The era of entrepreneurial excellence

New Entrepreneur of the Year competition launches

It is easy to call someone a great entrepreneur during the good times. But how do you define a great entrepreneur during the bad times?

Is it the business owner whose business grew during a recession or is it the small business owner that took charge of a difficult situation and applied him or herself to ensure that the business survived?

Entrepreneurship means finding new ways to overcome difficult situations; to find the answers that elude most people.

Entrepreneurship means taking the difficult and usually lonely route outside of a set business environment. You do not have a boss and there is no one who makes the rules for you.

You, as the business’ owner and as an entrepreneur have to decide what will work and what will not. When you make a mistake, there is no one else to blame.

It is these people that Business Partners and Sanlam’s Entrepreneur of the Year award will honour – the self made men and women who have sleepless nights and strive for financial freedom through blood, sweat and tears.

2010 sees a dramatic change to the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year awards as the competition is opened up to all entrepreneurs in South Africa.

Changes to EOY

The award was initiated in 1989 to give recognition to the vision, innovation, perseverance, drive and commitment of the individuals who run successful small and medium enterprises.

As a private small and medium enterprise (SME) financier, Business Partners, believes it is necessary to place the spotlight on those who are responsible for between 35% and 50% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. These business owners not only employ half of the country’s labour force, but also ensure that the economy keeps growing.

In partnership with Sanlam, the competition will now be open to SME decision makers throughout the country.

There are also three new award categories this year an Emerging Entrepreneur (business younger than three years old), a Small Business Entrepreneur (turnover up to R20 million) and a Medium Business Entrepreneur (turnover greater than R20 million) will each be crowned.

The grand title is obviously the Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 and the overall prize is not to be missed: R100 000 in cash, the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive exposure in the public domain to get the sales rolling in.

The voice of SMEs

While the prizes on offer are enough to wet any entrepreneur’s appetite, Business Partners and Sanlam’s Entrepreneur of the Year will attempt to make a difference in every SME’s life in the country.

During the course of 2010, the project will host an extensive series of SME-focussed seminars and workshops around the country.

This will culminate in a SME conference in October where SME decision makers will be able to voice their opinion of the operating environment presented in South Africa and the challenges faced.

The seminars, workshops and conference will focus on areas such as financial planning, financial fitness assessment, business opportunities and advice and access to finance. Information on legal developments and changes to the regulatory environment will also be shared with delegates.

Furthermore, Business Partners and Sanlam’s Entrepreneur of the Year project will interact directly with public sector officials to ensure that the SME voice is heard in the highest offices.

Information gathered from SME decision makers regarding the regulatory system in South Africa will be shared with these senior government officials, promoting the development of entrepreneurship and small business development in the country.

Time for change

Business Partners’ Managing Director, Nazeem Martin, explains that the competition is not just about crowning the most inspiring entrepreneur in South Africa, but to develop and foster entrepreneurial development.

“Small and medium sized enterprises are both the fulcrum and the life blood of any country’s economy, contributing between 30% and 50% of GDP, employing more than 60% of our labour force and accounting for more than 65% of new jobs created.

“Celebrating entrepreneurs means we are holding them up as role models – people who create wealth for themselves and jobs for many.

“Hopefully we can increase the incidence of entrepreneurship in South Africa to levels more in keeping with what’s happening in the rest of the world and so improve our country’s ability to compete globally.” Martin says.

Jan Steenkamp, Sanlam Cobalt’s Executive Head, echoes this, saying celebrating entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit will act as an inspiration to others who have not yet made the leap into the small business environment.

“We also want to ensure that the competition will be a national platform that brings real value to small business owners in their own businesses and the larger operating environment,” he adds.

“Through the competition and its workshops and seminars, we will create a platform for entrepreneurs to interact with their counterparts and be heard nationally. The SME space is often very lonely and the lessons learnt by these business owners over the years need to be shared.”

Steenkamp says it only makes sense that Sanlam and Business Partners, as experts in the SME space, host the flagship competition.

“The media’s spotlight seldom shines on entrepreneurs, especially small business owners. But, it is these SME entrepreneurs who often have to overcome insurmountable obstacles to establish and attain success in their businesses.” Martin says.

“At Business Partners, we believe that entrepreneurs are the true heroes of the South African, and indeed world’s, economic society.”