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Business Partners: Freddie Bruintjies

A seasoned financier defines success and points out the pitfalls that start-ups should avoid

Juliet Pitman



Freddie Bruintjies

Freddie Bruintjies, COO of BusinessPartners, has watched over, nurtured and celebrated the growth of manybusinesses. He has also seen his fair share of failures. In his various rolesin the investment company where he’s worked for 12 years, one of the mostvaluable lessons Bruintjies has learned is that the business world is driven bypeople.“From a finance point of view, everythingstarts with the right operator,” he says. “If the person is right, even if theeconomic environment is unfavourable, the business will at least survive, ifnot thrive.”

He recalls with satisfaction the manybusinesses he has watched evolve into successful enterprises, but speaks mostfondly of his time with Business Partners Umsobomvu Franchise Fund. The fundhelped young black entrepreneurs enter the business world by way offranchising. Bruintjies discusses the challenges he faced on the project:  “It is at times difficult to match theexpectations of entrepreneurs with the opportunities available. I had to learnto instil a sense of realism without dampening people’s dreams. But it wasenormously rewarding to deal with people who want to grab opportunities andmake a success of themselves. Today I still get e-mails from some of thosepeople letting me know how well their businesses are doing.”When asked what attributes he looks for inentrepreneurs, Bruintjies is quick to answer. ”There’s no checklist, but you dolook for common generic traits.”

Among these he lists someone who is able toidentify an opportunity and has the tenacity to pursue it. “The person needs tohave clear goals, but also a very clear sense of realism. There must be apassion for what they are doing.”He places the greatest store of value inintegrity, something that’s difficult to assess without spending time with aperson, which is what Bruintjies makes it his business to do. “Another very importanttrait is the ability to know what your weaknesses are and either do somethingto fix them, or surround yourself with people who can do the things you aren’tgood at,” he adds.Not all start-up businesses succeed, butBruintjies believes failure is often avoidable. ”Sometimes it is due tocircumstances out of your control,” he says, giving the example of a weakeningexchange rate for exporters. “But even there, you need to know when to cut yourlosses and not run up more debt. The most common mistake is thinking that it’san easy ride to riches.”Too often, entrepreneurs leave theresponsibility of running the business in the hands of managers. “There arevery few businesses you can run without physically being there,” he points out.“You need to put in the blood, sweat and tears to make it work.“At the end of the day, entrepreneurs, likefinanciers, need to realise that business is all about people. It all comesback to people. Have a people-centred culture in your business, and you’re offto a good start,” he concludes. It’s good advice from someone who knows hisoats.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


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.






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




Vital Stats

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.


“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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