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21 Year Old Green Queen Bianca Vernes Start-Up Lessons

Social Entrepreneur at Growth-Op and a Fellow of the Allan Gray Orbis, Bianca Vernes, on pioneering the sustainable development space and paying it forward.

Entrepreneur

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‘One plus one equals more’ – makes no sense in pure mathematical terms, but in the case of this start up story, it’s perfectly logical…

What entrepreneurs should know before starting any business and the lessons that I have learnt from my personal journey in starting Growth Op…

The first lesson would be to build a support network as you start and progress with your idea; this really resonated with me when I read the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz, the book unpacks entrepreneurship in the new age and illustrates that the network is just as important as the idea especially in a world that is constantly bombarded with ideas and individuals starting there entrepreneurial journeys, it goes without saying that support starts at home with your family, friends and people who relate to your idea but most crucial is to surround yourself with young like-minded individuals who share similar experiences and passions. Once you start to open up and share ideas, the amount of interest and support you draw back to your idea is endless.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How to Crack Social Entrepreneurship

I think this is one of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face when they have ideas, they are so scared to share it with other people because they want to protect it and nurture it but nothing in this world was ever built alone and no wealth is created by just one person.

It is important to share your passions, people are drawn to the real raw excitement in you, and they can see that you are someone that is worth investing in, because it’s not just about the idea, it’s about the driving force behind it and making the idea a reality.

Commit, dedicate and believe in yourself

People who are much further along in business want to share their wisdom and their network with individuals who will pick up the baton and keep paying it forward.

It is important to get yourself some mentors, I say some on purpose because it is vital to get a fresh perspective from more than one person, as a young entrepreneur, this is invaluable to have this kind of experiential wisdom and support behind you is invaluable and will help make consulting your mentors when you are unsure to help clarify things and point yourself in the right direction much easier.

There are no short cuts if you want to get to the top!

If you want to see the destiny of your idea, you have to possess courageous commitment and have the facts to support you because investors will become hesitant when there is no evidence to support your idea.

It’s all good and well to have an idea and the passion for it but it can only take you so far and investors won’t stake their reputation and name on something that is not full proof. It is imperative that you have ‘proof of concept’ in moving forward, but this can become a hurdle for most young entrepreneurs because often, as a student, you have money constraints, the idea is still in the early stage of development, so how do you take it from the the ‘concept idea’ to something tangible?

 

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Social Entrepreneur Richard Mabaso Keeps Girls In School

If you have a good business case you could probably pitch it to some investors but you haven’t done a pilot or prototype. How do you get that first one going?

In the words of Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together’. The trick to overcoming this hurdle would be to start small… as small as you possibly can. Whether it is making one prototype to prove the basic concept or doing a minor run of the product to get market feedback before approaching key stakeholders to prove the concept works, a start is a start.

This one prototype doesn’t have to be the final product but the purpose of this is to test the functionality and offering of the product in principle to build the factual proof then and only then can you expand. Once you have this, you can start approaching investors to test the ‘proof of concept’ on a much larger scale through extensive market research.

Enable and empower yourself

There are incredible platforms out there that enable and empower young entrepreneurs in creating pilot projects at a very low cost and this is why you need a solid support network.

I think that people are starting to realise the role that entrepreneurships will play in making a valuable difference to the social and economic fabric of South Africa.

The support for young entrepreneurs is growing rapidly; there are organisations all over the country that have a vested interest in these individuals, I think it’s important that we start to look past our circumstances to determine the outcome of our lives.

There is no excuse left in the book for not pursuing your ideas and passions, there are resources and finance available to individuals who have the courage and dedication to do the necessary work to prove genuinely worthy of the support.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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