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Advice Series: How Thula Sindi Designed His Way to Success

In this 702 podcast series Thula Sindi discusses how he is constantly bettering himself and those around him. By Nikiwe Bikitsha and Charlotte Kilban.

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This interview with Thula Sindi is part of a podcast series called Face to Face with Success created by Nikiwe Bikitsha and Charlotte Kilbane. Visit the original podcast and the full series here.

Highlights from the Interview

Thula Sindi started out studying Fine Art in Klerksdorp. From an early age he knew that art was what he wanted to do, so he decided to continue his art education through the National School of the Arts.

He chose fashion because he found that fashion combined colour and proportion and allowed him to operate in a dynamic industry. For Sindi, fashion is dynamic, it’s part of society and it’s immediate. After graduating from high school he went to Fashion School and walked away with a degree in Fashion.

Sindi’s first job hired him straight out of college and he helped his employer to make a successful fashion line. He thought to himself: “If I can make a success for them, I can do it for myself.” He decided to start a business for himself and he hasn’t looked back since.

Building a Concept

Sindi wanted to create contemporary clothing that travel well, were modern, sophisticated and timeless. He grew tired of seeing people throw out or stop wearing their clothing, in a way the clothing become disposable and not long lasting.

Sindi says: “In the last ten years people are buying stuff and throwing it away, or it vanishes, or falls apart. I wanted to create quality and value.”

His fashion has appeared on runways in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as London, Paris and Luanda. Thula’s business has grown from a one-man show to 14 staff members.

Thula-Sindi-Fashion-designer

Sindi’s flagship store opened in Rosebank and has plans to expand across the continent. He wants his stores to spread across Africa first, because he says he is an African and he wants his fashion to stay in Africa.

Thula Sindi shared some advice for young entrepreneurs:

[dropcap]1[/dropcap] “Identify where you’re needed. Most of us have this dream but if it’s not what society needs you’ll need to tweak it for the market,” explains Sindi


[dropcap]2[/dropcap] Be persistent and gain knowledge about your industry of interest. People are into this idea of a mentor. I always say to people all the answers you need are in a book somewhere. Read up on your passion and find the answers to your questions, instead of getting spoon feed, urges Sindi: “There are far too few successful people and those who are have very limited time. But, the library is always there, the internet is always there for that purpose.”


[dropcap]3[/dropcap] Keep focused. Sindi explains: “Find a way to channel all your energies into your business all the time. Even your leisure time needs to feed back into your actual job. It needs to feed back into your passion. Focus all your energy and resources into your passion.”


 

The Meaning of Success for Sindi

Thula-Sindi-Fashion-designer-south-africa

Sindi found his meaning of success through hard work and experience working in his field. He got to know himself and learnt what he values above all else:

  • The ability to control your own time, control your destiny.
  • The work you put in, are the results that you see. Working harder helps you see better results.
  • Conduct yourself with integrity with both your team and your clients.
  • Entrepreneur needs support. Your initial investors are there to support your dream not for the money.
  • Upskill your team so they are able to go into business for themselves if your business closes.

Do you want to know the strangest secrets about millionaires? Read more here.

Thula says that previously clothing makers would teach their seamstress how to make one part of a garment. So, when the company went bust all the seamstress could do was make a sleeve, not sow, just make a sleeve. By upskilling your team you can be more reliant on them. Then should your business go in another direction you’ve educated them and given them a skill they can make a living off of.

Nikiwe Bikitsha is one of the country's top radio and television journalists. A multi award winning journalist, she is well regarded for her exceptional sense of story telling, fearless interviewing style and diverse skills set, spanning news, politics and business. After a media career of 18 years, Nikiwe channeled her inner entrepreneur co-founding Amargi Media, a company committed to revealing the African Story in all its glory. Charlotte Kilbane has spent 18 years as a broadcast journalist. She began her career in radio, working as a reporter, news anchor and news editor. Later she spent many years in top management structures in television news, forming part of the launch team of Africa's first independent 24-hour news channel. Charlotte co-founded Amargi Media - a media company committed to telling great stories, with a uniquely African flavour.

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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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How 28-Year Old Entrepreneur Adam Fine Is Leveraging The Global Phenomenon Of Five-A-Side Football

Adam Fine of Fives Futbol discusses how he leverage a global phenomenon and the value of strategic partnerships in business.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

Nothing about Adam Fine is by-the-book. The 28-year-old entrepreneur describes himself as a slightly big child. He’s the CEO of one of the most exciting start-ups in South Africa, having leveraged the global phenomenon of five-a-side football to start a business that has grown almost as fast as the game itself. Not bad for a venture that was launched with the princely sum of R85 000 — Fine’s life savings at the time.

He started it in 2011, with a strong focus on corporate social investment and making a positive social impact. It was by forming strategic partnerships that Adam really managed to grow Fives Futbol. He’s opened pitches in prime locations that serve both the school and corporate markets, while still being accessible for social impact interventions in local communities.

Related: 3 Local Entrepreneurs Share Their Business Challenges And How They Overcame Them

Pivoting at the right time is key to growth

The challenge:

In the last 18 months, Fives Futbol has trebled in size, and achieved some amazing milestones — it now employs 50 full-time staff, and 80 part-timers. It’s one of the factors that drives Adam, as many of his employees support up to eight family members. It’s now also represented in four provinces and 15 locations around the country. By September, there will be 18.

Quick growth means you have to be able to pivot quickly when things do not go according to plan, and mostly they don’t, Adam says. “If things are not working you should be able to ‘pivot’, to shift your focus. And do it fast. It’s not a sign that things have gone wrong by any means, on the contrary, it means you have the insight to recognise that there is a problem with the assumptions on which you have built your business model. The decision to pivot is a big one, and not something to be taken lightly. It requires you to take a hard look at your reallocation of resources, and to do it with an open mind.”

The solution:

In Adam’s case, construction delays, councils taking their time to approve, or having to put money into rolling out sites as opposed to marketing, means the promotion of a new site will slow down, for example, because the business does not yet have a large marketing budget.

“When we run behind on the construction of a new site, R40 000 can suddenly become R100 000 — but here’s the thing: If a deal comes along that will probably harm your business in the short-term but enable significant long-term growth, sometimes you have to juggle what you have so you can make it work.”

The Lesson: Choose your investors carefully

Fine says he’s lucky to have a solid group of investors that he has cultivated over six years. “Their input is invaluable. They’ll say, ‘slow down’ or ‘have you thought of this?’, ‘have you factored in that?’ The ability to develop a good relationship with our investors has had a significant impact on the success of the company. Over and above money, they provide wisdom, guidance and connections.”

His relationship with his investors is key. While many entrepreneurs make it just about the money, Adam understood something else — he has a pretty cool brand with a great cause behind it. So, while investors are asked for money all the time, he was able to offer something more than just a business idea — alignment. He generated enthusiasm for the ‘why,’ behind the business. Like most of us, it makes investors happy to know that they are helping to make a positive difference.

And while it’s easy to bandy about the word ‘partnership’, Adam has worked hard to make that a reality. He set out to find like-minded people who are passionate about the business and the cause, which is why they are able to serve as great resources for advice and insight.

Related: Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

“The best way to ensure that you and your investors have a valuable and lengthy partnership is to make sure that everyone is aligned on the vision.”

This includes Adam’s team. The internal culture of an organisation is vital to its strength and growth. “Without our team we don’t have a business for investors to support — our people are critical to our success. They’re the executors of the vision at the end of the day.”


The Lesson:  The value of strategic partnerships

Much of the growth of Fives Futbol has been fuelled by finding the right sponsorship partners in key industries. To overcome the challenge of a limited marketing budget, Adam has secured sponsorships with big brands like Adidas, Total Sports, Debonairs, and Klipdrift, allowing Fives Futbol to use their access to communities as a marketing platform to derive income as well as scale. And it works both ways.

“Because we have a national footprint and a team of people, we run activations for our partners, which also provides us with an ancillary revenue stream,” he says. “Knowing how to join forces with other businesses has been a key factor in making the business successful. Our strategic partners have enabled the business to leverage their brand to give us more exposure. When it works well, a strategic partnership can be just what you need to speed up the growth of your business.”

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Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

The advent and advancement of the online marketplace has led these entrepreneurs to successfully build and grow their ecommerce empires.

Diana Albertyn

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South Africa’s ecommerce market is worth R10 billion per year. By 2021, the number of online shoppers is expected to have reached 24.79 million.

“Our recent research on SA shows people are browsing three hours or more on their mobile phones and 25% shop online. They trust local brands,” says Geraldine Mitchley, Visa senior director for digital solutions in sub-Sahara Africa.

These entrepreneurs have cashed in on ecommerce and launched successful online stores that have either established their dominance in the market, or are taking the e-tailing world by storm.

Here’s how these 15 ecommerce capitalists are making money using the Internet:

  1. Aisha Pandor
  2. Andrew Higgins
  3. Kerryn Tremearne
  4. David Davies
  5. Andrew Smith, Paul Galatsis and Shane Dryden
  6. Trevor Gosling
  7. Nicholas Haralambous
  8. Justin Drennan
  9. Neo Lekgabo
  10. Ryan Bacher
  11. Tracy Kruger
  12. Luke Jedeikin
  13. Tarryn Abrahams
  14. Sascha Breuss
  15. Antonio Bruni
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