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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



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™, 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, 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 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 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 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, 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 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.
Player: Colette Symanowitz
Est 2008
Contact: +27 11 262 2441

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


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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