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How Joshua Cox Of Trade-Mark Learnt To Think Like A Tech Start-Up

Local entrepreneur Joshua Cox of Trade-Mark is creating the Uber of the handyman world to formalise an informal market.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Joshua Cox
  • Company: Trade-Mark
  • Established: 2012
  • Visit: trade-mark.org 

Finding a reputable, trustworthy handyman is no easy task, and in a country with an employment rate of 25%, there are jacks-of-all-trades offering their services on every street corner. Joshua Cox is one entrepreneur who spotted a gap in the market in 2012.

With a background in social development, he started Trade-Mark, an online service that connects expert tradesmen with customers, and guarantees quality workmanship at a fair price.

It all started when he hired a contractor based in Diepsloot to do some work for him. Skilled and reliable, the man did not have the basic resources needed for business such as references, business cards and an email address.

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He struggled to find work because there was no way for him to connect with the potential market that needed his services.

Overcoming limited resources

“It’s not possible for anyone to get far without having a supportive infrastructure behind them,” says Cox.

“At the same time, I didn’t want to start another service that simply connects tradesmen to clients for a fee. I wanted to create a platform for a sustainable, socially responsible business that protects both the customer and the person providing the service.”

After working on the business model for a couple of years, Cox approached LifeCo Unltd SA, an organisation that assists social enterprises in finding seed funding.

After a successful pilot run, the organisation connected him with the DG Murray Trust, a funder of public benefit organisations, which gave Cox an initial grant of R300 000, followed by a second sum of R300 000 in 2014. The IDC also funded Cox, providing the substantial sum of R2,5 million.

“We proved that you can actually get quite far with limited resources if you are committed to the vision of your organisation,” he says. “The money has given us the luxury of time, which we are using to make sure we build a robust new technology platform for the business.”

Changing the thinking

Joshua-Cox-Trade-Mark

The focus on infrastructure was a turning point for the business, and only came about when Cox realised that he had to stop thinking about it as a non-profit organisation, and start turning it into a profitable, workable enterprise that could prosper, if he was to achieve his dream of helping people who had no other means of making a living.

“By changing my approach to what we do, the business has transformed itself from a business ‘for good’ into a tech start-up,” he says.

Here’s why that matters: Successful social entrepreneurs identify and apply practical solutions to social problems, combining resourcefulness and opportunity. The next step is to create a service that is new and innovative, and also represents a different approach to a social problem, which is why Trade-Mark works.

“There are so many exciting start-ups that have become wildly successful and they have certain characteristics in common. Uber and Airbnb, for example, were built on automated systems and processes. We are building our platform from the ground up, taking a similar approach to the importance of a robust technology infrastructure. From helping hundreds of tradesmen now, in future we will be connecting thousands of them to thousands of clients across the country.”

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One of the main development areas is the payment system, which will seamlessly enable consumers to pay for services online without requiring exchange of cash or manual intervention.

Cox’s team is also planning to automate the matching of tradesmen with clients according to geography, availability and skill-set of the tradesman.

Customer promise

Trade-Mark’s revenue is made from the commission that each client pays for the service and is based on the value of the labour.

“There are websites that supply handyman details, but the difference with Trade-Mark is that we have a strict five-step screening process to ensure that our people are trustworthy and able to provide a high-quality service. We also have public liability insurance, a workmanship guarantee, and a commitment to not walk away until the client is absolutely satisfied. That level of accountability is almost impossible to find in the construction industry.”

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Currently operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg,  has provided more than R1,5 million worth of business to tradesman via the platform in the past two years, and Cox aims to triple that figure in the next six months, once the updated platform is completed.

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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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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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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