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Britespark: Angela Makholwa

In Johannesburg you could be forgiven for thinking that PR companies are two a penny. What distinguishes Britespark, the consultancy launched by Angela Makholwa in 2002, is the energy of its founder, the range of services on offer and the company’s focus on attention to detail and professionalism.

Monique Verduyn



Angela Makholwa of Britespark

Makholwa graduated from Rhodes Universitywith a degree in journalism. After working as a journalist for a while, shejoined a PR company and also completed a part-time diploma in PR. When she wascontracted to manage product placement and sponsorships for the first BigBrother series on M-Net in 2001, Makholwa took the opportunity to learn allabout sponsorships and publicity.

Shortly after that, in October 2002, shelaunched Britespark from her home. With her savings, and a loan from herparents, she bought a PC and a fax machine, and hired an intern. She also tooka huge risk. Makholwa had befriended the person in charge of the Kora Awards atthe time, and he convinced her that she should buy the rights to host andorganise the South African leg of the Miss Malaika beauty contest, aninternational pageant for women of African origin. “I took a chance and boughtthe rights for R20 000,” Makholwa recalls. “It was a huge risk for someone whohad just started a business with her own money, but it paid off.” With herexperience in sponsorship, Makholwa put together a proposal and went knockingon a number of doors, eventually landing up at the offices of the NelsonMandela Bay Municipality in Port Elizabeth.“The pageant was just the kind of event themunicipality was looking for,” she says. “It was the right type of event for amunicipality that wanted to raise its profile, generate publicity and host anevent that would entertain its citizens.” She was awarded a contract for R1million, a win that she says catapulted the company to where it is today, withsix employees, offices in Midrand, and an impressive array of public andprivate sector clients.

“Because there are so many PR consultanciesout there, the biggest challenge has been to differentiate Britespark fromdozens of competitors,” Makholwa says. “Establishing the company and growingyour credibility is not easy, and there are no simple solutions for doing this.It requires a huge amount of hard work and demonstrating to your clients thatyou are able to deliver on your promises. A particular challenge in the PRindustry is convincing your clients that PR is about far more than glam.”Makholwa notes that all PR companies havetheir own way of doing things, and that she has structured Britespark in a waythat leverages staff skills and has enabled the company to service client needsin the most optimal way. “Our account executives report to the account managerswho, in turn, report to me. The account managers are the client interface andthey are responsible for coming up with strategies to support the clients’needs. This structure enables clients to get the most out of our agency.” Makholwa says she has grown her business onreferrals from happy clients. Where she once employed PR interns to assist her,she now has a team of five professionals who are skilled in financial, FMCG andgovernment communications, as well as investor relations and event management.

“I have surrounded myself with highlyskilled senior people who are able to consult with our clients at the moststrategic level. Our level of professionalism has enabled us to retain and growclients, always a major challenge for PR agencies.”Makholwa stresses that people are key to aPR business. “You can win a huge account and lose it within three months if youdo not have good writers and events people, and if your account managementcapabilities are not up to scratch.”She notes that when she started thecompany, she was responsible for everything. But she learnt early on that ifyou want to grow a business and distinguish yourself from the many who operatefrom a cottage at home, you need to have staff. “You must employ people who cankeep the business running while you are engaging with clients and bedding downnew contracts.”

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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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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