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Dawid Mocke Left Corporate And Created A Profession Out Of Surfski Paddling

For Dawid Mocke, living a life well-lived, following your dreams, and helping others to pursue theirs is the essence of success.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Dawid Mocke
  • Company: Mocke Paddling and founder of the Surf Ski School in Cape Town
  • Claim to Fame: Creator of the Mocke PFD (personal floatation device) and four times World Surfski Champion
  • Road to entrepreneurship: Left a successful corporate career to pursue his love for surfski paddling. At the time, the opportunity to become a professional surfski paddler didn’t exist. He decided to make it happen anyway.
  • Visit: mockepaddling.com

Take note

Consistency is the essence of progress. If you put in the time, you’ll reach your goals and live your dreams.

Related: 6 Epic Quotes From Absa Cape Epic Founder Kevin Vermaak

Parallels between competitive sport and entrepreneurship

Competitive sport, especially at the high stakes professional level, teaches you very quickly to identify and maximise opportunities while the game is in play.

You must have a game plan and strategy in place, because when the flag drops, all the talking stops and it’s time for action, so you need to know what that action looks like.

But you need to be able to adapt, so that you are ready to utilise all of your skills, and to take chances. This also means identifying which chances are worth the risk, and which are not. At other times, especially if you’re in the lead, it’s better to focus on ‘safety first’ and not take unnecessary risks that could jeopardise your lead. But if you’re coming in second, and you have an opportunity that could get you over the line first, then you need to take it.

In my sport, our main racing is done by paddling downwind, and riding ocean swells and chop. Here, every swell in front of you represents an opportunity — except you can’t catch each one, or you’ll burn yourself out, both physically and strategically. You may even end up going the wrong way.

The same can be said of an entrepreneur faced with a myriad of opportunities — you can do ‘anything’, just not ‘everything’. You have to choose. I’ve learnt — in paddling, business and life — that there’s no use looking back. The opportunities lie ahead, you just need to choose your course of action.

Be competitive, but stay grounded, and keep it real

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If you want to reach the highest level in your sport, you have to be fiercely competitive and do everything you can to get ahead of your opponent.

This often breeds huge animosity between competitors. I personally believe that it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are countless examples of the best athletes in the world who are great friends, but able to compete fiercely on the pitch. These are the athletes we should be emulating.

First, because they understand that competition only makes them better; second, because they don’t base their significance on performance alone; and third, because they are able to remain humble despite their success. They know it’s a privilege and can be taken away at any moment.

Related: Bob Skinstad: Playing To His Strengths

I have made a personal rule that as soon as my competitive edge impacts how I relate to another person, I’ve lost sight of what’s really important. Relationships always trump results, because relationships are forever and results are temporary.

Your results will always be improved on, your records will be broken and there is always another athlete waiting to take your title; but your relationships with your family, friends and other competitors last forever — good or bad.

I try to be on good terms with all my competitors, whether in sport or in business. Are you in business to win at all costs, or do you actually want to make the world and your customers’ lives better?

Entrepreneurship is about a dream; a dream of what could be possible

Dreams lead to ideas, and ideas are the fuel of creativity. That is the essential process of innovation. Not all entrepreneurs innovate; many (or even most) just spot a gap that needs to be filled and have the gumption to fill it. But that’s the foundation of how we create opportunities — for ourselves and others.

Looking back at my journey, I noticed that there were many people who wanted to learn how to paddle surfskis, but there was no way for them to do it. I saw an opportunity to do what I love and share the love of the sport simultaneously. This has resulted in me making a living by following my passion. I take the time to train, travel and compete in championships; which in turn leads to new opportunities.

Passion precedes purpose

Our talents lie hidden and we need to create opportunities to unearth them. The best place for you to spot opportunities is in the area that you are passionate about, since you’re already living in that space.

But a word of caution — entrepreneurs are naturally optimistic and we often inflate the benefits and opportunities and deflate the risks and drawbacks.

Remember that all success comes with a price tag and knowing exactly what you are paying, either in money, time or relationships, is essential.

Related: Successful SA Entreps Share Their Most Valuable Business Advice Ever Received

Have the guts to go after opportunities

Many gung-ho types promote throwing caution to the wind, and there’s certainly a place for that, especially if you have nothing to lose.

But sometimes you do have things to lose, like your family’s future or a dear friendship, or even a business that is working very well — all these factors need to be evaluated and any strategy for going after an opportunity must make the ‘softer’ considerations as much a priority as the potential opportunity.

There’s no such thing as perfect. Not in competitive sports, life or business. The reality is that it’s never perfect and I think the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who understand that, accept it, and are able to adapt. Personally, my biggest flaw as an entrepreneur is that I get too personally involved in what I’m doing and unable to let go. This has led many times to pushing rocks uphill instead of downhill. But I learn, I adapt, and hopefully I find ways to grow.

Focus on your strengths

There are many things I would change if I could go back. For example, I spent many years in my businesses wasting countless hours on tasks that weren’t my strong point and not asking for the necessary help.

I needed to learn to focus my effort on my strengths and not my weaknesses. But we can’t look back, we must look forward — because that’s where the opportunities lie, and so that’s what I do.

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 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

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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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Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

The advent and advancement of the online marketplace has led these entrepreneurs to successfully build and grow their ecommerce empires.

Diana Albertyn

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South Africa’s ecommerce market is worth R10 billion per year. By 2021, the number of online shoppers is expected to have reached 24.79 million.

“Our recent research on SA shows people are browsing three hours or more on their mobile phones and 25% shop online. They trust local brands,” says Geraldine Mitchley, Visa senior director for digital solutions in sub-Sahara Africa.

These entrepreneurs have cashed in on ecommerce and launched successful online stores that have either established their dominance in the market, or are taking the e-tailing world by storm.

Here’s how these 15 ecommerce capitalists are making money using the Internet:

  1. Aisha Pandor
  2. Andrew Higgins
  3. Kerryn Tremearne
  4. David Davies
  5. Andrew Smith, Paul Galatsis and Shane Dryden
  6. Trevor Gosling
  7. Nicholas Haralambous
  8. Justin Drennan
  9. Neo Lekgabo
  10. Ryan Bacher
  11. Tracy Kruger
  12. Luke Jedeikin
  13. Tarryn Abrahams
  14. Sascha Breuss
  15. Antonio Bruni
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