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A Sucker For Entrepreneurs…

With just days to go before the winner of The Workspace/MiWay Business Insurance Entrepreneur Competition is announced, one of the judges, PHAKISO TSOTETSI has some ideas on the challenges faced by emerging entrepreneurs.





As an established entrepreneur passing on the skills and lessons I’ve learnt on my journey I, too, have emerged from this process a wiser man.

With just days to go before the winner of The Workspace/MiWay Entrepreneur Competition is announced, I’ve reflected on the time spent conducting workshops and skills development programmes with firstly the top 10, and more recently, the top five entrepreneurs.

Their maturity and love for what they do is the something that was brought home to me constantly, and which reminded me as an entrepreneur of how much I love what I do.

Secondly their level of dedication into growing their businesses was evident through the effort of participating in this competition (which started in February, and culminates on 13 September). This was no cut ‘n’ paste process. It was rigorous, time-consuming and yes, tough. Their openness to learning to be criticised, to be vulnerable about their personal and business lives, to say ‘I want to grow, teach me’; this is something that I know is tough to do, but because of their hunger and determination, they took it all on board (and on the chin).

I’m a sucker for entrepreneurs because I know what it means and takes to be one. Some of these guys are first generation entrepreneurs in their families and most of their immediate families do not understand what it takes to run an enterprise so there are various pressures that these guys experience, let alone their businesses. So to see them still follow their dream with that understanding is inspiring.

Traits in common

That said, I believe entrepreneurs do have certain traits in common. They are confident about themselves and their business. They are eager to succeed.

They are able to overcome challenges and see the bigger picture, so they display self-determination, consistency and agility. In the case of our finalists, they have a deep sense of self and feel a responsibility to contribute to this country’s people and its economic growth.

Cloud based loyalty management platform and app for SMEs, Loyal 1; finance solution company, Matla Risk Management; events and catering business Sindi’s Best for All; mining tech integration partner, Dwyka Mining Services; and Minatlou Trading 251, supplier of general and women-specific protective personal equipment/clothing are the top 5 finalists.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

Very different businesses, with different challenges yet what struck me was that they really understood their businesses and knew how to sell it. What they really needed to take it further was a business development programme that would structure their business and harness the skills they already possessed.

And that’s where the important part of this competition really kicked in. We incorporated a series of workshops and skills development initiatives to help them reach the next level. [As an aside, an important part of this was learning to pitch their businesses properly. One has even told me how his pitch training helped him acquire new business as he was going through the competition!)

So how they absorbed and took on these lessons played an enormous role in whether they made it to the next level of the competition. Working closely with them through this process highlighted several issues.

The challenges

Firstly, I realised many entrepreneurs had difficulty in differentiating a partner from client simply because of how some of their businesses needed corporate financing to activate the market which they had access to. As a result it was difficult for some the entrepreneurs to clearly understand who their client and partner was. This meant most of them said their services wereB2B and B2C at the same time.

Secondly the entrepreneurs ran their businesses without proper financial strategies and planning. They had not set measurable targets for their businesses. Some operated hand to mouth due to the lack of structure, and weren’t able to take home a salary.

Lastly, the entrepreneurs needed to understand the key operations of their businesses and focus on ensuring that those aspects were kept going all the time. This spoke to developing systems and processes that when implemented, would allow them to remove themselves from the day to day operations and bring in key people to run those functions for them while they focus on bringing in business and the bigger picture.

This is of course a difficult thing to do for a lot of the entrepreneurs. One of the entrants ended up crying because she realised that she was the biggest obstacle in her growth. In one week she had turned down two deals due to her lack of capacity simply because she wanted to be the one to do everything and did not trust other people to deliver and uphold her brand’s standards.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

Back to the top five finalists. What differentiated them from other competitors was their product knowledge, the potential for growth, their determination and enthusiasm, having good existing clients, that they were already generating some money, and that their needs met the prize offering (valued at over R500 000).

My advice to them – and to all the entrepreneurs out there who are helping us build an economically vibrant South Africa – continue being agile, especially in these challenging economic time. Don’t be afraid to try new things. And don’t forget to invest in yourself.

And my plea to government? Please cut the red tape. Please allow entrepreneurs to flourish. Please take the words of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, to heart. When he visited South Africa recently, he said, “The best way to create jobs is to encourage small business,” adding that he’d advised President Cyril Ramaphosa to give favourable tax rates to start ups as they needed it, rather than big businesses. He compared taxing small businesses to “taking the meat off mosquitoes’ legs”. Hear hear!

Phakiso Tsotetsi is the co-founder of the Hookupdinner, one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial networking platforms in the Sub-Saharan Africa along with co founding The Peoples Fund, a crowd funding and asset financing company that is driven by the people and for the People. Tsotetsi is an entrepreneur at heart and is all about entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Entrepreneur Today

The Innovator Trust And Citi Are Searching For Black-Owned Smes Who Are Ready For Growth

The Innovator Trust, an enterprise development organisation, and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), Africa’s oldest incubator, are calling on Cape Town-based growth-stage ICT entrepreneurs to join the intensive 2-year enterprise development programme.





The ICT sector has gone from strength to strength and is one of the fastest-growing industries on the African continent. Yet African entrepreneurs are still finding it a difficult business landscape to navigate. That is why The Innovator Trust and CiTi, through exposure, training and mentorship, now aim to equip entrepreneurs and businesses in the sector with tools that will keep them on track, assist them to achieve their goals and create tech leaders of the future.

ICT entrepreneurs in need of mentorship, skills development and business support who have been operating for more than 2 years and are fiercely committed to growing their business, can now apply to the prestigious 2-year Innovator Trust programme, co-developed and run by CiTi at the Woodstock Bandwidth Barn and remotely in Cape Town. Applications close on 22 February and the selected candidates will be announced on 4 March.

The Innovator Trust programme aims to support the: increase annual turnover, equip businesses with the necessary accreditation to remove red tape, as well as increase profitability and number of employees. Get ready to move the dial on your business.

Celebrating its 20th year of supporting entrepreneurs, CiTi currently runs a number of incubation programmes from idea to growth stage. After a very successful first cohort of the programme, completed in 2018, CiTi confirmed a second collaboration with the Innovator Trust to support further Cape Town businesses over the next two years. Applicants need to be in “ICT”, but this has included a broad range of focusses in the past, from IT recruitment, network security to cabling service provider and software solutions.

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

The programme, designed by CiTi and Innovator Trust, is not to be taken lightly. Monthly training, mentorship sessions with industry experts, and a strong focus on technical improvements means a substantial time and focus commitment by the entrepreneur. But this intensive design enables significant business progression over the two years.

 “Once the entrepreneurs who take part in our Enterprise Development programmes become more established, they turn their focus to growth. This accelerator is especially for entrepreneurs who’ve created businesses with high-growth potential and provides them with the skills to scale at speed and responsibly,” says Tashline Jooste, CEO of the Innovator Trust.

Cape Town was recently confirmed as the Tech Hub of Africa, by an Endeavor Insight Report commissioned by CiTi and partners, presenting growing opportunities for those businesses serious about growth, and with the right support.

“I believe strongly that ICT entrepreneurs are going to be critical to South Africa’s economic growth, which is why we need to focus on equipping these businesses with the skills they need to grow, create jobs and stimulate our economy,” adds Jooste.

In order to be considered for the programme, prospective applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • A company defined in South Africa as an SMME, QSE or EME;
  • Must be operational and trading for two or more years;
  • The business should be at least 51% black-owned;
  • A minimum Level 1 – 4 BBBEE status according to the DTI or ICT Codes;
  • The business must be a registered company with key focus in ICT and be based in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

In addition, applicants will need to supply copies of their company registration, company profile, and annual financial statements along with their BEE certificate and IDs with their applications.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

“We had a fantastic experience on the Innovator Trust programme, perhaps most beneficial was the advice and mentorship on our financial management, up-skilling of our team, and establishing a 3-year budget and growth plan for the business. Our advice to entrepreneurs considering the course is “JUST DO IT!!!” The skills and knowledge you gain are invaluable and put us on a serious growth trajectory.” states Jennifer Classen, Founder of Ngaphaya Y2K10, and Participant in the 2015 – 2018 Innovator Trust programme.

Ready to grow your business? Learn more about the programme and submit your application HERE.

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Entrepreneur Today

Rocket Challenge Targets Local Coding Skills

The Rocket APT Challenge is open to undergraduate students 18 years of age or older who are currently studying engineering, science, or technology at an accredited college or university.





Addressing the growing skills gap within software development, local information technology value added distributor, Axiz has sponsored the Rocket APT Challenge and encouraged 39 students to participate in the regional round of the Rocket.Build coding challenge. This comprises 40% of the total numbers of entries received globally. Hosted by Rocket Software and APT Solutions, this annual challenge provides a forum for participants to develop applications on Rocket’s MultiValue platform.

Colleen Becker, Axiz pre-sales engineer, says that the response to the challenge was exceptional and the company is excited to be part of this global initiative: “This is a fantastic innovation challenge that provides students with an opportunity to hone their coding skills on a leading software platform. South Africa is by far the bigger pool of entrants and we are excited to see who is selected for the global Rocket.Build 2019 Hackathon.”

Participants are required to design an app on Rocket’s MultiValue application platform in support of the challenge theme: ‘Improve your Community’. Consisting of three regions: EMEA, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas, three winners from each region will be selected and awarded a cash prize of:

  • $1,000 (USD) – third place
  • $2,500 (USD) – second place
  • $5,000 (USD) – first place

Related: Want To Take Your Coding To The Next Level? Check Out These 7 Productivity Hacks

The nine developers will also be given an all-expenses-paid trip to Massachusetts, USA in June 2019 to participate in Rocket.Build 2019, where they will compete in teams of three to decide the global winner of the Rocket APT Challenge. The winning team will share a grand prize of $24,000 (USD).

Becker says that this is the first year Axiz is participating and the company will definitely register for the 2020 challenge, recruiting of which starts in September 2019: “We are committed to grow the number of young coders on the Rocket platform. There is a global opportunity for students to graduate into a developing industry and support the growing shortage of MultiValue-certified coders. Participants also stand the chance of receiving an internship from participating partners across all industry sectors.”

The Rocket APT Challenge is open to undergraduate students 18 years of age or older who are currently studying engineering, science, or technology at an accredited college or university.

For more information, contact

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Entrepreneur Today

SMEs: Have You Completed Your Financial Planning For 2019?

While small to medium enterprise (SME) owners may not have a great deal of control over South Africa’s broader economic issues, they do have control over how they plan and manage their finances, says EasyBiz Technologies Managing Director, Gary Epstein.





“The failure of many SMEs to make it past the critical 3.5-year mark is more as a result of their inability to get the fundamentals right, rather than being able to deal with issues such as political uncertainty, crime or credit-rating downgrades.

“Several SMEs do not gain an adequate understanding of their markets or the competition they are up against. In addition, failure to manage their finances properly or to access funding and adapt to changes in the marketplace can also be serious hindrances to success.”

Epstein believes without proper financial planning and management, businesses place themselves on the back foot. “Business owners can only make informed decisions when they have a clear view of what is happening with their finances.”

That’s why having the proper financial management tools in place is so important for start-ups and SMEs. “At EasyBiz Technologies, we offer accounting solutions that are aimed at helping businesses manage their finances properly and placing them on a sound financial footing,” adds Epstein.

Tangible outcomes of a good system include increased productivity, reduced monthly expenses, improved accuracy, simplified tax compliance and better financial security. An effective system can also provide critical business insights and allow business owners to make informed and proactive decisions.

Epstein says efficient accounting solutions can help speed up business processes, affording business owners more time to focus on their core processes and growing their operations. “After all, time and money are the most precious resources when it comes to running a small business.

Related: 6 Steps Of Financial Planning

“Our solutions include analysis tools, report making applications and payroll assistance. In addition, income and expense trackers provide valuable information for tax and audit preparations,” he adds.

Epstein urges SMEs to plan for 2019 if they haven’t done so already. “It’s not too late to prepare for the year ahead and, with the financial year end for many businesses looming, now is the time to get a good system in place.”

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