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NeoCell Events: Thembi Ndimande & Neo Seale

An events management company is born from a chance meeting

Juliet Pitman

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Christmas Eve 2002.Two strangers strike up a conversation in the back of a taxi. The young women, Thembi Ndimande and Neo Seale, chat about what they hope the New Year will bring, and find they have something in common: each wants to create her own wealth.

That chance meeting proved fateful: Ndimande and Seale are now business partners. Their events management company, NeoCell Events, boasts Engen, the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Productivity Institute, SARS, Umsobomvu Youth Fund and SAB among its clients.

Seale, who was already in the process of registering a close corporation, made her way to Ndimande’s house that very day, CC documents in hand. “I got her to sign as a member on the bonnet of my car,” she says. With Seale’s experience in public relations and Ndimande’s in corporate communications and events management, the partnership has worked from the outset. But setting up a business has not been a smooth ride.

Ndimande and Seale have had to work hard to rise above the many challenges that faced them. The most difficult of these was overcoming people’s prejudices about their age, race and gender. “We were only 20 and 23 when we started and people had doubts about how we could possibly pull off a professional event for them,” remembers Seale.

“When we came into the market, there was also a stigma about BEE companies that would win a tender and then spend the money buying luxury cars for themselves, so people were sceptical.” Ndimande adds, “People also thought we were just a fronting company. When we told them we were 100% black-owned and operating from Woodmead, they did not believe us.”

With no external financial backing, they used their salaries and savings to set up NeoCell Events. “We did not allow other people’s negative attitudes to restrict us. So we focused on making our company a success,” say the two women. But they also had to prove themselves. “We learnt to not go for the really big-budget contracts initially, but to take on smaller ones, do them excellently and prove ourselves to our clients.

Once we’d established a level of trust and confidence, they sent the bigger contracts our way.” Bigger contracts, and the growth they brought with them, presented yet another challenge: the need to focus on one area. Like many start-ups NeoCell initially took on anything and everything that came its way.

Then a mentor pointed out that the company was placing itself among thousands of competitors who were all pitching for the same contracts. Ndimande and Seale chose to focus on the area they were best at – retail events. “Initially it was difficult to turn work away,” remembers Seale, “but narrowing our focus has allowed us to become specialists.

Our clients know that if they need a retail events management expert, NeoCell is the place to come to.” The more focused approach also led to a clear definition of roles, with Seale focusing on management, finance and strategy and Ndimande handling sales and marketing. This prevents duplication and improves time management.

Dogged determination and a willingness to learn has led to bigger objectives. “We want to be the most respected retail events management company in the country, synonymous with innovation, creativity and trend-setting,” says Ndimande.

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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