- Player: Zizipho Nyanga (née Mqwala)
- Company: The Masisizane Fund
- Position: CEO
- Qualification: CA(SA)
- What they do: The Masisizane Fund is an Old Mutual initiative that was established in 2007 following the closure of the Unclaimed Share Schemes Trust in consultation with the National Treasury of South Africa. Masisizane was set up as a non-profit funding company to provide loan financing and support to SMEs.
- Launched: 2007
- Visit: dogreatthings.co.za/masisizane/
My own career and the path that led me to developmental finance has enhanced the certainty in me that we create our own futures. What you put in is what you get out. I was a CA(SA) who worked within EY’s external audit and risk advisory services. I’ve always wanted to add value and help people in everything I do.
I quickly realised that I enjoyed identifying challenges that companies faced and helping them find and implement solutions. It’s the reason why I left EY to become a financial manager at Kagiso Media. It was an entrepreneurial business in a high growth phase.
From there I joined an investment firm, and then the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Each step brought me closer to where I am today, and built on my personal skills and understanding of business and the support that SMEs need. If you’re doing what you love, and you’re willing to build the necessary skills, you’ll forge the right path, whether that’s in a corporate career or your own business.
As a dealmaker at the IDC I got my first clear look at why people are rejected for funding. Too often it comes down to a simple lack of preparation: Not preparing an adequate business plan; not taking the time to really understand your market, competitors and even your own positioning; and not researching the funder you’re approaching to ensure their mandate aligns with your business offering.
I was particularly surprised by how many people outsourced their business plans. How do you run your business if someone else does the plan for you? We saw so many entrepreneurs who weren’t willing to do the most basic things. Getting funding requires patience; there’s a lot of necessary legwork.
People want the money, but they’re not willing to do the work to get it, and that’s often just their first big problem. Success takes time. It takes hard work. And it takes a willingness to patiently and systematically follow a growth path. In other words, success begins in the mind.
If you want to be successful, you have to look to the future, keep your eye on the ball, and then painstakingly work towards your goals. From a funding perspective, step one is developing your own business plan and all that this entails.
Step two is researching each organisation you’re thinking of approaching and learning what they offer and what their mandate is. Step three is planning ahead.
So many business owners approach funders when they are under pressure and need cash immediately. Not only does this reveal a detrimental lack of fore-planning, but it means the whole process becomes rushed, and owners approach any and every fund they know about. This means there’s little regard to whether it’s the right funder whose mandate matches the business. The more a business owner does this, the more it discourages them should they be rejected by funders.
Funding takes time. Start your business. Bootstrap it if you can, and begin the process of identifying and approaching the right funders with a goal of securing funding in 18 to 24 months, instead of a few weeks. Those are the businesses that attract attention. If you can show you’re a planner who is willing to go the distance, you’re already ahead in the game.
You need to leave your ego at the door. This is one of the best pieces of advice that I can give to any business owner. Passion is great, but be careful of being too internally focused. If you spend too much time celebrating your business idea and your own cleverness, you won’t focus on how to access your market. Who is going to buy what you’re selling?
Understand that you have to have a market you’re serving, and that this is the single most important thing a funder is interested in, because they know that without a market, you have no business. It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs start with ‘me’ instead of their target market. As a business owner, your goal is to serve someone else’s needs. Who is the customer? And what are their needs?
Entrepreneurs tend to want to run the business alone. We call these ‘one man bands’, and they’re far too prevalent. They’ve had an idea, it’s theirs, and they’re precious about it. So precious that they don’t appreciate a sense of partnership. This can be a technical partner, a financial partner, someone with the necessary business acumen and experience that the entrepreneur might lack.
The reality is that no-one has all the skills and experience necessary to build a robust and sustainable business. The best businesses are built by teams who complement each other. If you can leave your ego behind, and find someone who can take a stake and help you scale the business, you’re already well on the path to success.
Success is all about partnerships. I was fortunate to have the experiences I did at the IDC with SMEs looking for funding, because it gave me the peripheral vision I needed to really understand the important role the Masisizane Fund can play in South Africa’s entrepreneurial development. First and foremost, it’s about working with other funders and corporates to achieve our goals. It’s through partnerships that real change is achieved. No one ever achieved real success alone.
We see this within SMEs, and will always support partnerships at the helm of a business and in the roles we play. Our model is to partner with organisations with a similar mindset to our own, such as the SEFA, IDF, Anglo-Zimele and various government departments that offer grants. This allows us to achieve measurable impact and de-risk.
Many entrepreneurs don’t have owner’s contributions and can’t afford 100% debt. They will never be able to repay it and build a sustainable business. We’re an organisation that offers loans, and so we partner with organisations that can assist entrepreneurs with equity/grants. This reduces the debt entrepreneurs are looking at, and increases a business’s chance of success. We’ve found that the right combination of debt, equity and grant solutions gives businesses a real chance at success.
Partnerships go beyond finance however. They’re also about skills, support and mentorship. It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. The same is true of business. The stronger your network and support system, the higher your chances of success. We’re all about capacity building. We identify entrepreneurs who we believe have the right attitude, mindset, willingness to put in the hard work required, and either technical skills or business acumen — and then we put support systems in place.
This could be through a mentor who co-manages the business, business courses, or placing financial managers in the business. It’s all about identifying what the business needs are. We have a partnership in place with SAICA that places CA(SA) in the SMEs we support, creating jobs for graduates and supporting entrepreneurial businesses simultaneously.
Often, the difference between success and failure is the right support at the right time. This isn’t about waiting for someone to come and assist you though. It’s about walking a journey with the right partners. This begins with accepting that you need assistance, and being willing and able to continuously learn and develop yourself and the business. If you can do that, and you have the patience to see your own goals through, you will be successful.
Are you willing to put in the time to really make a success of yourself? Funders look at the entrepreneur as much as the business model. They evaluate the entrepreneur’s mindset. Are you working on yourself as much as you’re working on the business?
AnaStellar Brands Founders Top Tips For Taking On Entrenched Competitors
Launched in August 2016, AnaStellar Brands has seen strong growth over a short period. According to founders Anastasia Dobson-du Toit and Michelle Dateling, success depends on getting the fundamentals right.
- Players: Michelle Dateling and Anastasia Dobson-du Toit
- Company: AnaStellar Brands
- Est: 2016
- About: AnaStellar Brands is a female-owned South African company, with a focus on the development, marketing and sale of innovative brands in the FMCG, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors. All of the company’s brands are manufactured and packaged within South Africa.
- Visit: www.anastellar.co.za
Anastasia Dobson-Du Toit, a qualified pharmacist with a BCom degree and Michelle Dateling, an optometrist, met while both were pursuing an MBA at Wits University in 2010. Anastasia had spent years working in her family’s pharmaceutical company, which was eventually sold to a multinational. Michelle, meanwhile, was working as an optometrist and also has a stake in an optometry business. A few years after successfully completing their MBA degrees, both were looking to start a business.
“Initially, there were six of us — six ladies who had been in the MBA programme together. We all felt that there was no gain in simply getting an MBA. We needed to actually do something with it, so we decided to start a business together,” says Michelle.
As often happens, though, several members of the group withdrew for one reason or another, until eventually, only Anastasia and Michelle were left. Having exited the family business in 2014, Anastasia was ready for a new challenge and Michelle was also keen to venture deeper into the realm of entrepreneurship.
The industry they settled on was a challenging one, but also one that Anastasia was intimately familiar with: Pharmaceuticals. They launched AnaStellar Brands in 2016, a company that produces consumer health products that target the body and its functions in a holistic way.
“We make use of a mixology of targeted ingredients in a safe, cost-effective and convenient way, ensuring continued compliance and thus effective results. Our products focus on the nutritional requirements of women throughout the various stages of womanhood, including prenatal supplementation,” says Anastasia.
Of course, making inroads into an industry that is incredibly competitive and heavily regulated isn’t easy, yet the company has enjoyed impressive growth over the last 18 months. How did the founders manage to establish and grow their start-up so quickly? Here are their tips for taking on entrenched competitors.
1. Focus on what you do best
“We focus on the development, marketing and sale of products.” says Anastasia. “We don’t manufacture anything ourselves and we don’t handle things like warehousing and distribution. When we launched the company, we knew that we wanted it to be a South African businesses — that the money should stay in the country and stimulate the economy here. However, we also realised that we didn’t have to manufacture ourselves in order to accomplish this. There are plenty of South African businesses with the necessary capacity, just hoping for the business. So, we focus on the development and branding, which is where our strengths lie and contract the rest out. Trying to manufacture on a large scale when you are a small start-up is just too costly.”
2. Don’t give your company away
“Bootstrapping a business isn’t easy, so saying no to funding can be hard. However, you have to be very careful when it comes to taking outside funding. Although people were offering us money for something that didn’t truly exist yet, we decided to rather fund the business ourselves. Equity is cheap when a start-up is young, and a founder can end up regretting giving a big chunk of the business away. Also, you can quickly find yourself in a situation where you are no longer your own boss. If at all possible, fund the business yourself,” says Anastasia.
3. Know your market and customer
“Although we only launched late in 2016, we had spent a lot of time researching and preparing before this. We analysed the market carefully and really looked at our competitors. We tried their products and took photos of shelves in stores. We knew exactly what the market looked like, and we knew how we wanted to position ourselves by the time we officially started doing business,” says Michelle.
4. Build intellectual property
At the end of the day, all you really have is your brand and your IP, so you need to focus on those when launching your business. You need to know exactly what you want your brand to be. You need to sweat the details. Logos, packaging and marketing materials are important.
You need to stand out and you need to be able to compete with large multinationals. We spent time and money on good packaging, for instance, even creating boxes that are printed on the inside. This adds to cost, but helps build the brand,” says Michelle.
5. Have a clear marketing strategy
“A start-up doesn’t have the marketing budget of a large business, so you need to be strategic and targeted in your marketing. We decided to recruit a sales force to target the doctors who would prescribe our products, instead of spending money on traditional marketing campaigns. This was a strategy that really worked for us. You need to look at what the most cost-effective marketing solution is for your business. A young business needs to see a great ROI when it comes to marketing, otherwise it isn’t worth it,” says Michelle.
6. Protect your IP
“A good lawyer can be expensive, but it is absolutely worth the investment. You need a lawyer to look at any contracts you sign, and you need someone who can help you to protect your IP. Too many start-ups launch without worrying about IP. By the time they come round to it, it’s often too late. Get a good IP lawyer and protect your brand from day one,” says Anastasia.
7. Hire carefully
“As a start-up, we hire a lot of young and inexperienced sales people who we train and help grow,” says Anastasia. “The problem with this, however, is that you can spend a lot of time and money training someone, and then quickly lose them to a bigger company once they have gained some experience. Make sure that you aren’t simply training someone for the competition. Hire employees who are committed for the long term. It’s even worth including a clause in employee contracts that state that employees need to repay the cost of training if they leave the business within a certain period.”
VP Of SAB and AB InBev Doreen Kosi Explains What Drives Success
When SABMiller and AB InBev merged in 2016, two organisations known for exceptional systems, processes and a winning attitude became one. Incredible growth and an enduring long-term vision are proof that the right culture can go a long way. Doreen Kosi unpacks the personal success mindset that drew her to SAB, and reveals what it means to be a part of a winning team.
- Player: Doreen Kosi
- Company: SAB and AB InBev
- Position: Vice President: Legal & Corporate Affairs — SAB and AB InBev, Africa Zone
- Visit: www.ab-inbev.com; www.sab.co.za
Anything is possible
If you put your mind to it and ask for help when in doubt, you can achieve any goal you set for yourself. As a leader, you don’t need to always have all the answers. That’s why we build strong teams made up of specialists in their fields; we all need to learn from each other. I’ve found it’s important to steer your team, but also to be led when necessary. Ultimately, real success is achieved when we work collaboratively.
Quick collaborations build solutions-orientated teams
SAB/AB InBev has an open plan office culture. As an exco member, I don’t have an office, I have a desk. In my previous positions, I’d arrive at my office, close the door and start working. Since joining this organisation, I’ve realised how collaborative it is to work in an open plan environment. Instead of sending emails to discuss setting up meetings, you can address an issue then and there, in five minutes, and find a solution. It encourages team members to reach out, share thoughts and ideas, find solutions, make immediate decisions and move on to the next challenge or task.
Partnerships drive success
Beyond your own organisation, when you work with the collective you stand a better chance of succeeding. More minds are better than one because they bring about diversity of ideas and ways of doing things. Surround yourself with positive people and support them as well.
When you build partnerships between corporates and SMEs, you increase the chances of leveraging off one another, learning lessons, sharing risks and driving shared success and growth. When you all grow together, your impact on job creation and improving lives increases. But, it’s important to take ownership and be accountable for your own actions and results. When you do this, you have a collective commitment to improve the lives of more people in more communities, and also to build communities by developing people and creating authentic and sustainable jobs that can be measured.
Top players encourage best-of-breed behaviour
When everyone is working side by side, and you have an office full of top performers, the bar is constantly being raised. You’re exposed to best practice and you start shaping your own behaviour accordingly. Don’t hide your stars. Expose their way of thinking and doing things to everyone around them. Pay attention to what top performers are doing around you as well — what can you learn from them, and how can you adjust your own style to get more done?
Top performers are drawn to winners
Long ago SAB and AB InBev made the decision to focus on cultivating a winning culture, and it’s worked. This is a company of winners and owners. It’s a place where results and personal goals are aligned. There’s an overriding culture that if you’re focused on results and have personal accountability, you cannot fail. There’s a huge amount of focused energy when you walk through the doors of any SAB/AB InBev office around the world, and it’s because of this. When you create an organisation of winners, other winners want to join you.
The result is a team of high performers drawn to each other, all pushing each other to greater heights. If you don’t accept mediocrity, if you’re driven by the exceptional, and you build your teams with people who hold the same values, eventually, you’ll attract more of the same individuals.
Understand your personal philosophy and live by it
If you want to build a team of winners, or join one, you need to be disciplined in your goals. You need to strive to manage yourself well in all aspects of your life, and to be emotionally intelligent. I have a dual philosophy I live by. Make decisions, stick by them and live with the consequences; and ‘lift others as you climb’. This isn’t my original quote, but I believe in it strongly.
Hand-in-hand with self-discipline is resilience
One fundamental truth that experience has taught me is that successful professionals and entrepreneurs are resilient and not shy to get up when they fall. They pull themselves together and start over again, no matter how many times they fail. Never give up. The less successful are those who give up when things get tough.
Believe in yourself
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The one pulls people towards you, the other is a turn-off, so be careful how you build and embrace your confidence, but whatever you do, believe in yourself. To the point above, it’s how those who fail get back up and try again. Understand your worth. Never sell yourself short. Self-motivation is key. I think it’s clear that I believe in the value of teams and partnerships, but you can’t add value to a team if you aren’t confident in your worth and what you bring to the table. Confidence also opens up many possibilities.
When you’re confident, the possibility of people warming up to you and being open to supporting you are very high. And don’t forget: Success is hard work. Work hard, be authentic, persist and develop a thick skin. Things won’t always go your way.
Personal growth is key if you want to be successful
Never stop learning. If you can, learn something new every day. Concern yourself with what is going on in your surroundings and recognise the phenomenon of global citizenship. SAB/AB InBev has such an incredible growth and innovation culture that we drive within the organistion, but ultimately it starts with the individual. For example, we have a global Best Practice Programme.
Any team can submit a ‘best practice’ solution, and if it’s tested and is better than the current solution, it will be rolled out across the organisation. It means we are all constantly looking for ways to improve our systems and processes, we focus on innovations, and we’re competitive. But most importantly, you can’t develop best practice solutions if you aren’t personally focused on growth. The two go hand-in-hand. We learn all the time.
Knowledge evolves and we cannot stop the hands of time. Networking opens new possibilities and ideas and builds contacts from which you could benefit. When your networks expand, you have a bigger pool of resources and support. This works for both individuals and entrepreneurs.
Simple steps to successful entrepreneurship
Doreen offers her top tips for building a successful career and business:
- Define your own success and become a champion of your own dreams.
- Clarity breeds action. Identify what you want to do. Do a proper due diligence of the market and identify gaps carefully before you start up. Have a clear idea of how you want to close those gaps and convert your idea into a bankable business idea.
- Keep your idea simple and do not shy away from repeating the same actions until success is imminent.
- Have the courage to get started. You might not get everything right but do start anyway because unsuccessful aspirant entrepreneurs fail, along with their ideas, for fear of acting on their dreams.
- Have a game plan: Be realistic about your idea and craft a solid strategy around it before execution.
- Map out a measurable execution roadmap and keep it in constant check.
- Focus: Do not become distracted at all costs.
- Always go back to basics and ensure constant relevance of your plan. Use the time to ensure that you are ready to adapt when the need arises.
- Recognise stumbling blocks and understand them for what they really are.
- Use your fear to your advantage: Embrace your fear because it will take you out of your comfort zone.
- Find positives in negatives and work on them to reach your success.
- Be ethical and fair in your dealings with others.
Relax Spas Founder Noli Mini Shares Her Insights On Building A Business Of Value
While Relax Spas is all about rest and relaxation, the business itself is the product of hard work. Founder Noli Mini explains how she got her unique business idea off the ground.
- Player: Noli Mini
- Company: Relax Spas
- Founded: 2010
- About: Noli Mini started in 2010 as a ‘mobile spa therapist’, going to different hotels and offering mobile spa treatments. The concept has evolved and Noli has set up bases, including two spa suites, at various hotels and guest houses. An additional aspect of Relax Spas’ offering is to provide spa treatments at corporate offices and on corporate wellness days. She also has her own range of massage oils and is introducing her own brand of beauty and skincare products. To complete the circle, Noli will soon be launching her beauty and spa training institute.
- Visit: www.relaxspas.co.za
Previous experience in an industry is key
Working in an industry before launching your own operation is crucial, since it provides you with the understanding and expertise needed to successfully launch your own business. By working in other businesses first, you gain a realistic idea of what the industry is like. You also experience different environments.
You see what works, and what doesn’t. You can cherry pick from different companies and create an organisation and culture that will work for you.
Know what you’re getting yourself into
Passion and a fun business idea are important, but you also need to understand the basics of launching a company.
- How easy will it be to develop your product or idea?
- How will you market it?
- What sort of financial controls will you put in place?
- What regulations must you comply with in your industry?
- Are any licences required? What are the labour laws?
These are all questions you need to be able to answer before launching.
Build a good team around you
The combined effort of a team is almost always greater than the sum of individual contributions. Find people that can complement your skillset and bring tools to the table that you don’t have. Improving your business acumen and knowledge is important, for instance, but you don’t necessarily need to go to university to do it.
You can also increase your knowledge by surrounding yourself with the right people, particularly mentors who can guide you in both a personal and business capacity.
Create a buzz around your business by sharing your story
People love hearing stories, and I believe that just about every start-up has a great story to tell. Offering to write free editorial content for magazines is a great way to do it. Another is to speak at conferences. These strategies require effort, but they can greatly increase your reach and position you as a thought leader in your industry.
Use every single opportunity you get to market your business
You need to live and breathe your brand. Marketing is about more than spending money. You can market your business by sponsoring charity walks, wellness events and golf days in your community. Collaboration is another good strategy. There’s no better way of building a business than to get out there and shake some hands. You need to get to know people. Also, be authentic in your networking so that people get to see and know the real you.
Establishing strong relationships with your clients and business partners is of paramount importance. One way you can do this is by face to face weekly or monthly visits, depending on the demographics of your business. Another way is by keeping in touch using email or telephonically. Remember, human interaction is key. People love feeling appreciated. Also, remember that customer service is important, as a person will usually base his or her entire opinion of a business on a handful of personal interactions. So, you need to make sure that those interactions are positive. It’s all too easy to lose a customer forever.
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