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Masake Communications: Sharmayne Venkatsamy

Events company facilitates national discussion and debate

Monique Verduyn

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Sharmayne Venkatsamy of Masake Communications

Sharmayne Venkatsamy began her working career in 1986 at the South African Institute of Race Relations. It was a time when the organisation had an intrinsic role to play in the transformation of the country. “I had never before been exposed to so many different types of people and so much information on business, the economy and the changing political landscape. The five years I spent there formed the foundation of what I wanted to achieve later,” she says.

Venkatsamy next joined Enterprise magazine and became part of an interactive body, the Enterprise Development Forum, which helped to develop and empower emerging businesses, professionals and entrepreneurs.“It was an exciting and rewarding time,”she recalls.

“The government was seeking ways to ensure the sustainable transformation of the economy, and our role was to focus on how to create new wealth. The forum gave me a sense of purpose that motivated me.” Venkatsamy also had the opportunity to work with senior black business leaders as part of the Black Business Executive Circle, which meets to network, discuss business opportunities, and look at the implications of government policy.

Eight years later, and with the magazine taking a different direction, Venkatsamy believed there was more work to be done. She met with Tami Sokutu, a seasoned government player and today the executive director of risk and strategy at African Bank.

He is also the non-executive chairman of Masake Communications, the company that Venkatsamy started in 2002 after Sokutu convinced her that it was time. “I had never thought of running my own company, but I was in my mid-thirties and I wanted to be sure then that I would retire knowing that I had made a difference.

The best contribution I could make was to help create an environment in which transformation can happen. That is how Masake was born.” Although Masake is at first glance an events company, it differs from others in that it makes strategic contributions to national and regional debates as a result of its relationships with government and corporate networks.

“We are not a product or service company.We provide solutions that are higher up the value chain, creating a platform for engagement between government, black business leadership and corporate South Africa.” Masake’s services are used by government leaders, for example, to provide platforms where they can bounce off new policy formulation to business leaders.

Its first projects were self-funded, withVenkatsamy adamant that because she had never run a business, she was not going to go into debt. Instead, she used her last salary and her leave payout to setup a home office. “Never rent and furnish an office until you have solid contracts in place,” she cautions. One of her toughest early challenges was confronting the gap between being an expert in her field and the tactical running of a business.

“I had to learn about tax and accounts, for example, but everything you discover prepares you for the next step.” Venkatsamy also learnt that you are only asgood as your team. “We refer to the Masake magic, an ability to pick the right people for our team, with the right spirit, energy and commitment to the brand.It takes time to perfect that.”

She attributes the company’s success, and R9 million turnover, to the fact that it has always stuck to its knitting from the word go. “Many agencies offer a whole range of services; we excel at what we know we can do.” Ask her what she is most proud of having achieved and Venkatsamy ranks survival high.

“The success rates for small business are shockingly low. We have had lean months, but in six years of organic growth, we have always paid salaries and we have no bad debt. Contact: +27 11 783 1528; www.masake.co.za

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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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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