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The Business Place: Marcel Newsome

This One-Stop Shop Provides A Platform For Entrepreneurship And Small Business Growth

Monique Verduyn



Marcel Newsome of The Business Place

It all started with an empty building in Marshall Street inJoburg’s CBD and a vision to provide resources for entrepreneurs in need ofknowledge and guidance. Lisa Kropman, head of corporate social investment atInvestec, approached the bank in 2000 to suggest that it fund a place whereentrepreneurs could go to explore their ideas and find the information theyneed to kick start their business ideas or grow their micro enterprises.

A year later, her dream was realised. The Business Place aimsto provide a comprehensive range of services under one roof, rather thanforcing people to go from pillar to post for the information they need, thuscutting their travel costs and speeding up their access to services.The company offers relevant and affordableservices for both emerging and existing entrepreneurs, giving them access tofinance, training, information, networking and support. It’s a business advicecentre that advises entrepreneurs on how to proceed or refers them to a serviceprovider.Tenants include non-governmental and community-basedorganisations, giving the centre credibility and attracting customers, saysMarcel Newsome, network operations manager and regional MD of The BusinessPlace. “This is a collaborative effort between service providers, governmentagencies and local government. It has been so successful that we arereplicating the model in other areas around the country. It’s a great exampleof what can happen when you have a successful public-private partnership.”

The Business Place has branches in Cape Town, King Williams Town, Phillipi and St Lucia and anew branch recently opened in Alexandra. The office in downtown Joburgattracted so many visitors from Soweto that itmade sense to open a satellite in Kliptown, southern Joburg, funded – like itsparent – by the City of Johannesburgand Investec as part of the bank’s CSI initiative. Unisa is also a strategicpartner. The Business Place is a Section 21 companyand non-profit organisation. Each branch has its own board of directors and itsown partnerships. Newsome says the Joburg City office attractsaround 600 to 700 visitors a week, tallying a record 2 700 people in Februarythis year.Newsome, who hails from the US, has aMasters in Economic Development and a Degree in International Studies. Hefocused on job creation studies while living in Baltimore,then moved to Mozambiquewhere he worked in the microfinance sector before relocating to South Africa.

“We address the first three levels ofentrepreneurship,” he says. “These are the idea stage, the operational stage,and the growth stage. We have  succeededwith stages one and two, and we are now enhancing our focus on growth so we canhelp people move to the next stage in their business.”On of the centre’s challenges, he notes, isto move from hoping that it provides an effective service to actuallyquantifying and qualifying its achievements and its relevance to the market.“Once we have successfully accomplished that, we will be able to use thosemetrics as a standard for what we need to achieve going forward.”Newsome says there is growing recognitionof the need for an organisation like The Business Place. “Because we’rebuilding such a large client base, we are becoming more able to leverage thatgrowth to access other corporations. We are using the number of clients we haveto encourage new partners to enter into this market with us. Our model isbeginning to be used as a template for small business development in othersectors.”

The Business Place recently partnered withsoftware technology holding company Intelligent Business Systems GroupInternational South Africa (IBSGI SA) to offer a turnkey solution, TBPBiz-Link, to aid small businesses which often fail within two years due to thelack of infrastructure and systems necessary for growth. The Internet-basedplatform comprises an e-commerce exchange with website building and hosting,digital catalogue and shopping cart functionality. It also offers completeaccounting, fiscal management, and inventory control functionality; a centrefor the request for proposals and tenders from public and private sources; abusiness development seminar library; budget and client managementfunctionality. Contact: +27 11 836 9000;

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.


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.






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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Company Posts

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




Vital Stats

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.


“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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