Past winner catch-up – where are they now?

2018 marks our 30th year in honouring entrepreneurs and the contributions they make toward growing the South African economy. We’re celebrating by catching up with some of the past winners of the competition.

Catching up with: Mpodumo Doubada
Winning year: Innovator of the Year® – 2017

Winning business: Pimp my Book is a successful chain of campus stores across the country, founded on the simple premise of buying and selling used textbooks. After earning his first 10% commission on the sale of his friends’ textbooks, founder, Mpodumo Doubada, quickly saw the opportunity to create a one-stop platform where students could sell their used textbooks for cash, as well as purchase the books they need.

It’s been almost a year since you won the Innovator of the Year title in 2017, how has business been since then?

Over the last few months, business has been very good. We do operate a seasonal business, but even taking this into account, we experienced a bumper season. We have since signed two big clients – bringing in an additional 800 students to our direct market.

The direct spin-off from the EOY competition has also been amazing to watch.  We’ve seen a far more positive reception from various universities and corporates – who have now heard about us through the media and are a little more open to trying our innovative approach.

Have you made any new developments in your business since winning?

At the time of our win, our tech division was relatively new. It has now been rolled out across all our stores and is bringing in more and more business. We have seen a significant increase in laptop sales in the Cape Town area alone. 

Also new, is our new Hatfield store in Pretoria – targeting students of the University of Pretoria and UNISA.

We are also working on an exciting new project for an international market – and we will share more details about this in due course.

On a personal note, I was very fortunate to be selected as a finalist in the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative. In June, I will join the other candidates from Sub Saharan Africa as we travel to the United States to learn from our American peers – with the aim to bring leadership skills back to Africa. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your stint in the EOY competition?

I’d never seen myself as an “innovator”. Whenever I think of the term, I always think of high tech or new inventions. The competition showed me that in fact, innovation is just about doing things differently. If you change the way something has traditionally been done to solve a problem – then you are an innovator. This was a big eye-opener for me.

One of the toughest things to face during the competition, was the questions posed by the judges. Their questions required a fair amount of self-evaluation. Up until this point, I didn’t recognise the full impact of what we do – until others told me what a great job we were doing. The process really opened my mind to see the changes we make to the communities we serve.

What would your top piece of advice be for anyone looking to enter this year’s competition?

Be authentic about yourself and your business. You need to you know your business and industry inside and out as the judges will interrogate this at a deeper level than you ever have – so you need to be prepared to do the same in preparation.

Above all – let your passion shine through anything you prepare.