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Siyakhula Business Consulting: Wajdi Abrahams

It’s good to have a helping hand once in a while, but entrepreneurs need to be independent

Juliet Pitman

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Wajdi Abrahams of Siyakhula

Wajdi Abrahams, director of Siyakhula Business Consulting, has a long history in mentoring people in the small to medium business sector. He started off contracting for a Cape Town-based NGO that was one of the first local business service centres to be accredited when government had just started placing focus on small business development. After that, he managed the enterprise development programme for another NGO and then moved to the International Labour Organisation.

For the last five years, Abrahams has been contracting for SAB’s KickStart Programme. His involvement in the regional and national legs is extensive and spans development of programme material; recruiting and selecting candidates; training; assisting in business plan development; participating in interviews with external adjudicators; allocation of grants; and mentoring candidates once they have received a grant. Mentoring makes up a crucial part of the programme and can run up to eight or nine months.

“KickStart is a tough business focused competition, but there is a strong corporate social investment element to the programme, in that it deals with people who would not have the opportunity, under normal circumstances, to start their own business,” Abrahams points out. This means that candidates, while they may have the ideas and the drive, don’t necessarily have the skills needed to set up and run a successful business.

Their needs reflect those of all start-up entrepreneurs and include what he calls “the usual suspects” – lack of numeracy and financial knowledge, lack of marketing skills and being too product driven. “People focus too much on their product instead of running a cost-effective business,” he says. “The reason is that they have been trained to know the product but not how to run a business.

When dealing with these challenges, Abrahams points to how invaluable learning is. “I like to focus on the learning cycle: knowledge, attitude, behaviour, skills. If I am able to improve someone’s knowledge and attitude that will in turn impact their behaviour and their skills.” One thing he is passionate about is lifelong learning. “My advice to entrepreneurs and people starting businesses is to make sure that you are always learning,” he says. “Probably the most powerful tool you have is your mind,” he continues, elaborating on the power of positive thinking.

“Entrepreneurs often go through periods of self-doubt – thinking that you are going to fail can lead to actual failure. It’s difficult to be successful if you don’t believe you can do it,” he says. Although mentoring plays a crucial role in helping people with business start-up, Abrahams is adamant that “mentoring” should never be “doing”. “It’s like cycling in a race,” he says. “It’s your bicycle – you ride it. I will be there every ten kilometres to tell you to check your brakes, drink some water, stay focused, but I can’t ride the race for you. I can’t run your business for you either.

But I can help you along the way with some direction or motivation.” It’s an important point. Entrepreneurs can come to rely too heavily on a mentor, and never build up confidence in their ability to make their own decisions.

“A good mentor understands the difference between his strengths and weaknesses and those of the person he is mentoring,” Abrahams explains. “When you know what a person is capable of, you know where to push him to dig just a little bit deeper.” He also highlights the importance of playing devil’s advocate, to emphasise to the entrepreneur that they need to be prepared if things don’t go the way they had hoped. Mentoring can be of benefit to any entrepreneur, so where does one find a good one? Business coaches fill this role, but as Abrahams points out, a mentor doesn’t need to be someone who is formally in the mentoring business.

It can be a family member or friend, or another business person, but most especially other entrepreneurs who have experienced similar growing pains. He makes a simple but important observation: “It all comes back to a willingness to learn. When you want to learn, you start talking to other people, and when you do that, people talk back to you. You’d be surprised how willing they are to share their experiences.”

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.

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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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