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First Health Finance: Jason Sive and Mark Dowson

Specialist finance business makes it easier for people to look their best.

Monique Verduyn




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Players: Jason Sive, Mark Dowson

Company: First Health Finance

Launched: 2008

Contact: +27 (0)21 421 8508,

Recession be damned – cosmetic surgery is on the increase in South Africa. One entrepreneur who spotted a gap in the market for specialist finance to pay the costs of procedures such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and liposuction is Jason Sive. He spent a year working for a specialist finance company in Australia, where he came across patient finance for procedures not covered by medical aid — anything viewed as elective or non-essential surgery.

On his return to South Africa, he met up with Mark Dowson, an ex-banker, and the two decided to open a niche finance company focused on four areas: cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, dental procedures, corrective eye surgery and hair restoration.

“For a start-up finance company, your stock in trade is your cash,” says Sive. “You have to ensure the business is adequately capitalised to carry itself into the second phase of the funding process. Our initial funding was provided by Mark and five high net worth private investors. That capital carried us initially, after which we got finance from the banks.”

Sive and Dowson launched the business in early 2008, not a great time for anyone, let alone a start-up. “A few years ago, an on-lender would have been able to raise funds against an existing debtors’ book, which would have been seen as an asset. Three years ago, things changed, and that security is gone. People thought we were nuts to launch a consumer finance business at the start of a recession.”

The art of discretion

That was why the partners spent three months on the road, visiting medical practices before they hired anyone. “Because it was a greenfield product, it was essential for us to educate doctors about the offering. We also used our experiences to train the sales team we eventually brought on board.”

By 2010, First Health Finance had received applications valued at more than R130 million, 30% up from 2009.

Sive attributes the business’s success to personalised service, a key element of this type of offering. “Procedures like fertility treatment and breast augmentations are very personal and people would rather not have to explain to a bank why they need to borrow money. They can apply online. Our consultants are trained to deal with customers in these situations and make them feel completely comfortable. They even make appointments with the right doctors.”

Life-changing procedures

Another factor is that the doctors are happy. “We pay them directly, so they never have to be concerned about money. It also means they can offer patients an alternative to cash and credit card payments, which is important as access to credit is not what it used to be. As a result, we now have a database of more than 2 000 practices covering every type of procedure.”

Sive says First Health Finance has made it possible for the average person to have a procedure that can be life-changing.“The industry is growing thanks to television shows like Nip/Tuck and Dr 90210. We’re perfectly positioned to take advantage of that and meet people’s need to feel better about themselves.”

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+.


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




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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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