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Kevin Vermaak And His (Cape) Epic Adventure

This year, for the very first time, Absa Cape Epic founder Kevin Vermaak will be a rider in the race he created 13 years ago. It’s been a gruelling journey, from R8,5 million in debt and facing certain failure, to refusing to give up and tackling challenge after challenge head on. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nadine Todd




Today the Cape Epic is the largest and most prestigious mountain biking event in the world and from where Vermaak’s standing, actually taking part in one of the world’s most physically demanding events will be a Sunday cycle in the park compared to the challenge of growing this business.

A tough start

It was 2am on an April morning in 2005. I was lying on the floor in my office, staring into a black hole of debt. Thanks to creative accounting I’d managed to pull off two successful Cape Epics, but the numbers weren’t working, and the gap was getting bigger. I was prepared to mortgage anything to make the business work, but would it be enough? A bridging loan from the IDC had helped keep my head above water, but it hadn’t solved our money problems.

There was a blip from the office PC. An email had come in. To distract myself, I sat down and started reviewing entries for the 2006 race. One of the mails was from the executive assistant to Steve Booysens, Absa’s CEO at the time. He was riding the 2006 race and was enquiring about a mobile home booking.

I saw an opportunity and responded to him personally — Hi Pierre, any chance I can speak to your boss and present for a title sponsorship? I was looking for any personal connection that could get me through the door. I currently had proposals out to eight top- 40 firms, and every one of them had closed the door in my face.

Mountain biking wasn’t yet the ‘new golf’ for corporate South Africa, and the value of the event wasn’t clear to them. But here was a rider who knew about the race, and he had the ear of the CEO. Was my luck finally changing?

Related: 6 Epic Quotes From Absa Cape Epic Founder Kevin Vermaak

Money troubles


I’d pushed so hard to get the Cape Epic off the ground, and from the outside it looked like an incredible success. In the first year we’d sold out in three days. By the second year that was down to under five hours, and by the third year we had to implement a lottery system to handle the amount of entries we received. Riders loved the race. In a short space of time it had become incredibly popular, both locally and internationally.

The problem was that the numbers weren’t working. I was hiding the truth from everyone: The riders, my staff, my suppliers. No one knew how bad things were. The riders paid their entry fees upfront, nine months before the race. They’d never trust me with their money if they knew I was using it to pay for the previous year’s race. I understood that their perception might be that the race might not take place, even though I would never, ever have let that happen.

I would have moved mountains before I cancelled a race. My staff were leaving other companies to join me, and I couldn’t let them know how risky that move had been; and many of my suppliers had agreed to three-month payment terms so that I had the next year’s entry fees in hand before I needed to pay them.

I felt like I was standing on quicksand, and I had no one to confide in. It was an incredibly lonely time in my life. I’d taken a lot of big risks to get there, but I’d built this amazing platform and I was determined to make it work.

The vision

When I first moved back to Cape Town after eight years in London I had enough saved up to support myself for the next year, and to bootstrap the business until I sold some entries. I had a lot of adventure tours and riding experience from my time in London, and I’d planned the logistics around elaborate mountain biking, climbing and extreme snowboarding trips to the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains.

I knew exactly what I wanted the Cape Epic to look like, which meant I was armed with a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the route and, most importantly, the mix of luxury and extreme physical challenge that riders would experience.

I had some great early wins. I’d reached out to a Munich-based company that organised Europe’s largest mountain bike stage race, the TransAlp, and they entered into a marketing partnership with me. I then created a local company with a similar name so that people thought the Cape Epic’s organiser was international, rather than me alone. With their help, I also managed to secure Adidas International as a sponsor, which was a major coup.

This gave me enough traction to start marketing like mad. I didn’t want to attract only the local mountain biking community. At that stage, MTB as a sport was dominated by festivals and a grungy sub-culture. My time in Europe had shown me that high LSM, A-type personalities loved adventure races and pushing themselves physically.

This was my target market: Corporate execs and business owners who had the time to train, and kept fit and healthy by running marathons and road cycling. I needed to convince them to take on the challenge of an epic mountain bike stage race.

Related: The Creative Counsel’s R1-Billion Business Deal

Off to the races


I printed fliers and set up a stand at the Argus. To this day, many riders still tell me they first heard about the Cape Epic while I was shoving a flier in their face. I connected with Club100, a road cycling club, and spread the word there as well. For the international crowd, myself, Adidas and the team in Munich managed to get a team of young black cyclists from Khayelitsha to the TransAlp. It got fantastic media coverage, and showed the European market that South Africa was a mountain biking destination.

The pro riders already knew this because they used South Africa as a training destination, but they didn’t see our country as a race destination, and I needed to attract the amateur tour riders as well. The Western Cape was an ideal destination — our time zone is the same as Europe’s, our weather’s great and the scenery is spectacular.

My marketing drive worked. I filled the 550 inaugural spots in three days once entries opened, and at R7 800 per team that meant I had just over R2 million in the bank. Once I sold the entries, I secured the three main suppliers I needed to make this work: Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, where the race would end, Imperial Logistics, whose trucks and teams would move the race village each day, and Mediclinic, the vital EMTs at the event.

Things were going great, except for two small problems. First, I needed 700 tents, and I had no idea where to find them. Second, I’d pitched the entire event on the idea of a deluxe experience. The riding would be tough, but the race village would be the lap of luxury. Now that I’d sold the tickets, I was realising that my numbers didn’t work. To provide that level of comfort, I’d actually be paying the riders to compete.

Making a dream a reality

That’s the thing about a vision that consumes you though. You’ll find a way to make it work. When I first came up with the idea of the Cape Epic, I was 30 and it was a way to spend a really cool year and create something special while I figured out what I wanted to do next.

That lasted for about three months, and then I started looking at the event like a real business — the potential to do something great and leave a legacy. I wanted to create the largest, most prestigious mountain bike stage race in the world. I accepted that this meant bumps in the road, and losing money upfront for a game-changing event down the line. If that meant ploughing money into the business now for rewards later, so be it.

To make ends meet, I came up with the idea of convincing my key suppliers to let me pay them in June, three months after the first event. I knew if the race delivered, that I’d be able to sell out again, which would mean cash to pay my suppliers. I was using the following year’s race to pay for this year’s race, and it worked — for two years. I’d increased entry numbers, but the problem with more riders is that they also come with more costs. The gap was getting bigger and without a large sponsor, I was struggling to see my way out.

Which is how I found myself on the floor of my office at 2am in the morning, looking into an abyss of debt.

I needed a blue-chip sponsor to make this work. I’d said no to a lot of smaller brands, as well as normal cycling brands. I understood that there was an opportunity cost to just taking any money that came my way.

I needed a company with a R100 million marketing budget that wanted to engage with high LSM execs and business owners, and so that’s what I’d been holding out for. The problem was that no one was biting, and I was running out of time and options. And then Pierre’s email arrived, and I had my foot in the door.

Related: David Perel Of Obox On Chasing Multiple Dream

Attracting a sponsor


Getting Absa on board wasn’t initially a game changer. It was the Corporate and Business Banking division, and it signed just five weeks before the third event. But it did introduce the bank to what I was trying to do, and laid the groundwork for a major sponsorship with Absa Group down the line, which would be the game-changer that helped the event become what it is today.

At the end of the day, Absa saw the value in the event because a few crucial individuals recognised that some of their key private clients, who were high net worth individuals, participated in the Epic. The realisation gave them insight into the kind of event I had created, who I was targeting, and who they would be engaging with through their association with the Cape Epic.

It wasn’t by chance that the people at the race were the people Absa wanted to engage with. From the beginning this had been my target market. We’d already implemented the lottery system for the third event, which meant I could also show them the calibre of people entering and how oversubscribed it was.

One of the draws for title sponsors going forward was that they would also have a number of fixed entries to the event. Nowadays, Absa virtually has its own registration office, with banking clients from around the world applying for their coveted reserved spots in the race. You can’t place a value on the engagement this gives them with their private clients for months before the race even takes place.

But back to 2006 and the third race. Getting Absa on board was a major win, but it didn’t immediately solve all of my money problems. Our third year ended up being our biggest loss. A title sponsor meant glitzy press events, PR agencies, and sponsorship agencies, all of which come with a price tag.

In fact, five events in a row made a loss. By 2008, our turnover was R22 million, but our accumulated losses amounted to R8,5 million. We even extended our bridging loan from the IDC to R5 million to ensure we had sufficient cash flow to stage the event.

But I knew we were playing a long game. We were in debt, but all lines were going in the right direction. Plus, by this stage we were so far in, the only way to get out was to make this work.

Hitting rock bottom and rising again

The fifth event in 2008 was my absolute low point. I’d spent the whole year trying to find ways to reduce our budget; it was time to start making a profit. From the outside, everything looked amazing. There were eight of us working full time on planning the race, 1 200 cyclists and we were massively oversubscribed. All of us, sponsors included, were turning people away.

I’d tried to find additional revenue streams by leveraging our assets. The idea was that we used what we had to host two additional but shorter and smaller events. It was a terrible idea. We were actually expanding from a place of weakness, which just ended up with a bigger accumulated loss. Our so-called solutions were making things worse.

At the time, my main contact at Absa, Oscar Grobler, the marketing executive at Absa Corporate and Business Bank, knew how bad things actually were, and that I needed someone to talk to. He introduced me to Neville Crosse, the youngest CEO of a JSE listed company in the 1980s and the chairman of Omnia Holdings in 2008. This was a massive shift for me. Neville becoming my mentor made a huge difference in how I viewed my business and managed my stress levels.

Related: How AutoTrader Anticipated Change

A need for change


Photo credit: Sam Clark

We spent a few months going over the business, and then in January 2009 we sat down for a massive strategy session. Something needed to change drastically if we were going to make this work, and we needed to figure out what that was.

First, we would cancel all other events. They weren’t helping; if anything they were a drain. We needed to stay focused: We’re the Cape Epic, not an event management company. Next, Neville suggested we simply increase our entry fee by at least 50%.

This had always been a sticking point for me. On the one hand, the level of luxury we offered just wasn’t covered by the entry fee. In a very real way, for five years I’d been paying the way for riders to participate. But, while the entry fee was high enough to align with a premier event, it wasn’t so high that it discouraged participants. The fact that we were oversubscribed and there was so much hype around securing an entry to the Absa Cape Epic was a massive pull for sponsors, which had always been my focus. To monetise this event I needed sponsors, not more riders.

This is where a mentor is so crucial and adds such huge value. Neville forced me to evaluate my own preconceived ideas around entry fees. The following two years we increased the price again. In 2010 we made a profit. By 2012, we were in the black. We’d paid off our debt and were now finally a sustainable, profitable business.

Leveraging the platform

This wasn’t all the result of increased prices though. Don’t get me wrong, it made a big difference, mainly because we weren’t incurring large debts anymore. But the business model had always been about monetising the event, and by 2011 this finally started coming together.

Growth was never going to be about more riders, which is the model for most amateur events around the world. More riders means more costs. We needed a way to leverage what we had without incurring more costs. The Tour de France only has 198 riders. You don’t need to be a huge event by participation numbers to be successful. You need to monetise what you have.

I’d always been aiming to create a strong media product, which is where the pro-am formula came into play. By 2011, this really started to come together and we became a live TV event.

The riders

Amateurs are the bulk of our entries. Out of 600 teams, 95% of these are amateurs. They pay the high price tag to compete, and they’re the target audience of our local sponsors, who get to engage with them for months leading up to the event. The local/international mix means that people from around the world are interested in the Epic as well, making us a mainstream brand.

The 5% pro riders are the ones that attract the media attention and give us massive sporting media value. In Europe, top mountain bikers are household names. For really great TV coverage, I needed these riders participating in my event, which is why I’d chosen March in the first place. It’s before the international world cup circuit begins, we’re in the same time zone, and it’s a great race to condition the pros for the rest of their racing season during the northern hemisphere’s summer.

It was a fine balance: Build an event that is tough, prestigious and sufficiently high profile to draw the pro riders, create amazing visuals that audiences around the world will watch, and then the MTB team sponsors will make sure that their teams are there. The Absa Cape Epic has more viewers than all six World Cup events combined, so it’s pure gold for sponsors trying to associate globally with mountain biking.

It’s taken years to achieve, but everything has come together. It was all about building a strong base though, brick by brick.

Related: The 10 Strangest Secrets About Millionaires

Next level growth

I’ve now reached a point where it’s time to step down. In the early years I played an operational role. I often worked through the night getting everything ready for the event, and then spent time with our sponsors during the race. As our team grew, some amazing people took the reigns, allowing me to step away from various aspects of the business and concentrate on our growth strategies.

My fingerprints are on everything though, and if I want to leave a legacy, if I want this brand to grow beyond me, I need to step away. An amazing CEO, Lynn Naude, who has a phenomenal track record in the South Africa sports and sponsorship industry, has taken over.

I have no plans to sell the business, and will continue to contribute creatively and in matters relating to the brand and event concept, but I’ll no longer be the face of the Absa Cape Epic. Which means that this year, for the first time, I can ride. I can experience the race as a participant. And I can’t wait.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Entrepreneur Profiles

6 Lesson Gems From Appanna Ganapathy That Helped Him Launch A High-Growth Start-Up

Twenty years after first wanting to own a business, Appanna Ganapathy launched ART Technologies, a business he aims to grow throughout Africa, starting with Kenya thanks to a recently signed deal with Seacom. As a high-growth entrepreneur with big plans, Appanna spent two decades laying the foundations of success — and now he’s starting to collect.

Nadine Todd




Vital Stats

Like many entrepreneurs before him, Appanna Ganapathy hadn’t even finished school and he was already thinking about his first business venture. A friend could secure the licensing rights to open Nando’s franchises in Mozambique, and they were very keen on the idea — which Appanna’s mom quickly dampened. “You can do whatever you want,” she said. “As long as you finish your degree first.”

Unlike many other entrepreneurs however, Appanna not only finished his degree, but realised that he had a lot of skills he needed to develop and lessons to learn before he’d be ready to launch the business he wanted.

“We launched ART Technologies just over two years ago. If I had started any earlier, I don’t think I would have been as successful as I am now,” he says.

Here are six key lessons that Appanna has learnt along his journey, which have allowed him to launch a high-growth start-up that is positioned to make an impact across Africa.

1. You don’t just need a product – you need clients as well

Business success is the ability to design and execute a great product and solution, and then be able to sell it. Without sales, there is no business. This is a lesson Appanna learnt while he was still at university.

“I was drawn to computers. I loved figuring out how they worked, playing computer games — everything about them,” he says. “My parents lived in Mozambique, and during my holidays I’d visit them and a friend who had a computer business. I helped him assemble them and thought I could do this too while I was studying. I convinced my dad to buy me a car so that I could set up my business — and never sold or assembled a single computer. I delivered pizzas instead.”

So, what went wrong? The simple truth was that at the time Appanna had the technical skills to build computers, but he lacked the ability to sell his product.

“If someone had said, ‘I’ve got an order for 30 computers’, I would have filled it — but to go out and get that order — I didn’t really even know where to start.”

2. Price and solution go hand-in-hand

As much as you need the ability to sell your solution, you also need a market that wants and needs what you’re offering, at a price point that works for everyone.

In 2007, Appanna was approached by a former supplier whom he had worked with while he was based in Mozambique. The supplier had an IT firm and he wanted to expand into South Africa. He was looking for a local partner who would purchase equity shares in the company and run the South African business.

“I loved the opportunity. This was something I could build from the ground up, in an area I understood well,” says Appanna. The firm set up and managed IT infrastructure for SMEs. The value proposition was simple: “We could offer SMEs a service that they could use for a relatively low cost, but that gave them everything an enterprise would have.”

The problem was that although Appanna and his team knew they had a great product, they were competing on price with inferior products. “If we couldn’t adequately unpack the value of our solution, an SME would choose the cheaper option. It was a big lesson for me to learn. It doesn’t matter how good the solution is that you’re offering — if it’s not at a price point that your target market accepts, they won’t choose you.”

It was this understanding that helped Appanna and his team develop the Desktop-as-a-Service solution that ART Technologies now offers the SME market.

“While I was developing the idea and the solution, I needed to take three key things into account: What do SMEs need from an IT infrastructure perspective, what is the most cost-effective way to offer them that solution, and what will the market pay (and is it enough to cover our costs and give us a small profit margin)?”

Appanna’s experience in the market had already taught him how cost-conscious SMEs are, and so he started developing a solution that could deliver value at a price point SMEs could accept. His solution? A unique Desktop-as-a-Service product that combines all the processing power and Microsoft products a business needs, without any capex outlay for servers or software.

“It’s a Cloud workstation that turns any device into a full Windows computer,” Appanna explains. “We hold the licences, and our clients just access our service. A set-up that would cost between R180 000 and R200 000 for 15 users is now available for R479 per user per month.”

It took Appanna and his partners time to build the solution, but they started with the price point in mind, which meant a solution could be designed that met their needs as well as the needs of the market.

“Too many businesses set everything up, invest in the solution, and then discover they can’t sell their product at the price point they need. My time in the market selling IT and infrastructure solutions gave me invaluable insights into what we needed to deliver on, and what we could realistically charge for our service.”

3. Get as much on-the-ground experience as you can


The time that Appanna spent building the IT firm he was a part-owner of was invaluable. “I started as a technical director before being promoted to GM and running the company for three and a half years. Those years were very, very important for me. They’re where I learnt everything about running a business.

“When I started, I was responsible for sales, but I didn’t have to actually go out and find clients, I just had to meet them, compile quotes and handle the installations. Everything I did was under the guidance of the company’s CEO, who was based in Mozambique. Being the guy who did everything was the best learning ground for me. It set me up for everything I’m doing today. In particular, I learnt how to approach and deal with people. Without people and clients your business is nothing.”

Appanna didn’t just learn by default — he actively worked to expand his understanding of all facets of the business. “At the time I wasn’t planning on leaving to launch my own business,” he says. “I was a shareholder and I wanted to grow that business. That meant understanding as much as possible about how everything worked. If there was something I wasn’t sure of — a process, the numbers, how something worked — I asked. I took personal responsibility for any errors and got involved in every aspect of the business, including areas that weren’t officially ‘my job’. I wanted to really grow and support the business.”

4. Stay focused

Interestingly, while the experience Appanna has accumulated throughout his career has allowed him to build a high-growth start-up, it also taught him the importance of not wearing too many hats as an entrepreneur.

“I’m glad I’ve had the experience of wearing multiple hats, because I’ve learnt so much, but I’ve also learnt that it’s important to pick a lane, not only in what you do as a business, but in the role you play within your business. I also race superbikes in the South African Kawasaki ZX-10 Cup; through this I have learnt how important it is to focus in the moment without distractions and this is a discipline I have brought into the business.”

“If you’re the leader of an organisation, you need to let things go. You can’t be everything to everyone. When I launched ART Technologies, I knew the key to growth would be the fact that although I’m technical, I wasn’t going to run the technical side of the business. I have strong technical partners whom I trust, and there is an escalation framework in place, from tech, to tech manager, to the CTO to me — I speak tech and I’m available, but my focus is on strategy and growth. I believe this is the biggest mistake that many start-ups make. If you’re wearing all the hats, who is looking at where you’re going? When you’re down in the trenches, doing everything, it’s impossible to see the bigger picture.”

Appanna chose his partners carefully with this goal in mind.

“All the partners play a very important role in the business. Ruaan Jacobs’s strength is in the technical expertise he brings to the business and Terry Naidoo’s strength is in the support services he provides to our clients. Terry is our technical manager. He has the most incredible relationship with our customers — everyone wants to work with Terry. But there’s a problem with that too — if we want to scale this business, Terry can’t be the technical point for all of our customers.

“As partners we have decided what our blueprint for service levels will be; this is based on the way Terry deals with clients and he is developing a technical manual that doesn’t only cover the tech side of the business, but how ART Technologies engages with its customers.

“Terry’s putting his essence down on paper — a step-by-step guide to how we do business. That’s how you build a service culture.”

5. Reputation, network and experience count

Many start-ups lack three crucial things when they launch: Their founders haven’t built up a large network, they don’t have a reputation in the market, and they lack experience. All three of these things can (and should) be addressed during start-up phase, but launching with all three can give the business a valuable boost.

Appanna learnt the value of networks at a young age. Born in India, he moved to Zambia with his family as a young child. From there he moved to Tanzania and then Mozambique, attending boarding school in Swaziland and KwaZulu Natal. At each new school, he was greeted by kids who had formed strong bonds.

“I made good friends in those years, but at each new school I recognised how important strong bonds are, particularly as the outsider.”

Appanna’s early career took him back to Mozambique, working with the UN and EY on various projects. When he moved to South Africa, as a non-citizen he connected with his old boss from the UN who offered him a position as information officer for the Regional Director’s team.

His next move would be to the tech company that he would run for just over three years — also the product of previous connections. “Who you know is important, but how you conduct yourself is even more so,” says Appanna. “If your reputation in the market place is good, people will want to do business with you.”

Appanna experienced this first hand when he left to launch his own business. “Some key clients wanted to move with me,” he says. “If I had brought them in it would have settled our business, but I said no to some key customers who hadn’t been mine. I wasn’t ethically comfortable taking them with me.”

One of those multinational clients approached Appanna again six months later, stating they were taking their business out to tender and that they were hoping ART Technologies would pitch for it. “Apart from the Desktop-as-a-Service product, we also provide managed IT services for clients, particularly larger enterprise clients. Due to the client going out on tender and requesting for us to participate, we pitched for the business and won. The relationship with this client has grown, allowing us to offer them some of our services that they are currently testing to implement throughout Africa.”

“I believe how we conduct ourselves is essential. You need your own personal code of ethics, and you need to live by it. Business — particularly in our environment — is built on trust. Our customers need to trust us with their data. Your reputation is key when it comes to trust.”

Interestingly, although Appanna and his team developed their product based on a specific price point, once that trust is built and a certain standard of service is delivered, customers will pay more.

6. Start smart and start lean

Appanna was able to launch ART Technologies with the savings he and his wife, Kate, had put aside. He reached a point where he had ideas he wanted to take to market, but he couldn’t get his current business partners to agree to them — and so setting up his own business became inevitable.

Although he was fortunate to have savings to bootstrap the business, it was essential for the business to be lean and start generating income as quickly as possible. This was achieved in a number of ways.

First, Appanna and Kate agreed on a start-up figure. They would not go beyond it. “We had a budget, and the business needed to make money before that budget was reached.” The runway Appanna gave himself was only six months — highly ambitious given the 18-month runway most start-ups need. “Other than my salary we broke even in month three, which actually extended our runway a bit,” says Appanna.

Appanna had a server that he used to start with, and purchased a second, bigger server four months later. He also launched another business one month before launching ART Technologies — ART Call Management, a virtual PA services business that needed a PABX system, some call centre technology and two employees.

“I’d been playing around with the idea for a while,” says Appanna. “We were focused on SMEs, and I started noticing other challenges they faced. A lot of entrepreneurs just have their cellphones, but they aren’t answering them as businesses — it’s not professional.

“In essence we sell minutes — for R295 you get 25 incoming calls and 50 minutes of transferred calls. We answer the phone as your receptionist, transfer calls and take messages. How you use your minutes is up to you. For example, if you supply the leads, we can cold call for you. ART Technologies uses the call management business as a reception service and to do all of our cold calling. It’s kept the business lean, but it’s also brought in an income that helped us with our runway.” In 2017 ART Call Management was selected as one of the top ten in the SAGE-702 Small Business Awards.

The only problem with almost simultaneously launching two businesses is focus. “It’s incredibly important to know where you’re putting your focus,” says Appanna. “The call management business has been essential to our overall strategy, but my focus has been pulled in different directions at times, and I need to be conscious of that. The most important thing for any start-up is to know exactly where your focus lies.”

Into Africa

Thanks to a distribution deal signed locally with First Distribution, ART Technologies was introduced to Seacom, which has available infrastructure in a data centre in Kenya.

“It’s a pay-per-client model that allows us to pay Seacom a percentage of every client we sign up,” says Appanna. “First Distribution will be our sales arm. They have a webstore and resellers, and we will be opening ART Kenya with a shareholder who knows the local market.”

From there, Appanna is looking to West Africa and Mauritius. “We have the product and the relationship with Seacom gives us the foothold we need to grow into East Africa.”

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Entrepreneur Profiles

Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

All over the world kids are abandoning the traditional notion of choosing a career to pursue until retirement. Gen Z aren’t looking to become employable job-seekers, but creative innovators as emerging business owners.

Diana Albertyn



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Do kids have an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to starting and building a company? It depends on how you look it. Juggling school, friends, family and other aspects of childhood and adolescence comes with its own requirements, but perhaps this is the best age to start.

“Being an entrepreneur means having to learn, focus, and connect to people and these are all traits that are valuable throughout life. Learning this when you are young is especially crucial, and will set you up for success and to be more open to other opportunities,” says billionaire investor, Shark Tank personality and author Mark Cuban.

Here are some of the most successful kidpreneurs who have cashed in on their hobbies, interests and needs to start and grow million dollar businesses borne from passion and innovation:

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Entrepreneur Profiles

30 Top Influential SA Business Leaders

Learn from these South African titans of industry to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey to success.

Nicole Crampton



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Entrepreneurship is said to be the answer to South Africa’s unemployment challenges and slow growth, but to foster entrepreneurship we ideally need business leaders to impact grass root efforts. Business leadership is vital to improved confidence and growth. These three titans of global industry say:

  • “As we look ahead, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
  • “Leaders are also expected to work harder than those who report to them and always make sure that their needs are taken care of before yours.” – Elon Musk
  • “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” – Steve Jobs

Here are 30 top influential SA business leaders forging the path towards a prosperous South African future.

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