition has ensued a further 30% growth for the business in 2013, resulting in Plantation Shutters being closer to a R50 million business.

“The credibility of the award has had a positive impact in offering peace of mind to clients choosing to work with Plantation Shutters. When clients are parting with a 50% deposit for a premium product, the award further endorses their purchasing decision, which is definitely a good thing.”

He says that the publicity that the award generated for his business has also provided much more than any marketing budget could have ever achieved.

Apart from Plantation Shutters becoming a thriving business, another business opportunity presented itself to Duk a few months after the winning the competition which enabled him to maximise the mentorship programme which formed part of his prize. The mentorship opportunity enables entrepreneurs to seek valuable advice from a business leader in a similar industry in order to further develop and drive their business.

This new business opportunity presented itself when Duk was approached a couple of years earlier to assist value a business that supplies valves to the mining and related industries across Africa. While a buyer was found, this deal fell through towards the end of 2012 and presented Duk with the opportunity to purchase the business himself.

One of the hurdles to this opportunity was that the business was turning over well in excess of R100 million and the sellers wanted R35 million. “I didn’t have a cent spare cash as I was still busy paying the original founding partner in Plantation Shutters, who I bought out two years ago. I also didn’t particularly want an equity partner as that would have been a very expensive path.”

This predicament resulted in Duk contacting Business Partners Limited to claim his mentorship package, in order to obtain guidance on how best to raise capital. “While the amount needed was outside of Business Partners non-equity based lending criteria, I was put in personal contact with FNB who are very aggressive in the debt based leveraged financing space. Only 10 days later I put in an offer for R35 million which was accepted subject to due diligence, which was primarily around being able to raise the money.”

Duk says that there is no doubt that winning the award in 2012, combined with the favourable turnaround of Plantation Shutters, is what provided the credibility required to raise the cash.

With Duk’s entrepreneurial journey beginning in 2007 when he purchased Plantation Shutters, a then R3 million business, for one Rand, Duk today owns a group of companies with turnover approaching R200 million, with only organic growth and debt based financing along the way.

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.”

2013 EOY competition launches

25 years on and still committed to fostering entrepreneurship in SA

Entrepreneurship is crucial in stimulating a country’s economy, as well as fostering critical skills development and job creation. It is therefore vital that entrepreneurship is embraced and celebrated locally.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, South Africa’s pre-eminent entrepreneurial showcase, the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition has been launched, offering a free platform for the country’s leading entrepreneurs to share their achievements and elevate the profile of their businesses, as well as their profits.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager at Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year®, the competition also provides entrepreneurs with the chance to win prizes worth R 1 340 000, which includes cash prizes to the value of R300 000. “Beyond the chance to win, previous finalists and winners’ businesses have benefitted significantly from the competition’s various networking opportunities and associated marketing and national media exposure,” says Naidoo.

According to 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® overall winner, William Duk of The Plantation Shutter Co., no marketing budget could ever be big enough to purchase the level of exposure that was generated on his behalf. “The award also adds to the level of credibility that a business has in the market place.”

Tabisa Nomnganga of Bravo Promotions, one of the category winners of the 2012 competition, says that winning the Emerging Entrepreneur Award has increased her confidence as an entrepreneur as well as her client base. “Since winning the award in September, I have signed up three lucrative business deals which in total amount to over R500 000. My bottom line profits have also increased by over 40% from the previous financial year.

“In addition, I have had to increase my staff compliment and have thus created more job opportunities within my community.”

Naidoo adds that 2013 entrants will also experience a new streamlined entry and judging process. “This is to primarily ensure that entrants do not become over-burdened during the entry form completion phase and we now expect even greater interest and participation from entrepreneurs from across the country.”

She says that one of the key aims of the competition is to acknowledge successful entrepreneurs in the small and medium enterprise sector and their relentless drive to grow their businesses to keep our economy ticking. “Through this initiative we focus on celebrating entrepreneurship and promote the successes of our heroes in the SME industry.”

According to Naidoo, the competition is open to entrepreneurs from all industries and for businesses of any size. The 2013 competition will also feature a series of national workshops where crucial entrepreneurial skills will be provided to attending business owners.

Entrepreneurs interested in entering can do so here as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition social media platforms: twitter: @EOY_SA and Facebook: www.facebook.com/EOY.SA.

The closing date for the competition is 16 June 2013.

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.

Lucky chance leads to entrepreneurial success

South Africa’s top entrepreneur of 2012 revealed

In a field of 22 finalists, William Duk, owner of The Plantation Shutter Co., has been honoured with the title of the overall 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year® award in the annual Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition.

williamWilliam managed to successfully transformed The Plantation Shutter Co. – a previously bankrupt business – into a leading market player with a national footprint and healthy profits, in just over the space of five years.

According to Kobus Engelbrecht, a member of the judging panel of the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards, William illustrates the traits of a tremendously talented entrepreneur and is a worthy winner and representative of the competition. “We are very impressed with William’s achievement of transforming an insolvent business into a profitable and sustainable business. His strategy for the future, with specific reference to how he plans to harvest a different market segment, sets him apart from the rest.”

William’s entrepreneurial success began with a classic stroke of luck. He was contemplating purchasing an industrial building in Atlantis, 45km from Cape Town, and little did he know that he would come across a small bankrupt company, operating within the proposed premises. This business specialised in the design, manufacturing and installation of superior quality, custom-designed adjustable louvre window and door shutters.

In the spur of the moment, he decided to take over the debts and liabilities in exchange for a 50% share of the business. Within five years, he has managed to double The Plantation Shutter Co.’s work force and increased its turnover tenfold.

He says that effective leadership, combined with financial prowess, has helped him turn the company around and refocus the existing management to a new vision that has produced impressive achievements. He believes that it is the company’s focus on relentlessly serving their sophisticated market that is the critical factor underlying the business’s success.

For more information on The Plantation Shutter Co. visit www.plantation.co.za