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Ezra Ndwandwe: The Big Break

A local businessman looks for the next generation of South African entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur

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Three years ago Ezra Ndwandwe called a meeting with his staff and told them he was embarking on a new venture. He would no longer be ‘selling time’ as a consultant. He was getting into the TV business instead.

It’s a credit to Ndwandwe and his leadership style that his employees did not immediately panic about their job security. Having built up Dual Point Holdings, an extremely successful consultancy firm, over the past eight years, Ndwandwe wants to remain loyal to his consultancy clients, and so he has developed a competent and well respected team of consultants to cater for those clients’ needs. “The art of delegation is paramount to growing a business,” says Ndwandwe. “I’ve managed to delegate so well that I only need to oversee our consultancy accounts now, freeing me up to follow the next steps in my own entrepreneurial path.”

While his team’s core focus has remained on managing transformation, business process re-engineering, diversity in the workplace and effective change management for some of South Africa’s largest corporations, Ndwandwe has been focusing on how the concepts of Idols and The Apprentice can be used to create a uniquely South African entrepreneurial reality TV show. His vision, titled The Big Break, pits MBA alumni against business owners who have developed their skills ‘on the street’ and focuses on weekly business challenges that require innovative thinking.

Creating New Avenues

As an entrepreneur who supports local business growth, Ndwandwe wanted to find a way to build a business that would foster a ‘can do’ spirit amongst other budding entrepreneurs. “Since 1994 there have been so many exciting changes in this country, but we have not been good at creating new industries,” he says. “We have followed the same formulas, and while most of those concentrate on important services, it is new industries that will grow the economy and open new employment opportunities.”

With that in mind, Ndwandwe had three key aims: to find a way to meld his vision of business growth in South Africa with a sustainable business idea; to find and foster the pioneers that will open new avenues in South Africa’s business landscape; and to create and develop a self-sufficient and sustainable business community and ideology. After months of brainstorming with his team, the concept of The Big Break began to take shape, and once SABC and Ndwandwe signed a five-year contract, calls for entries began.

The show is not for the contestants alone. “In my experience, if you speak to a cross section of South Africans, 99% will say they want to start their own business, but only 2% will know how. The desire to participate in the mainstream economy is there, but the know-how is often lacking.

“We designed the show based on that premise: 60% of it is entertainment, and 40% is education. We want viewers to indentify with participants but also learn from the tasks and challenges they need to perform. Through the show we want to demystify entrepreneurship and show why certain principles and disciplines are important in business. We want people watching the show to walk away thinking ‘ah, so that’s why it’s so important to brand my company, and this is how I go about doing it.’ We want them to learn while they are being entertained.”

A Broader Community

The launch of The Big Break on SABC 3 is only the first step in building the brand. “My vision is to create an entrepreneurial platform that fosters business ideas and a local business community,” explains Ndwandwe.

“Most of Government’s solutions have a shelf life. Eventually enterprise development grants will dry up, and BEE will have run its course. We need to create a self-sufficient business community now.”

In line with this ideal, The Big Break incorporates a number of different platforms. Launching alongside the TV show is an online site that members can use to vote for their favourite contestants, offer contestants advice with their various challenges, ask questions and give answers to each other, and network with people who have similar experience.

“The show will only feature 12 contestants but hundreds of people have applied. We wanted to create a development model for them too,” adds Ndwandwe, who has partnered with GIBS to develop a course designed specifically for those entrepreneurs, called 12 Steps from Concept to Market. This certified course will form the basis of The Big Break books and DVDs, due to launch in 2012. “The show is the face of The Big Break brand. It’s a fantastic vehicle through which to build brand equity and excite South Africans about business opportunities. But it’s the online platform that will enable us to grow. Through the website we are bringing advertisers into direct contact with entrepreneurs. The entire site is dedicated to their target market.”

Ndwandwe’s vision is to extend the brand into Africa and beyond once the concept has been proven in South Africa.

Ezra on Launching Your Own TV Show

The Vision. “This took the most amount of time. We developed and discarded a few models before we came up with something that we thought would work for the contestants and engage the audience. It took a lot of research into current and past reality shows and how the audience responds to different models. We realised that it was particularly important for the audience to vote. Business is about influencing your community, and we hope this message comes across through viewer participation — for the contestants and the audience.”

Sponsors & Partners
The Big Break has signed a five year contract with SABC 3. The show pays SABC for the slot, although it has recouped most of the costs of developing and filming the show through sponsorships. “The sponsors we concentrated on were brands that wanted to target local entrepreneurs, or would benefit from product placement on the show. Our partners include GIBS, BMW, Southern Sun, SA Gold Coins and Independent Newspapers.”

The Journey

“It has taken almost three years from the idea to the actual launch of the show. Normal working hours ceased to exist for me during the brainstorming stages, and later as we got close to the launch of the show. An idea is one thing, but success lies in its execution, and that takes hard work. The TV show is only the beginning for this brand, so we needed to get everything right from the start.”

Tune In

The Big Break launches in September 2011. Each week, 12 contestants will face a multitude of business challenges, with the show’s judges and viewers votes deciding who continues to the next round, and who leaves the show.

The winner of the season walks away with R5 million to invest in their business or as seed capital for their business idea and the top five participants win scholarships to study at GIBS.

Visit www.bigbreaklegacy.com for more information on The Big Break and www.gibs.co.za for more information on their entrepreneurial courses.

Viewers are encouraged to submit their own business plans for evaluation and they stand a chance to win up to R500 000 as seed capital at the end of the season. They also stand a chance to win a Madiba silver coin to the value of R1 250 every episode and a gold Madiba coin to the value of R30 000 at the end of the season.

The Judges

Ezra Ndwandwe began his career with blue-chip multinationals such as Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and SAB Miller where he filled executive positions. He is the founder and CEO of Dual Point Holdings and the chairman of The Big Break.

Michael Goldman joined the Gordon Institute of Business Science in early 2000 to launch the GIBS Forum and Executive Conferences offering at the school. He is currently a full-time senior lecturer at GIBS.

Wendy Luhabe is a recipient of many global and local awards for her leadership role. She is featured regularly in the South African media as one of South Africa’s most powerful women and is currently chairman of Vendome SA.

Quentin Wray is the newly appointed publisher of Independent Online and is the former editor of Business Report, South Africa’s largest financial daily newspaper.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Lesego Maphanga of Standard Bank

Lesego Maphanga is young (he only graduated in 2014 with an Industrial & Systems Engineering degree), yet he has already made a name for himself in multiple industries. His secret to success? Always doing more than is asked of him.

GG van Rooyen

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  • Player: Lesego Maphanga
  • Company: Standard Bank
  • Position: Manager: Card & Emerging Payments; Africa Regions
  • About: At only 27, the maths & science whizz works at Standard Bank as an Emerging Payments manager responsible for implementing remittances products across multiple African Regions. He also has his own radio show on CliffCentral called the Urban Culture Drive, and is founder of social entrepreneurship movement called Unplugged and in Charge.

I studied engineering knowing right from the start that I would never work as an engineer. I just couldn’t see myself working at a mine, or something like that, but I knew that engineering would give me a solid foundation and allow me to keep my options open. A STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) degree is a great base, as it shows that you have a mind for numbers and the analytic mindset needed to get things done. I don’t think you can go wrong with a degree in one of these fields, even if entrepreneurship is your ultimate aim.

Related: 20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

How can I set myself apart?

You have to ask yourself this question. There’s a lot of competition out there. You might have a great academic history or work experience, but so do a lot of people, so you need to have a differentiator — something that makes you stand out. I entered Mr South Africa, for example, because I knew that it would increase my profile and add something interesting to my CV. I didn’t win, but I was a top-five finalist, which was good enough for me.

Find interesting things to add to your CV as well, since it’ll make it stand out in a massive pile of similar submissions.

Always go the extra mile

I had a lecturer who always said: “There are two kinds of bad engineers. There are those who don’t do what they’re told to do, and there are those who only do exactly what they’re told to do.” You need to add value and show that you are a crucial part of a team, so don’t just do what you’re told. Instead, look for ways in which you can go beyond the brief. Work hard and spend time coming up with your own ideas and projects. At the end of my studies, I interned at Standard Bank. I knew that I only had five weeks to make an impression, so I gave it my all. When you’re young, you don’t have many responsibilities apart from work, so that’s the time to put everything into your work.

Be audacious and make things happen

Seizing an opportunity that comes to you is great, but creating your own opportunities is even better. Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t wait for someone to give you a chance. A friend and I had an idea for a radio show and decided to put a proposal together. We had no experience and no contacts in the field, but we emailed our proposal to everyone we could think of. We spammed them, sending it out every single day. Eventually, CliffCentral got in contact 
with us.

Related: Design The Life Of Your Dreams Using These Simple Tips

I don’t want a ‘normal’ life

I want an extraordinary life, so I demand a lot of myself. I think Elon Musk is a great example of this. He’s doing things no one thought possible. Of course, it requires extreme levels of dedication and hard work. If you’re aiming for the top, I don’t think work/life balance is possible. You need work/life integration. You need to be pursuing your passion all the time. If you’re on a path you’re truly interested in, work doesn’t feel like sacrifice.

Exercise is important to me

I go to gym twice a day. It’s significant to me, as it allows me to relax and clear my mind. It also provides structure to my life. When I get up early and go to gym, I find that the rest of my day falls into place. It sets the tone. As long as I maintain focus in this part of my life, I find that things overall stay under control. Sometimes, though, I need to take a day off and just sit in front of the TV. Generally speaking, however, I find that routine helps maintain focus and momentum.

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Joel Stransky Shares His Insights On What Makes A Great Leader

Enter Joel Stransky just as friendly as the rest of the team, also casually dressed, also wearing a smile. As a founding director of the innovative Pivotal Group, he explained that their value proposition particularly in Pivotal Talent.

Dirk Coetsee

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Posters displayed on companies’ walls representing the business’ Vision and value system are a common occurrence. A general value that numerous companies share is to be client centred and to provide excellent service. Yet, unfortunately a proportion of companies do not live according to their values as tools to actualize their collective Vision.

An observant individual would take only a few seconds to notice that the Leadership group at Pivotal has gone to great lengths to establish a definitive and value driven culture as well as a motivating climate for their team members. As I waited in the reception area I was met with smiles from several people passing by and there was generally no way to assess what their position was as they were all casually dressed, friendly and approachable.

Related: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

Enters Joel Stransky just as friendly as the rest of the team, also casually dressed, also wearing a smile. As a founding director of the innovative Pivotal Group, he explained that their value proposition particularly in Pivotal Talent, is the use of Augmented Intelligence and data analytics within the “human capital space”.  The application of AI and data makes talent acquisition and career guidance much less of an enigma and challenge as opposed to the recent past where traditional talent acquisition and career guidance methods became less and less successful and more and more time consuming.

The “pivot” of the 1995 Victorious Springbok world cup team shared that he always starts off an employee-employer relationship with the assumption of mutual trust and respect. He believes that once you have put in the sincere effort to understand people better, bigger belief in them is a natural result.

“The greatest asset in business is people,” Joel passionately explained and added that it is possible for a brilliant product to fail in the long run when the wrong people are employed.

pivotal-group

“Hiring the right people that would not only help sustain the current culture but add more value to it is critical to any team or companies’ sustainable success,” Joel explained. The Millennial generation think differently and have different expectations from a working environment, therefore it is a critical factor for any manager and/or Leader to understand what drives the emerging generation and also how to manage the polarity of generational gaps.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

As a result of diversity and generational gaps Leadership and management has become a fascinating space to operate within South-Africa as not only cultural and language barriers might offer a challenging HR environment, the millennial generations unique behaviours amplify the need for useful adaptations within all spheres of work.

As a practical example, employee X is twenty-three years old. Some of the key questions that management needs to figure out, that is if they sincerely want the best for, and the best out of employee X, are:

  • Is X motivated by monetary rewards and/ or does she/he need a regular hug to feel part of and add to the company culture?
  • Does X need to interact with management socially for example be taken out do dinner?
  • What skills does X have or lack that impacts his/her performance?
  • It is impossible to motivate someone else. In what way can I create an environment for X wherein he/she can motivate himself/herself and excel?

How you satisfy Xs’ needs and manage all related factors to his or her needs has become critical success factors in how we as leader’s approach career development in general.

Reflecting on the development of his own sports and business career, as well as his family life Joel is adamant that whatever drives you in sport also drives you in business and within your family life. Whatever he has achieved within all aspects of his life came as a result of setting goals and making those goals a reality.

Both in sports and in the business world within South Africa there is a general tendency towards over structured management and coaching. Although a structure and daily management is an integral part of business and sports, a paradigm shift towards inspirational Leadership that empowers other leaders to succeed is key in terms of serving others and creating a motivating and sustainable environment within which all team members can thrive.

Reflecting on Joels’ observation: “Our countries’ value chain is broken” the moment has most certainly arrived within which more and more value driven and ethical Leaders, emerging from all generations must arise and collectively work towards an improved future.

Critical to the actualisation of a collective future vision is the development of Leadership skills therefore one of the keen interests of the author is to recognise and learn from other Leaders’ character traits. Joel’s’ highly effective communication skills underpinned by the core people skill of active listening quickly came to the fore as he could quote part of my question and comments in each of the very insightful answers that he provided. His keen willingness to innovate and to create inspiring working environments makes his enthusiasm and skill as a Leader tangible.

Let us all challenge ourselves to learn from prime Leadership examples offered by individuals such as  Joel Stransky and leave more and more Leaders behind for only in such a way can an inspiring future be built.

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Nhlanhla Dlamini Not Only Has Guts, But Grit – In Spades

An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla Dlamini did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.

Wits Business School

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It takes guts to venture into entrepreneurship. And when you’re in a ‘cushy’ job with a top global auditing firm who are grooming you for partnership, it takes even more guts.

Nhlanhla Dlamini not only has guts, but grit – in spades.

An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.

“I started thinking, ‘what is the best thing I can do with my life?’”, recalls Nhlanhla. “I always felt a pressing need to get involved in lowering the unemployment rate in South Africa.  It’s a notoriously difficult space, but entrepreneurship is the real engine of job creation and I felt compelled to rise to the challenge.”

When he left his job at McKinsey in March 2015, Nhlanhla decided to explore the agricultural sector – having no idea what product or what part of the value chain he would end up in. He spent until December that year exploring the agri-food sector, gaining as much understanding as he could about the entire industry by talking to famers, co-ops, agricultural associations and various other stakeholders.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

“I wanted to export products to the US and I looked at tree nuts, blueberries, dairy products or meat. Because of stringent FDA regulations, meat wasn’t an option – but a friend of mine from WBS days suggested meat in the form of pet food.”

And so Maneli Pets was born, and Nhlanhla moved his fledgling business into a factory, which he re-purposed for meat processing, in October 2016. By June 2017, he had started operations with 30 employees on board, and by September he had 50 employees.

Maneli Pets

What makes Maneli different from other US-bound pet food products in an already saturated market? The answer is high protein meat from animals that are unique to South Africa.

“I discovered a market for the off-cuts of meat  from specialist butcheries – so crocodile, warthog, ostrich etc,” Nhlanhla explains. “The result is a very high quality, high protein pet snack with a difference – and US pet owners are willing to pay for the best they can get.”

Under the brand name ‘Roam’, Maneli Pets products are exported to a pet food wholesaler in Boston, US, owned by the family of Nhlanhla’s former WBS classmate, who had planted the seed of the idea in the first place.  Nhlanhla is now preparing to launch the products under another brand name for distribution in South Africa and export to the EU.

But pet food is only the start. Maneli Pets is an offshoot of the Maneli Group, a diversified food company which is looking ooking to build further businesses in the green energy sector, while boosting black entrepreneurship.

According to a City Press report, South Africa has relatively few black-owned food production businesses, which is why government is actively promoting agro-processing and the manufacturing sector in general to spur economic growth.

Nhlanhla has worked tirelessly to secure government funding, and was thrilled to obtain R26 million from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Just last month, he received the news that Maneli Pets had been awarded grant funding of R12.5 million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Black Industrialists Scheme (BIS).

Nhlanhla, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, considers his PDM at WBS a “superb” way of preparing a student for the real world of work. “The group dynamics was an essential learning experience in terms of delivering on a mandate with a group with entirely different skill sets.”

Related: Edward Moshole Founder Of Chem-Fresh Started With R68 And Turned It Into A R25 Million Business

Describing himself as a “passionate and active WBS alumnus”, Nlhanhla still stays in regular contact with a core group from his PDM class, proving that one of the enduring benefits of a PDM (and an MBA) is the opportunity to connect and network with like-minded people and form life-long friendships.

Apart from what he learnt in the Entrepreneurship Management module of the PDM, such as the pillars of entrepreneurship, macro trend support and financing an idea, Nhlanhla considers the keys to success are threefold: Recognising the value of a social network, tenacity – and just a little luck!

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