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Zanusi Brand Solutions: Nomahlubi Simamane

A brand solutions company carves a niche – and wins awards – with a strategic model that helps clients define where they are going.

Juliet Pitman



Nomah Simamane

It’s not for nothing that Nomahlubi Simamane was named Businesswoman of the Year twice in 2009 – first at the 2009 Topco National Business Awards and then in the Annual Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards. Since starting Zanusi Brand Solutions in 2001, she’s driven expansion into Kenya and Zambia; signed on an impressive array of clients both locally and in Africa, the United States and Europe; achieved year-on-year double-digit growth figures; and pioneered a niche in branding solutions that has the market sitting up and taking notice. Not bad for someone who says she never thought she could be an entrepreneur.

Seeing the gap

At a time when most branding companies are struggling to stand out in what is a saturated and competitive market, Zanusi makes for an intriguing case study into how true differentiation follows from really seeing what the market needs. It was while running one of the country’s large advertising agencies that Simamane saw the gap. “I realised that many South African companies were focusing on the ‘current source of profit’ – the traditional white market. But I knew that the sheer numbers of the emerging black market was what would give brands a future. I knew they needed to change their positioning to be relevant to this market and make significant inroads into understanding what makes it tick. The old market wasn’t growing, whereas the new market held almost unlimited potential,” she explains. But in 2001 there were still many misconceptions about the emerging market. “I formulated a full list of ‘boardroom myths’ – things people believed about the market that were unfounded and simply not true,” says Simamane. When she drew up a business plan to target this market and presented it to her superiors in London and New York, it was rejected. “I think it was too early and people were afraid to change at that time. They knew their market and were comfortable speaking to it. The new market was still too much of an unknown entity,” she says.

Setting off alone

But her ideas niggled and refused to go away and eventually Simamane resigned her position to set up her own business. She took a month off to hone her business plan and, importantly, clearly define her offering. “Right from the start, Zanusi’s differentiation lay in its proposition of ‘migrating brands for future profit’,” she says. It was a positioning that directly filled the gap Simamane had identified, while cleverly addressing the fear of change that she’d witnessed in the market. “The idea is to navigate a business through the process of modifying or changing so that it can address new opportunity markets, without destroying its current source of profit. “So brands continue doing what they are currently doing, but we give them the tools to look ahead to the future and define a roadmap that will help them become relevant to the emerging market over time. This means they continue to rely on their current source of profit, which is important, while ascertaining where the future source of revenue will come from,” she says. Simamane worked hard at refining a unique offering – the Zanusi Migration Model, a strategic tool to allow companies to achieve these goals.

Carving a niche

It was an appealing offering that made sense to companies. Of the prospective clients Simamane had drawn up in a list for her business plan, Zanusi landed contracts with 60%. “I think it worked because migration seemed less drastic than overnight change. Companies could continue operating in a market they understood, while making strategic plans for the future rele-vance of their brand to the markets of tomorrow.” Being future-focused also allowed the business to carve out a niche in a market where most agencies were focusing on clients’ immediate needs. Doors started opening and today Zanusi lists Zain, Acsa, Gauteng Tourism Authority, Liberty Life, Pick ‘n Pay and Old Mutual among its many impressive clients. It has also won the tender to stage the Public Viewing Area event on behalf of the City of Joburg at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown during the 2010 World Cup.

Sharing lessons

Although Simamane started the business on her own and is the personal recipient of awards, she’s ever-cognisant of the contribution of her team to Zanusi’s success. “I think one of the most important success factors in being a leader and an entrepreneur is to clearly define what you are setting out to do – and then to sell it to the people you are leading. I also think you need to define a culture for an organisation so people know what kind of business they work for, what it stands for and that they belong. And finally you have to celebrate your wins and share your losses to understand why you didn’t succeed,” she says. Defining the future is something Zanusi does particularly well for its clients, but more recently the company is practising what it preaches internally. “We want to be a worldwide ambassador for brands and branding, particularly in Africa,” Simamane says. It’s a clear goal and if her track record is anything to go by, one that she will have little trouble reaching.

Zanusi Brand Solutions
Nomahlubi Simamane
Est. 2001
Contact: +27 11 886 0502

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


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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