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Kulula: Erik Venter and Gidon Novick

Erik Venter and Gidon Novick made history eight years ago when the two Comair employees, with some help from senior management, launched South Africa’s first no-frills airline on a tiny budget. In 2008, Kulula generated turnover of R1,8 billion through its website. It’s no wonder that the carrier’s competitors are green with envy.

Monique Verduyn



Erik Venter of Kulula

I put the Kulula story down to healthy paranoia and a deep-seated fear of lagging behind. The Comair culture has always been entrepreneurial. I discovered the true extent of that when I read a book about the history of the airline dating back to 1946. We have always had to battle against extreme odds to compete with SAA and that fighting spirit has won through, right to the present.

A lot of that is because we have remarkable consistency in the top management team. The company chair and deputy chair, who played key roles in getting Kulula off the ground, have been in the organisation for over 40 years, and in 65 years Comair has had only four CEOs. Because the churn at the top is so minimal, the organisation has always been able to focus on the future, to look at new trends in global aviation, identify potential threats to business, and determine how best to change the organisation in response to new environments and fresh opportunities.

We don’t seek out people with flair; rather, we aim to promote an entrepreneurial approach throughout the company so that everyone buys into the same philosophy. It’s a strategy that is quite unorthodox compared to many companies, most of which have set mission, vision and strategy statements. But we are in such a volatile industry that we have to keep changing targets all the time. As a result, we home in more on behaviours that make the company successful. Currently, for example, we maintain a great focus on the airline, but we are also moving into e-commerce, thanks to the cultivation of behaviours that are equally applicable to both sides of the business. Innovation and market leadership are at the heart of what we do. The ability to innovate comes from recognising proactive people and building recognition into performance assessments and measurements. We don’t single out people – it’s a process that we develop from the bottom up.

The biggest challenge in creating Kulula was that South Africa had not seen anything like this before. It was an extreme deviation from the traditional airline model which is all we had known since World War II. But while it was radical for the market, it wasn’t for us. The organisation had been in aviation for so long and was so familiar with the industry that it was a welcome challenge. Internationally, so many airlines have given up on their low-cost airlines, saying that it’s not possible to run a conventional carrier along with a low-cost offering. The truth is that Comair has always operated as a low-cost carrier anyway, because it is the underdog to SAA. The challenge therefore did not lie there; it was more about how to differentiate the new product to the customer. We did that by identifying elements of air travel that people would be prepared to pay for separately so that they could travel by air at a lower price.

We had seen what was happening overseas and we knew that it would have an impact on the local market. There were some carriers already looking at setting up a low-cost airline and we had to get to market first and quickly. And we did – we went from conceptualisation to first flight in just two months, taking to the skies in August 2001. Being first gave us huge traction in the market which has continued to the present. One of the biggest advantages at the time was that we launched it as The term “dot com”, which today is almost incidental, was new and in vogue, and had strong associations with the Internet – of course it was part of our strategy to incorporate the term into the name.  It got us immediate attention and gave us a fresh and fun image.

It’s very easy to lose monumental amounts of money in aviation, so we set it up on a shoestring budget, which enabled us to see profits from day one. Comair funded Kulula, but the amount was really negligible. Yes, we had to be entrepreneurial in our approach and take risks, but we also had to be cautious. Our first reservation system was built in six weeks at a cost of R300 000, which is just bizarre. When I think of it now, it’s amazing that it ever worked. The current version of the system is multiple generations ahead of that one, has a team of 30 people working on it, and is worth millions.
The airline industry is currently experiencing tough times because of volatile oil prices and the economic crisis, but Kulula is healthy, handling over 100 flights day. A lot of the reason behind that comes back to institutional memory, which is a great strength. The absence of that constantly catches out other aviation businesses, where management have no idea how to deal with challenges because the team is always experiencing them for the first time. We on the other hand have been through 9/11, the SARS virus, and a dollar that cost R12 – hard times don’t really phase us.

The other thing about long service is that it paves the way for long-term focus. Many companies make the fatal mistake of sacrificing long-term sustainability for short-term profits. You have to resist that temptation. A long-term view makes a business so much more robust, especially in a recession. As an example, when we bought our aircraft we decided to pay them off over five years and not ten. Sure, we would have had a better cash flow if we’d stretched out the repayments, but it would also have cost us much more interest and we would have had to carry that during a downturn; instead, today we sit with a large portion of our fleet paid off.

It’s a way of thinking that has spurred on the recession – greed over sustainability. The international banking sector has revolved around massive bonuses for quick profits. In airlines too, contractors and consultants are brought in and paid huge amounts to deliver short-term gains.
The point is that they do not have the future of the business at heart and they are only around for a fixed period, which is where all their energies are targeted. After that they walk away. Our approach is that there are no surface solutions; if you need a consultant to perform a task in your business, chances are you will continue to require that task to be done, so rather bring someone on board and have what they do permeate the business.
We’re known for our branding and advertising, all of which is targeted towards being current, exciting and fun, a little like the Nando’s of the airline sector. We have our own internal graphics department which handles our promotions, and while our advertising is outsourced, we place a strong emphasis on building the image and culture of the brand internally too.

The recession has worked in our favour in several ways. There has been a lot of downgrading from premium to low-cost carriers. Many international companies once had a ban on cut-price airlines; that has fallen away. Instead, the management of travel costs has become a key concern for most companies. Both the corporate and leisure markets are keen on getting the best deal. This also favours the direct selling model which cuts down on admin costs.

Our products – Kulula Air, Kulula Travel, Kulula Connect, Kulula Card – are not in themselves driving our strategy. Kulula Connect, for example, is more about attracting people to the Kulula brand before they’re even ready to fly. The cellphone is ubiquitous in South Africa, so what better way to get the brand into the market early than with airtime. Kulula Card is different from other airline loyalty cards which apply some mystical formula to give customers miles which are extremely difficult to exchange for a specially allocated freebie seat. With Kulula, you earn moolah on every booking and you can use it anytime you want to for your next ticket. It’s that simple.

The move into Kulula Travel is really just leveraging off what we already have in the business: a great brand, a lot of marketing spend around that brand, and an excellent technology platform. In addition, it’s a product that is positioned well to complement our flight offering.We’ve seen many businesses launch travel platforms, but they have to start from scratch. With Kulula Air we already have a huge anchor tenant and all the support structures we need in place. It’s about having all the ingredients to enable the logical extension of the brand. And it’s a market that has enormous potential – in Europe, over 40% of hotel bookings are done online; in South Africa that figure is just 1%.

3G cards and the expected improvements and cost-reduction of bandwidth bode very well for the ongoing growth of Internet purchasing. E-commerce is still in its infancy in South Africa, but the recession may favour us once again as cost and convenience factors come into play.

The brand extensions help in that regard – we are doing something new all the time and we are never stagnant. The company spends a vast amount of time and energy researching Internet usage, how users interact with our own website, and how to improve the layout and processes. The drive is always to keep it user-friendly and exciting. Regular users of the internet no longer have tolerance for poor websites, so any e-tailer must keep their website functioning optimally. Consumers are becoming fussier about the Internet, from usability and Interface to uptime and speed of processing, your support infrastructure must be robust, backup must be in place and redundancy must be built in.

One of the tricks is managing the impact of fraud. Bearing in mind that 99% of our customers are genuine, we have avoided putting in place complex and extremely detrimental security products that penalise legitimate users; instead, we have gone for the back-office approach, in which we constantly profile users and credit card numbers to spot irregularities. We do not force our need for controls onto our customers. One of the main projects over the last 24 months has been to cultivate cultural awareness of what makes us stronger or weaker. This forms part of a huge plan to deliberately identify and communicate the corporate culture, and has led our people to accept things they have begrudged in the past. It’s all about seeing things from the customer’s point of view. Our new business ventures are all a product of instilling that culture – that is what drives innovation and spurs people on to look for opportunities.

Agility is key. You achieve it by creating a culture in which change is normal. We have never gone through what companies call a “period of consolidation” which is a euphemism for sitting back and doing nothing. We simply don’t expect stability, so change is not an issue. Interestingly, we have no systems to manage constant change – it’s something that is just accepted as part of the business. At more senior level, we hire people with a dynamic rather than maintenance approach to business. 2010 is difficult to gauge, for example.

We’ve planned to increase our capacity by 50%, but will only do so as we see demand growing. No one knows how many visitors will actually come to South Africa, or how much internal travel there will be. No doubt, the impact will be positive, but we don’t know by how much – we’ll respond when we do.
That’s what has enabled us to survive and grow in an airline market that is almost permanently overtraded. A lot of that is because of the government airlines, which fuel the constant battle over capacity. We have an aggressive, cut-throat relationship with our competitors and there is not much love lost between us and Mango. The state subsidy makes it jolly hard for us to compete. If for example, we look at upgrading our fleet, it’s very difficult to raise the finance in this climate, but SAA can go out there and buy a whole lot of new planes with government funds. As a business, we have to build momentum and get our balance sheet right, while the State keeps on ploughing money into Mango and SAA. That’s what pushed Nationwide out of the market. There really is no reason for Mango to exist other than to take out the competition.

Having two joint CEOs has enabled both of us to do what we enjoy, which means we do it well. Gidon and I have quite different approaches. His preference is for PR and marketing; mine lies in operations. The board must have decided that by putting the two of us together, they would get the best of both worlds. It’s hard to find one person who enjoys every single facet of a business, so I believe we are lucky we can share the duties.
Our roles are clearly defined and if anyone tries to play one of us off against the other, they are quickly told who to talk to about specific aspects of the business. It’s also allowed us to spread ourselves further and create a flat organisational structure. There are ten people at the next level of management, which a single CEO would not typically be able to handle. We are able to do much more and with a greater depth of detail.

Kulula at a glance
Kulula employs 1 800 staff.
Comair’s turnover has doubled in size every four years since the launch of Kulula in 2001.
The domestic air travel market has grown by 74% since 2001.
In the five years prior to that, there had been zero market growth.
Until the fuel price went ballistic, airfares had declined by 25% despite inflation since the launch of Kulula, a fact, says Venter, that makes it impossible to argue about the correlation between low-cost carrier prices and passenger volumes.
Kulula is one of South Africa’s biggest online retailers with some R3,5 million in sales daily.
In isiZulu, “kulula” means it is light, or it is easy or simple.

Outlook for airlines
Kulula flies against a backdrop of global gloom:
Passenger traffic worldwide is expected to decline 8% in 2009, with corporate travel projected to drop by 15%.
The International Air Transport Association has warned that the world’s airlines will collectively lose $9 billion this year.
Aircraft buyers are cancelling or delaying orders. Since January, European plane maker Airbus has booked a net total of 11 orders, after 21 were cancelled. Boeing – which is cutting 10 000 jobs – has taken orders for 73 planes, but with cancellations of 66, the net order intake is only seven jets. Fuel prices remain volatile as ever and continue to rise driven by the surge in crude oil prices, which topped $70 per barrel in August.

What you can learn from kulula

Speed to market
Kulula had first-mover advantage, a lead gained by being the first significant company to move into a new market. Realising that other carriers were eyeing the local scene, Kulula’s founders got the business up and running in two months, achieving an insurmountable advantage over its potential rivals. If a business is first into a market, it can capture market share much more easily without having to worry about rivals trying to lure the same customers.
When the rivals do come along – as they inevitably will – the first-mover will have advantages in the ensuing competition. In Kulula’s case these include familiar products, brand loyalty, and a great website. By beating rivals into the market, the first-mover can consolidate its position and compete more effectively, not only defending its previously acquired share but also continuing to expand and innovate.

Long-term focus
Short-term gain often equals long-term pain. Don’t make the mistake of putting all your efforts into making a quick buck now; rather broaden your focus and work on long-term sustainability. That will make your business resilient and help see it through the recession.

Consistent brand communication
Exceptional brand awareness is a direct result of consistent, integrated internal and external communication. It begins with a clear brand strategy, such as being customers’ number one choice by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional experience. Exemplary brands always begin with strategy. Brand communication is merely a way to articulate and reinforce the strategy. Make all aspects of your marketing communications cohesive and consistent. Track and refine all your programmes and watch how that impacts on company culture, enhancing service delivery and increasing sales.

Keep costs down, pay off debt
Kulula’s launch budget was minimal, with the founders opting to focus on profitability from the outset. Time and again, successful business owners highlight the need to keep costs at a minimum – especially for a new venture. In addition, tackle your business’s highest-interest rate debt first. Kulula opted to cut its payment period for an expensive capital investment by half, radically reducing the amount of interest it had to pay into the future. Better yet, the company does not have to service this debt in the midst of a recession.

Partner for success
The joint leadership model, which brings together two CEOs with complementary skills, has helped the company achieve its goals. It’s a valuable lesson for SMEs as partners have a vested interest in the business, more so than employees. When a business is new, and there are all sorts of unpredictability and challenges, two heads are better than one. You have someone to lean on, and you can strategise together. It means two leaders can focus their abilities where they are best suited without being distracted by other issues.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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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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