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Tortilis Africa Investment: Chris Rightford, Dusty Rodgers & Kevin Trinder-Smith

Unique model of leisure membership and eco-tourism investment

Juliet Pitman



Chris Rightford & Dusty Rodgers of Tortillis Africa

Tourism is one of the biggest growthsectors in the country – some estimates put its growth at three times that ofthe world average – and there’s no doubt that it’s an industry in which seriousmoney can be made. But it’s not without its challenges. “Historically, raisingdevelopment capital for tourism initiatives has been extremely difficult –financial institutions see it as a risky investment. In addition, most lodgeshave average occupancy levels of between 35% and 60% – more established lodgesare well supported but the newer ones battle to gain recognition, particularlyin the international market,” says Chris Rightford, co-founder of TortilisAfrica, a tourism investment and leisure company.

But where others see challenges, Rightfordand co-founder Dusty Rodgers saw opportunity. They innovated a new model thatmeets the challenge of raising tourism development capital and drivesadditional business to lodges to boost occupancy levels. Tortilis Africaconsists of two divisions. Tortilis Africa Investments gives people theopportunity to buy shares in a portfolio of luxury eco-tourism lodges andboutique hotels and raises development capital for tourism developmentopportunities. Tortilis Africa Leisure sells membershippackages which entitle corporates or individuals to a certain number ofbednights per year at the same portfolio of lodges. Tortilis Africa Investmentsforward-buys 30% of the bednights from lodges in the portfolio and sells themto Tortilis Africa Leisure, which makes them available to members. “This drivesextra income to the lodges, helping them to boost occupancy,” Rightfordexplains.

He adds that he and his team spent a gooddeal of time in competitive analysis and research on how people buy leisure.“Other time-based options give you access to designated weeks or months on anannual basis, but our model gives people random usage on a first come, firstserved basis. They can use their bednights whenever they choose, provided thereis an opening at the lodge they wish to visit,“ he explains. Membership isvalid for 12 years and the allocation of bednights is renewed anually. The model is currently unique in the localmarket but getting it just right was a challenge. “We started with the idea forthe investment company, whereby investors would get shares as well asmembership with bednights. But we realised that some people are interested onlyin one or the other so we split the two, although we do offer an investmentoption with discounted membership for those people who want both.”

It’s also been a challenge to get lodges tobuy into and understand the concept. “We had to convince them that the 30%business we were sending them was in addition to their normal business, and notreplacing it,” he says. The fact that he and Rodgers and their respectivecompanies, The Nature Workshop and Islands in Africa,are recognised pioneers in the eco-tourism field, has no doubt helped along theway. The pair teamed up with Kevin Trinder-Smith from Base Capital whostructured the legal and financial arrangements. “The three of us invested thesweat equity.” There’s a good market, both locally andinternationally, for the investment and leisure products. “We believebusinesses in particular stand to benefit from purchasing membership. When youadd up the cost of conferences, incentive programmes, break-away weekends andtrips with clients, businesses are spending a lot of money each year onaccommodation. Buying membership gives them access to flexible bednights thatthey can use at a range of top destinations,” Rightford concludes. Contact: +27 11 537 4600;

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.






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




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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