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Big Inja: Ryan Meiring

Small fish shows big pedigree with a system that takes the trade show expo market by storm

Juliet Pitman

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Ryan Meiring of Big Inja

Sometimes spotting a niche is as much about realising that you can do something better, as it is about realising that you can do something new. Ask Ryan Meiring, founder of Big Inja. The industrial engineer was still a student when he first started helping a friend’s father to register visitors at trade exhibitions using an electronic bar-code scanner system.

“All the visitor’s business and contact details are captured electronically when you scan their bar-coded name badge. It just seemed like a natural progression from there to offer stand exhibitors a service to track visitors to their stand using the same system, thereby effectively doing away with the need to exchange business cards,” he explains.

But he’s quick to point out that the idea wasn’t his. “Many registration companies were offering this service already,”he says, “but they weren’t giving it the attention it required. And that’s where we saw our niche. Ultimately exhibitors are there to collect sales leads and record business interactions – it’s such a crucial ingredient that I believe can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful exhibit.We knew it could be done better and always believed that what we could offer could make a real difference to exhibitors,” Meiring continues.

Although he believed in their service offering, Meiring knew that getting a foot in the door would hinge on how successfully they could convince trade show organisers to feel the same way.“We spent a lot of time building up relationships with organisers, pitching our offering as a value-add that they could offer their clients,” he recalls.

In the end, it worked and organisors started marketing Big Inja’s services directly to exhibitors. The orders started rolling in. But in spite of his success, there was something that kept niggling Meiring. The service he delivered was reliant in many ways on the quality of the registration company’s data capture.

“If they captured visitor information incorrectly, that info was our source and we’d pass it on to exhibitors,” he says. Knowing that the business needed to grow into new areas, Meiring kept his options open by ensuring that his scanning technology was more advanced than his competitors’.

The planning and forethought paid off. The more advanced technology allowed the company to quickly exploit and establish a foothold in a new market niche. Noticing that orders were dropping off at one show in particular, Meiring realised that exhibitors at that event weren’t looking for new contacts and sales leads, but were rather dealing with repeat clientele who did the majority of their buying at the show.

But what they didn’t have was a system to keep track of the orders. “Being away from their normal order systems, they couldn’t stay on top of the orders and stock levels. And after the show it took them weeks to collate all the orders. The potential for errors and client frustration was extremely high,” he explains.

“I knew if we could come up with a usable solution, we’d really be on to something,” he recalls. What he hit on was simple, fast and brilliant. “Our scanner programmer worked out how to get the scanners to talk directly to a tiny printer, thereby eliminating the need for a computer interface,” he says, explaining how the new system allows Big Inja to upload an exhibitor’s stock lists, barcode their stand products and keep a running tab of a buyer’s order.

“We scan the buyer’s bar-coded ID tag, scan all the goods they want, insert the quantities and print out two copies of an invoice there and then,” he says proudly. Not only does this save exhibitors time and frustration but the system also allows Big Inja to provide each client with a daily summary report on turnover, best sellers and stock levels. Little wonder that it received a heady reception at its recent launch.

But while Meiring recognises that technology is responsible for his latest windfall, he knows it’s not all about fancy gadgets and whiz-kid systems. About the future of the business he says: “I want to do it properly. I’d rather have a handful of really ecstatic clients than a bunch that gets average service.” ‘Doing it better than the next guy’was where it all started and he’s determined to continue in that vein. Contact: +27 861 244 465; www.biginja.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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