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SA Fusion: Catherine Constantinides

Successful events management company founder proves that age is just a number

Juliet Pitman

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Catherine Constantinides of SA Fusion

When Catherine Constantinides was in Grade1 she sold the shells of pink pistachio nuts to other students. “I’d make myparents buy and eat bags of them. I’d collect the shells and stick Prestick onthe inside of them and sell them as false nails,” she recalls, laughing. Thislittle business venture, one of many that she was to embark on throughout herlife, was a sign of things to come. It illustrates the ability that some peoplehave not only to conceive a simple money-making idea, but to put it intoaction. And if there’s anything Constantinides does well, it’s making thingshappen.

Today, she runs SA Fusion, an events, PR,publicity and branding company that she started while still in high school. Atonly 24, she has an impressive track record that includes organising the 70thbirthday of Winnie Mandela, the annual SABC Kellogg’s Kids Awards, the launch ofthe Ingrid Jonker: Her Lives and Times documentary and book and the SouthAfrican leg of the Miss Earth programme. Constantinides’ great passion is communityupliftment and SA Fusion started as a way to finance her community projectsthrough entertainment and fashion events. Soon the company took on a life ofits own; while her university peers were focusing on partying and paying thebriefest of attention to their studies, Constantinides was organising launches,small luncheons, gala dinners and fundraising projects for a range of corporateand NGO clients, while studying Law and Anthropology. Two years later shefollowed a childhood dream and launched Fashion Fusion magazine, whichshowcases South African talent in the arts, music, film and theatre industries.“I had no funding, backing or capital but I really just wanted to see ithappen. So I structured it over a year, getting people to print it and give mesix months to pay, and in the end it was a success.”

The magazine opened up doors for the eventsand publicity side of SA Fusion. “We made connections and started doinglaunches of new bands, musicians, artists, models and South African films. Thecompany started to really grow. At the same time, those people would use ourservices for the various publishing needs of their campaigns or events so wewere able to offer a complete set of services to our clients,” she says. They say that the mark of a trueentrepreneur is the ability to identify opportunities and turn them intobusinesses that create wealth. In this respect, Constantinides is a trueentrepreneur. She lists her ability to network as one ofher strongest points: “Think of all the business cards you collect in a yearand how many people that gives you access to. Most people don’t follow up withthe people they meet, but I really try to and this has opened up so many doorsfor me. Then it’s just a matter of grabbing the opportunity and running withit.”

Thinking on her feet has been anothercritical success factor. With no background knowledge in business or finance,Constantinides has had to learn everything along the way – and this has meantsome hard lessons. “I made mistakes and trusted people who I shouldn’t have,giving them ideas without making them sign certain documents and then seeingthem run with those ideas. It’s a difficult personal lesson because it knocksyour faith in people,” she relates. But such experiences have only served tomake her more street-smart: “I now consult my lawyer at any given moment!” She’s also found people’s perceptions ofher age a challenge: “No matter what my track record of success, when peoplefind out how young I am, all of the good work I have done seems not to matter.” But she’s quick to point that this isn’talways the case. The substantial growth and success of her company is due inlarge part to word-of-mouth marketing by satisfied customers. And there arethose people who have noticed her obvious ability; she’s been invited to speakat conferences including the 2004/2005 World Youth Summit at the United NationsUniversity in Tokyo and, most recently, the South African Top 100 BusinessmenAwards, where she addressed the unique challenges facing young South Africanstoday. She made such an impression that Patrice Motsepe, who was sitting at hertable that night, has become her mentor and one of her biggest supporters.Zindzi Mandela is another individual who has recognised her potential. This is not really surprising, asConstantinides’ energy and enthusiasm is infectious. “There are a million thingshappening in my head at any one time. I’ve had to learn to take a step back,absorb everything and plan. I have so many plans.” We watch with interest tosee where these will take her next.

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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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