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Medupe Electrical Supplies (MES): Lemao Motaung

Mentorship and networking open up new doors for a successful start-up

Juliet Pitman

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Lemao Mota of Medupe Electrical

While it may be full of rewards, the journey of the entrepreneur is frequently a lonely one. Most small business owners feel the need at some point to share their ideas with someone, or for a mentor to provide key business insight at critical moments. The irony of course is that entrepreneurs are not alone in feeling alone. It’s a common challenge,and one which is familiar to Lemao Motaung, founder of Medupe Electrical Supplies (MES).

The former biochemist has made her mark in the cable distribution business, specifically in the utilities sector, gaining 10% of market share in a few short years – not bad going for a four-man operation that’s up against some pretty heavyweight competition. But although Motaung wasn’t short on business suss, a ready market or general entrepreneurial get-up-and-go, what she did feel the lack of was a support base. “I came from a corporate environment and you forget how important the people around you are to catalysing your success. What I really needed was some kind of support base, a ‘business family’ to act as a sounding board,” she relates.

The MES story started when Motaung was working at 3M. With a wealth of product development and launch experience under her belt, she identified a gap in the market to distribute cable accessories to the utilities sector. She approached 3M with a business proposal to set up her own operation to fill this gap but by her own admission, was so busy convincing the company of the viability of her idea, that she didn’t pay enough attention to the operational side of setting up a business. “If I could do it over, Iwould definitely get those ducks in a row while I was still employed! Not doing so meant that when I left to go on my own, the first two months were absorbed with getting the business registered for tax, setting up bank accounts and canvassing customers.”

In spite of these early challenges Motaung quickly established herself as one of the only woman-owned companies in the sector, gaining a competitive edge through her intricate knowledge of the electrical and cable supply industry. “But being on my own was lonely and I felt the need to interact with other business minds.” She approached International Finance Corporation for a consultant and, seeing the potential inherent in the business, they referred her to Endeavour, an internationa lnon-profit organisation that focuses on developing high impact entrepreneurs through mentorship, training and strong networks. Of the many hundreds of entrepreneurs that Endeavour has interviewed, Motaung was one of only a handful that has been selected to join the organisation. Motaung relates how the practical benefits of the relationship have been invaluable. “When I get stuck I have access to some of the greatest business minds,” she explains. Adrian Gore, chairman of Discovery Holdings; Brian Swette, chairman of Burger King and former COO of Pepsi; Hluemlo Biko, founder of Circle Capital; and Motty Sacks, chairman of Netcare are among these.

While not every entrepreneur has access to a formalised support network, Motaung’s experience does speak to the positive growth benefits to be derived from joining entrepreneur networks and making use of mentors. Many successful entrepreneurs are passionate about helping other start-ups to grow and their advice is often there for the asking. Says Motaung:“One mentor I met made me realise that for a true entrepreneur, there is no plan B, there is no going back to being employed if things don’t pan out. I learned that if plan A doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board and rework it.” Sometimes it’s the simple insights that make all the difference. Contact: +27 11 397 2913; lemao@medupedistributors.co.za

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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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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