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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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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.

CEOwise

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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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Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

Live free of the opinion of other, but always in service, is one of the key principles Pat Pillai lives by.

CEOwise

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Pat Pillai, is a social entrepreneur who after being a national news anchor for 15 years, is founder and CEO of LifeCo UnLtd SA, which invests in impact entrepreneurs and impact enterprises. LifeCo UnLtd SA has benefited over 112 000 beneficiaries in SA (5000 are young entrepreneurs; 124 are established adult entrepreneurs, of those 76 are impact/social entrepreneurs).

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