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MBAconnect: Colette Symanowitz

An MBA grad fills a unique market gap by providing the MBA community with an online platform to stay connected and gain access to value-adding services.

Juliet Pitman

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Colette Symanowitz

When Colette Symanowitz was doing her MBA, one of the many things she learned about herself was that she was good at networking and sharing knowledge. “I took on the role of class knowledge manager and when we completed our studies I was approached by my peers to keep our community alive, active and connected,” she says, and the seeds of the business were sown.

Early seeds

Today Symanowitz runs MBAconnect.net™, a vibrant online community for MBA students, alumni and faculty members from a range of top business schools. “My initial research indicated that many MBA graduates want to keep in touch with the dynamic and energised networks they developed with their peers while studying,” she explains. It’s not hard to understand why. MBA graduates indicate that the network of like-minded top businesspeople, developed over the course of their studies, is one of the most valuable spin-offs of having completed an MBA.

Evolving an idea

“With MBAconnect.net, my initial idea was to provide a formal platform for these people to continue to interact with each other,” says Symanowitz, who’s grown that idea into a suite of value-adding services. The site does more than facilitate networking among graduates, faculty members and current students from across different schools though.

“It’s a one-stop place to find out about MBA-level job opportunities and business events, develop and share knowledge through relevant business articles, and for MBA grads to market themselves or the services of their companies,” she explains. A member directory provides members with contact details of other members of the MBAconnect.net community, while MBA Best Buys allows members to view and compare products in specified categories aimed at MBA-calibre individuals. “Unlike many other social networks we also conduct our own business events, both online and offline. These enable MBAs to recreate the high-level interactions of the classroom that many miss once they finish their degrees,” she adds.

Adding value

Symanowitz is a stickler for value. “We judge all partners and content for the site according to the criteria that they must be relevant and able to add value to the MBA community,” she says. The site also conducts MBA verification on all prospective members and removes those who fail the verification process. As Symanowitz points out, “This creates a credible, safe haven for MBAs to network freely with one another. It also improves the credibility and attractiveness of the MBAconnect.net community for third parties such as advertisers, employers and recruiters.”

Generating income

Although permission-based, advertising on the site is free, allowing brands to target highly qualified, top-calibre individuals with a high earning trajectory in a range of different industries. Income is generated through membership fees and additional premium services that the site offers to members. Symanowitz has created similar brand-specific sites for various business schools and has expanded her focus on establishing spin-off brands for other communities such as BCom and engineering graduates.

Overcoming challenges

But the journey hasn’t been without its challenges, as Symanowitz is quick to point out. “MBAs are typically in senior management or executive level positions, so they are busy people with lots of demands on their time. “The challenge has been to attract them to the offering and continually engage them in a relevant and meaningful way,” she says, further highlighting the importance of the value-adding offerings she’s pulled together under the MBAconnect.net banner.

Marketing in the absence of a marketing budget has been another challenge. “By providing ongoing value to our members we’ve been able to generate positive word-of-mouth and referrals, which has resulted in the rapid growth of the community. In the words of one of our members, we are ‘the first social network to combine a spirit of generosity with true value’,” she says. The site allows existing members to invite others to join as well. Symanowitz has also leveraged the value of a collaborative approach to marketing. “We work with third parties such as business schools, other institutions, networks and even competitors to set up mutually beneficial trade exchanges. These help us to promote our brand, improve our search engine ranking, attract new users, grow the database and control our expenses,” she explains.

Gaining traction

Since its inception in 2008, MBAconnect.net has grown to include 7 600 members in 78 countries and over 600 business schools worldwide. Given that this is a specialised market, those are impressive numbers. Symanowitz was also named a finalist in the 2010 Businesswomen’s Association Regional Achievers Awards in the Emerging Entrepreneur category. With the MBAconnect.net brand firmly established locally, she now has her sights set on global growth for a niche brand that definitely ticks the boxes when it comes to filling a gap in the market.

MBAconnect.net
Player: Colette Symanowitz
Est 2008
Contact: +27 11 262 2441
www.mbaconnect.net

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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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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.

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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