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Bright Futures

A new life insurance provider offers cover that changes as the needs of its clients change.

Nadine Todd




The entrepreneurs

Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens and Sean Hanlon spent years in the insurance industry before branching out on their own.

They wanted to radically change the life insurance industry, and while it took them a while to develop exactly what their final product would look like, the Lombard Insurance Group’s team quickly recognised the idea’s potential and came on board as majority shareholder and investment partner.

“They believe in our vision and how we’ve structured the product to offer clients a new option that delivers real value,” says Stevens.

The model

BrightRock focuses exclusively on risk products, from disability cover to life insurance.

“The magic behind what we have created is that each contract is unique. Nothing is generic. Products are chosen based on your specific risk profile, and they change as your situation changes,” explains co-founder Suzanne Stevens.

“When we first started talking about BrightRock we had one common goal in mind: To create a product that fits our clients’ needs, and not the other way around. Insurance tends to be packaged as ‘boxes’ of cover that do not adjust to fit you precisely. We wanted to approach this from a radically different perspective. It’s life insurance that changes as your life changes.”

Related: Success By Design

Making it work

For the product to be simple to understand, all the magic needed to happen in the back-end. “We needed to design a product that gave us the ability to build a very specific policy that matches each client’s needs precisely, without exorbitant costs. It also needed to be simple to understand for non-industry experts. It took us over a year to develop that system.”

Basically, clients tailor their needs across six key financial needs, and they can choose the best pay-out for each need.

”For example, we’re the only insurer to offer clients the option to change their choice of a lump-sum to regular monthly pay-outs at the time when they claim. In addition, as soon as a specific cover is no longer necessary, it falls away. That premium can then be saved, or redirected towards something else.“

The funders

BrightRock is backed by the Lombard Insurance Group, a company with a proud 20-year track record. Lombard’s funding extends to when the business is self-funding. Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, is backing BrightRock’s ability to pay claims.

Bringing franchisees on board

The BrightRock distribution model is based on a franchise system. Of the approximately 180 people currently associated with the brand, 100 are owner-operators, or franchisees, in the distribution network and the other 80 are employees.

“We are careful to identify people who share our passion and philosophy when appointing franchisees. We’re doing something very different in an old, established industry, so it takes real belief to make it work.”

What’s in a name?

BrightRock is a company born of this era. “It works because we have embraced, harnessed and integrated digital technology with traditional insurance products. That’s what makes the product work; that it can be affordably tailored to each client — and that’s because of the tech.

“We wanted the name to reflect this, but we also wanted it to be something easy to say, spell, and most importantly, Google. BrightRock reflects who we are: We’re solid, long-term and reliable, but also futuristic, new-age and looking towards a bright future.”

Related: WooThemes: Mark Forrester, Adii Pienaar and Magnus Jepson

A flat CEO structure

All four partners are 24/7 full-time directors, but the company does not have a CEO.

“We believe our team works best with four equal voices. Each of us has different areas of expertise and different perspectives. A collective, collaborative leadership style works for us.

“We spent a long time developing this product together, so we know our values and ideals align and we’ve each left well-established corporate careers to create something of our own. We know that we are always going to make the decision that is best for the business.

“This doesn’t mean we will always agree — we aren’t scared of debate — but we will work until we collectively find the best road forward.“

Vital stats

  • Players: Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens and Sean Hanlon
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • X-factor: Needs-matched life insurance that changes as your life changes.

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

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton



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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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How 28-Year Old Entrepreneur Adam Fine Is Leveraging The Global Phenomenon Of Five-A-Side Football

Adam Fine of Fives Futbol discusses how he leverage a global phenomenon and the value of strategic partnerships in business.

Monique Verduyn




Vital Stats

Nothing about Adam Fine is by-the-book. The 28-year-old entrepreneur describes himself as a slightly big child. He’s the CEO of one of the most exciting start-ups in South Africa, having leveraged the global phenomenon of five-a-side football to start a business that has grown almost as fast as the game itself. Not bad for a venture that was launched with the princely sum of R85 000 — Fine’s life savings at the time.

He started it in 2011, with a strong focus on corporate social investment and making a positive social impact. It was by forming strategic partnerships that Adam really managed to grow Fives Futbol. He’s opened pitches in prime locations that serve both the school and corporate markets, while still being accessible for social impact interventions in local communities.

Related: 3 Local Entrepreneurs Share Their Business Challenges And How They Overcame Them

Pivoting at the right time is key to growth

The challenge:

In the last 18 months, Fives Futbol has trebled in size, and achieved some amazing milestones — it now employs 50 full-time staff, and 80 part-timers. It’s one of the factors that drives Adam, as many of his employees support up to eight family members. It’s now also represented in four provinces and 15 locations around the country. By September, there will be 18.

Quick growth means you have to be able to pivot quickly when things do not go according to plan, and mostly they don’t, Adam says. “If things are not working you should be able to ‘pivot’, to shift your focus. And do it fast. It’s not a sign that things have gone wrong by any means, on the contrary, it means you have the insight to recognise that there is a problem with the assumptions on which you have built your business model. The decision to pivot is a big one, and not something to be taken lightly. It requires you to take a hard look at your reallocation of resources, and to do it with an open mind.”

The solution:

In Adam’s case, construction delays, councils taking their time to approve, or having to put money into rolling out sites as opposed to marketing, means the promotion of a new site will slow down, for example, because the business does not yet have a large marketing budget.

“When we run behind on the construction of a new site, R40 000 can suddenly become R100 000 — but here’s the thing: If a deal comes along that will probably harm your business in the short-term but enable significant long-term growth, sometimes you have to juggle what you have so you can make it work.”

The Lesson: Choose your investors carefully

Fine says he’s lucky to have a solid group of investors that he has cultivated over six years. “Their input is invaluable. They’ll say, ‘slow down’ or ‘have you thought of this?’, ‘have you factored in that?’ The ability to develop a good relationship with our investors has had a significant impact on the success of the company. Over and above money, they provide wisdom, guidance and connections.”

His relationship with his investors is key. While many entrepreneurs make it just about the money, Adam understood something else — he has a pretty cool brand with a great cause behind it. So, while investors are asked for money all the time, he was able to offer something more than just a business idea — alignment. He generated enthusiasm for the ‘why,’ behind the business. Like most of us, it makes investors happy to know that they are helping to make a positive difference.

And while it’s easy to bandy about the word ‘partnership’, Adam has worked hard to make that a reality. He set out to find like-minded people who are passionate about the business and the cause, which is why they are able to serve as great resources for advice and insight.

Related: Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

“The best way to ensure that you and your investors have a valuable and lengthy partnership is to make sure that everyone is aligned on the vision.”

This includes Adam’s team. The internal culture of an organisation is vital to its strength and growth. “Without our team we don’t have a business for investors to support — our people are critical to our success. They’re the executors of the vision at the end of the day.”

The Lesson:  The value of strategic partnerships

Much of the growth of Fives Futbol has been fuelled by finding the right sponsorship partners in key industries. To overcome the challenge of a limited marketing budget, Adam has secured sponsorships with big brands like Adidas, Total Sports, Debonairs, and Klipdrift, allowing Fives Futbol to use their access to communities as a marketing platform to derive income as well as scale. And it works both ways.

“Because we have a national footprint and a team of people, we run activations for our partners, which also provides us with an ancillary revenue stream,” he says. “Knowing how to join forces with other businesses has been a key factor in making the business successful. Our strategic partners have enabled the business to leverage their brand to give us more exposure. When it works well, a strategic partnership can be just what you need to speed up the growth of your business.”

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