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Upstarts

Building a business? Here are Tips from ShortBlack-Mocca

Two entrepreneurs are proving that they’d rather have great people who believe passionately in what they’re doing than a big VC deal.

Nadine Todd

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What do you do if you want to start your own business but have no start-up capital? For Chris Masters and Alasdair Muller, co-founders of ShortBlackMocca, the answer was simple.

  1. Convince your current employer to allow you to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams after-hours and on weekends (thus maintaining a monthly salary).
  2. Find like-minded individuals who are as passionate about your idea as you are (and willing to work for free, after-hours just like you, as long as they have shares in the business).
  3. Create a system that lets clients test-drive a proof-of-concept product designed specifically for them, for free (which is possible if you have no overheads and everyone works for free, as already mentioned).

All fine and well, but can it work? Muller and Masters are well into their first year of proving that it can. ShortBlackMocca began life on a cocktail napkin. Employed as sales executives at Continental Outdoor Media, the co-founders soon discovered a mutual passion for starting their own business.

“We’re marketers and sales experts interested in business,” explains Muller. “I’m an avid tech user as well — overseas, there’s an app for anything, and yet it’s still a relatively new industry in South Africa. Our experience with clients has also shown us how many businesses, particularly SMEs and smaller retailers, don’t use apps to streamline their business processes or connect with clients. We believe there is still a huge gap in the market for custom-made apps in South Africa.”

The right people can make it happen, which is where the partners began. “I ran into an old school friend who is a brilliant coder,” says Masters. “We’re the face of the business. We understand marketing, spotting areas where a business owner can use tech to improve their offering and processes, and making connections — but we’re not tech guys. Pulling Quentin de Bruyn into the fold meant we had a coder who could create our customised apps, and we soon found an amazing graphic designer who could make the coding look good. We suddenly had a team as passionate about making this work as we are.”

Since everyone works full-time, the business has taken much longer to build than if all four dedicated 100% of their time to the company, but no one is in a huge rush. “It’s more important that we make sure we can all work together, and that we have platforms that work,” says Muller.

“At this stage we don’t have the capital to launch full-time, and so patience is a necessity,” adds Masters. “Every cent we make gets pumped back into the business, and our first port of call will be to pay our employees salaries before we join the business full-time. Right now we’re used to working 18-hour days and we know that’s the price to pay for our dreams. It’s okay though, we’re hungry. We know this will work, and we’re willing to pay our dues to see it happen.”

The group has kept its focus narrow, working on an anti-rhino poaching gaming app, Rhino Hero, to refine its skills, fine tune how everyone works together, develop a platform to show clients what the team is capable of producing, and make some money for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), which receives 50% of every app downloaded.

“Going forward, social projects will be a big part of what we do,” says Muller. “But right now it’s all about hard work, developing a good reputation and excellent products, which will ultimately speak for themselves.”

Vital Stats

  • Players: Alasdair Muller and Chris Masters
  • Company: ShortBlackMocca
  • Est: 2012
  • X-Factor: A strong focus on passionate teams is fueling a start-up without funding.

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Upstarts

Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses

These teens are proving that you don’t need a driver’s licence – or the ability to vote – to create and execute a successful start-up.

Diana Albertyn

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In South Africa youth entrepreneurship is encouraged as the best way to build the economy. Teens are no longer relying on tertiary education to jumpstart their careers, as many high school students become budding entrepreneurs. From make-up to confectionary and tech-centred ventures, youth entrepreneurship is taking the business world by storm.

“It’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur, and technology has a lot to do with it. You’re a tech-savvy millennial, and Internet and mobile technologies make it easier to connect and identify with people, based on shared values and ideals,” says Michael Freestone, founder of the MJF Group. “All entrepreneurs wonder if their companies will succeed, but you don’t really know until you try. So, do it while you’re young and have little or nothing to lose.”

And that’s exactly what teenagers across the country are doing. While being a teenager is stressful enough, without worrying about marketing and your bottom line – these young entrepreneurs thrive on success, which must be their secret sauce to their winning business ideas.

  1. Rabia Ghoor
  2. Cory Nieves
  3. Nathan Woodrow
  4. Isabella Rose Taylor
  5. Mikaila Ulmer
  6. Moziah Bridges
  7. Tony McPherson
  8. Anthony Veck and Malvin Musanhi
  9. Reabetswe Nkonyane, Phumla Mvila, and Thandokazi Mtshakazana
  10. Omphile Sekwele and Didintle Nkambule
  11. Fisokuhle Lushaba and Wendy Nkosi
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Upstarts

10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

The future of entrepreneurship has never looked so bright…these young entrepreneurs share their wisdom around building a successful business.

Nicole Crampton

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Natural Talent Can Become Your Success

Thabo-Khumalo

Thabo Khumalo

Thabo Khumalo – ToVch

“I learnt to design and sew while assisting my mother who was a seamstress, and that is when I realised that I had a talent to create,” Thabo Khumalo explains. “But I never knew I was an entrepreneur.” Thabo Khumalo started his company ToVch in 2010 and has since appeared in South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.

Khumalo has a small but engaged audience, who he communicates directly with. “The brand has a dedicated audience, and the social media presence also allows me to continuously scan the fashion environment to keep up with external forces.”

The Lesson

One of the most challenging aspects of launching his businesses was marketing the brand with limited funds. He used social media and word-of-mouth to market. “On social media, people share your brand with others simply because they want to,” says Khumalo. “It’s a powerful platform, and it does not cost anything.” Khumalo built up his company using support from a strong online network, which became his marketing strategy.

Read more on How Fashion Start-Up ToVch Built A Brand Presence With Only A Little Budget.

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Upstarts

For Founder Of National Tekkie Tax Day Having A Higher (Business) Purpose Keeps Her Driving Forward

The NGO space isn’t easy. It’s a constant uphill battle to connect scarce resources with the vulnerable. Annelise de Jager has persevered in this space because she’s tapped into her personal purpose and values.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Annelise de Jager
  • Initiative: National Tekkie Tax Day
  • Launched: 2013
  • Visit: www.tekkietax.co.za

Use your purpose to drive you forward

Connect your purpose with what you do, and you’ll find untapped reserves of perseverance and the discipline needed to achieve your goals.

Purpose before profit is not a new concept in business. In fact, it underlines the motivations behind some of the most successful entrepreneurs. It’s also not reserved for social enterprises alone.

However, it is in the social entrepreneurship and charitable spaces that living one’s purpose first found a foothold, mostly because without a strong purpose, the work would just be too hard, and many would give up.

Annelise de Jager, founder of National Tekkie Tax Day, unpacks how she’s used living her purpose to drive her forward, even when she’s faced almost insurmountable challenges and disappointments.

Make ‘living a life that matters’ intrinsic to everything you do.

“I was lucky in that I didn’t ever need to sit down and say, ‘I want my life to matter, so I need to do x, y, z’,” says Annelise. “It was intrinsic for me. However, in the past five years I’ve become acutely aware of it, and I’ve seen how important the ability to look beyond oneself is when you’re facing disappointment and challenges.

“It helps you look beyond the now, find a solution and keep pushing on, because there is a bigger goal at stake. The biggest revelation for me has been that anyone can figure this out and use it as a tool to achieve their dreams and purpose — you just need to trigger your intrinsic motivators.

Related: ReWare Did One Crucial Thing That Most Entrepreneurs Are Too Afraid To Do

“Figure out what’s really important to you, and then align this with what you’re doing, in both your business and personal journeys. Robin Bank’s Mind Power and Shaping your Destiny courses are a great place to start.”

Don’t be afraid to ask what’s next

Critical to Annelise’s journey has been the realisation that when goals are met, we need to ask ourselves: What’s next? “Too many people achieve their goals and then feel adrift. You should meet your goals. Your ultimate vision should change. That’s growth, and it’s critical if you want to keep moving forward.

“Our experiences inform our knowledge base and world views, and so as you live and run your business, that view should be changing, bringing with it new challenges and perceptions. Don’t be scared of it; embrace it.”

Annelise went to Potchefstroom University to study social work where she joined the university’s musical revue group, the Alabama Student Company. “Alabama was given the opportunity to tour Taiwan, but I was about to graduate. Travel is high on my personal values list, so I started a second degree in communications to stay in university — and — in Alabama.”

New experiences can be the source of great ideas and strength

Studying communications opened Annelise to a new discipline that she loved. “Marketing and communications are so filled with energy — an energy social work didn’t possess. I loved both, and I wanted to find a way to meld them together. This would ultimately shape my business, The Marketing Team, after I’d been a social worker for a few years. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans based on new experiences; they can be the source of our greatest ideas and strengths.”

Related: Reel Gardening Warns That Innovation Is Never Easy

No experience is ever wasted

“We spend too much time trying to plan exactly what we should be doing, where and when, instead of following our hearts and instincts,” says Annelise. “No experience is ever wasted. Once I discovered my love for communications, I questioned whether I’d wasted four years studying social work. I hadn’t.

“Both disciplines became the bedrock of how I would assist the charitable space in South Africa. Experiences open our eyes, our hearts, and our understanding. They give us empathy and patience. They allow us to view things from other perspectives. If you want to really make a difference in other peoples’ lives, these traits are invaluable.”

Be open to finding answers in unexpected places

“By 2004 I felt rudderless,” says Annelise. “I’d been running my own business, handling communications and marketing for NGOs, developing campaigns and even assisting NGOs to run more as businesses than under-funded organisations, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.

“Part of the problem was that you can only give people the tools to work with, you can’t make them use them. Another problem was under-funding. Corporates spend billions each year on CSI projects but they don’t like to fund salaries and basic operational expenses.

“It’s frustrating because volunteers can’t do what needs to be done — most households need two breadwinners, which limits the availability of volunteers to assist.

“I was looking for a way to add more value. Should I start my own NGO? Where could I make the biggest impact? I’d been offered an excellent coaching position, which would allow me to walk away from the problems this sector deals with daily. It was tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

“At that time I attended the Global Day of Prayer in Argentina on behalf of a client. It was at that conference that I had an almost supernatural experience. I left knowing exactly what my purpose was.

“How these realisations come to you is less important than the fact that you’re open to them. Deep down I knew what I wanted and needed — I just needed the courage and fortitude to follow my path. My experience in Argentina gave that to me because I allowed it to.”

Always find the strength to persevere.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In the NGO space, this is particularly true. “I developed the idea for National Tekkie Tax Day because NGOs constantly asked me to help them develop funding campaigns. I developed this fundraising model when I launched Casual Day and ran the project successfully for 18 years.

“But I also believe the NGO space can benefit from a more unified mindset to overcome donor confusion and fatigue. This is my new focus, but it’s difficult to get organisations to shift their mindsets. National Tekkie Tax Day is a step in this direction.

“It encompasses 12 national NGOs and 1 000 regional organisations across five categories — but there’s one product and one national marketing drive. Donors can choose a category to support.

Related: How Fintech Zoona Is Solving Customers’ Real Problems

“I’ve needed to persevere to help NGOs see the benefits in working collaboratively, and corporates to see the benefits of supporting the operational costs of NGOs.

“I don’t have a high profile job at a top company. People don’t call you back in my world. And yet you need to keep pushing forward against incredible headwinds.

“I wake up each morning and repeat the mantra that my success helps everybody; my failure helps nobody. There won’t always be easy wins, but with the right purpose you can persevere. You can make a difference.”

Support National Tekkie Tax Day on 26 May 2017

12 national charities | 1 000 local charities | 5 sectors to support

Animals, Bring Hope, Children, Disability, Education

Available at Toys R Us, Clicks and Babies R Us or online at www.tekkietax.co.za

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