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Opportunity For All Digital Entrepreneurs To Take Start-up To The Next Level

Entrepreneurs developing digital solutions on the African continent are invited to apply to the next Venture Incubation Programme – a partnership between telecommunications giant, MTN and the Solution Space based at the UCT Graduate School of Business.

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The Solution Space, at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) is looking for 10 digital ventures to participate in the upcoming Winter School Venture Incubation Programme (VIP), which begins in September.

“This is an opportunity for innovation-driven entrepreneurs who are working on digital solutions to take their business to the next level,” says Sarah-Anne Alman, Manager at the Solution Space.

“The early-stages of a start-up are so critical and often the least supported time in the life-cycle of a start-up. We aim for maximum impact at this stage and for start-ups to leave our incubator with a thorough understanding of the fundamentals required for a viable solution.”

Run over 3 months with sponsorship and mentorship support from MTN, the Venture Incubation Programme provides participants with R300 000 worth of support. This consists of mentorship, advisory services, access to investor and corporate networks and workshops on business fundamentals such as marketing strategy and business model development. The programme has helped over 30 start-ups over the past two years.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

MTN has shown significant investment in the start-up ecosystem on the continent and this incubation programme is a key platform for the company to engage with the latest emerging startups working on digital solutions that address broad-based needs across Africa. Stephen van Coller, MTN Group VP: Digital services, Data analytics & Business Development says.

“At MTN we are committed to driving the development of a bold new digital world. MTN’s dedicated teams are highly active in this Venture Incubation Programme to provide a strong connection between the startups developing the latest digital solutions and the expertise and resources existing within MTN”.

According to Kamogelo Kekana, co-founder of Akiba Digital, a mobile application for financial services and a current participant of the VIP Summer School, the programme really helps set up entrepreneurs for success.

“One big benefit is how the programme integrates you into the Cape Town start-up ecosystem.”

For fellow participant Rufaro Masiiwa, who is with Mkwereti, a data analytics platform for the agricultural sector, a highlight has been being challenged to test risky assumptions about business models early on during the 5 day design sprint. “There is so much access to a wealth of support and business acumen, as well as legal, financial and marketing help on the programme,” she says.

The programme also offers entrepreneurs an invaluable opportunity to connect with other start-ups on the same journey says Dhanyal Davidson, from the Digest, a financial media start-up for millennials as well as Prospa, a savings solution for low-income earning South Africans. “It keeps your energy high and gives you a sounding board when faced with both mental blocks and tough decisions.”

These and other start-ups who are participating in the VIP Summer School will showcase their business models at a Demo Day on 26 June 2018. “The event is designed to give them an opportunity to present to investors and corporate partners. It is also a chance for potential participants to come and have a look at what the programme is all about,” says Shiela Yabo, Co-ordinator at the Solution Space.

Related: Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea

Yabo adds that since the inception of the VIP programme two years ago, the standard of the programme continues to go up, with the level of entrepreneurs joining being also very impressive. To qualify, start-ups must be working towards building a sustainable Africa through digital solutions, be committed to their business full-time, and be a team of at least two members.

“We focus on the early stage of the development process. Our aim is to get a business model validated and to see what is needed to turn it into a startup that is sustainable and scalable,” says Yabo. The programme is aiming to reach innovators in Fintech, IoT, Edtech, Agtech, e-commerce, entertainment and gaming as well as Healthtech.

Yabo adds, “One of the strongest aspects of the programme is connecting people within the right industry to networks for mutually beneficial relationships and collaborations. In many instances, that in itself, has been a major stepping stone to success for these participants.”

For more information or to apply to the VIP Winter School Programme visit http://gsbsolutionspace.uct.ac.za. Applications close on 1 July 2018.

To RSVP for the Demo Day: http://bit.ly/VIPSS18DemoDay

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Celebrating The Best Of The Best In Black Business

The 2019 Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards, held at Emperor’s Palace on Friday, 15 March 2019, celebrated the champions of transformation of the South African economy.

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Established in 2002, the BBQ Awards 2019 honoured the best of the best in black business. South Africa’s top black business owners and rising stars arrived to the red carpet for a night full of glitz and glamour. Celebrity TV presenter, socialite, radio personality and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo led the festivities as the evening’s programme director. He was joined on stage by A-list celebrities and prominent politicians.

Jeff Radebe, Minister of the Department of Energy, celebrated 25 years of South Africa’s democracy in his opening keynote address and emphasised the importance of transformation.

“Transformation is well recognised as a change management strategy, which aligns people, which aligns processes and technology initiatives, irrespective of the industry you come from, in order to survive and evolve in this business environment. Changing the structure of the South African economy will result in it being more inclusive, more sustainable… with opportunities for all, integrated value chains, and less barriers to entry. In South Africa, the transformation agenda is very critical in all our endeavours and all our decisions.”

Radebe congratulated the winners of the 15 transformation categories on this recognition of their inspiring dedication:

  • Platinum Award: Dr Nobuhle Judy Dlamini, founding chairman of Mbekani Group, is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. Her passion for creating and adding value to society and humanity provided her with the overall platinum award for the evening, as well as the Comair Outstanding Woman of the Year Award.
  • Hennessy XO Businessman of the Year Award: Sthembiso Elton Nkomo, CEO of Abalandi Risk Management, was recognised as a professionally qualified, dedicated, and respected professional in the forensic investigation and security services environment.
  • The Innovation Hub New and Innovative Business Award: AET Africa, a manufacturer and supplier of energy efficient and clean technology products, developed various products targeting the commercial and residential sectors.
  • Emperors Palace Community Builder of the Year Award: Emmanel Bonoko, Founder of EBonoko Holdings and a social entrepreneur. He founded EBonoko at the age of 21 with the aim of serving others and fostering leadership, youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship.
  • Dormehl Phalane Property Group Transformation Champion of the Year Award: ICT-Works, an organisation that provides innovative technology solutions. At its core it also enhances the lives of millions of people.
  • Best Employer of the Year Award: Maredi Technologies CC, an 100% black owned ICT infrastructure solutions provider for the private and public sector.
  • Trade & Investment KZN Young Business Achiever Award: Pravashen Naidoo, Founder and CEO of e-Waste Africa, established Africa’s first light bulb recycling business at the age of 30.
  • Bentley South Africa Public Sector Visionary Award: Dr Ayanda Vilakazi, CEO of Lama Marketing and Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He published numerous articles on how to improve services and operations in South Africa. As a seasoned Executive he has expertise in corporate governance, financial management and budgeting, enterprise risk management and strategic development.
  • BET New Entrepreneur Award: Ms Thobile Nyawo, Director of Nyawo Civil construction. The 19-year-old construction entrepreneur founded her company in 2015 with no start-up capital.
  • CSI Ubuntu Award: Vukani-Ubuntu Community Development Projects, a non-profit organisation that is the largest mineral-beneficiation organisation in the jewellery sector in South Africa and a network off grassroots development projects across the country.
  • NHBRC Iqhawe Mentorship Award: Musa Zulu, Creative Director of Valhalla Arts, as well as published author, international artist, celebrated motivational speaker, and prominent disability activist in South Africa.
  • NYDA Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Muhammad Simjee, Founder and CEO of A2D24 with a passion for building gadgets and writing software.
  • Nedbank Group Individual Transformation in Leadership Award: Karen Rademeyer, Fundraiser and Communications Manager at Go for Gold, having worked in the non-profit sector for 17 years She is passionate about education: Go for Gold as a dynamic Education-to-Employment programme that recruits school students from some of South Africa’s poorest communities and transforms them into technically qualified graduates.
  • LTE Holdings Best Established Black Business Award: Thata uBeke Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd, which offers turnkey solutions by designing, developing, manufacturing and assembling electronic and electro mechanical components for a variety of applications including aerospace, telecommunications, mining, commercial, and military specifications.

The BBQ Awards continue to be South Africa’s most prestigious transformation awards. For more information on the 2019 BBQ Awards, visit http://www.bbqawards.co.za/ or follow them on Facebook (@BBQAwards) and Twitter (@BBQ_Awards).

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Why Just Having A Great Idea Won’t Make You The Next Richard Maponya

Tilldan Bunagni – Brand Manager for Firstwatch Whisky shares some insights into what will help you on the road to business success.

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All entrepreneurs have hurdles to overcome on their path to success, and it takes guts and fortitude to survive the journey. As self-made publisher, William Feather said, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

Richard Maponya has been described as a living legend, and while his first business idea to retail directly to consumers in Soweto proved successful, it was his incredible determination and work ethic that saw him overcome an extremely hostile business environment for black business under the Apartheid Government.

Today’s up and coming entrepreneurs face different challenges and while there is support for SMEs from Government to Corporates, the reality is that starting a business and seeing it develop into a highly successful entity creating wealth for the owner, employees and other stakeholders, is the exception rather than the rule.

So, what are some ideas that will help you pave the way for a successful business providing for yourself, your family, your community

Ensure you don’t neglect the business while chasing the money

One of the worst mistakes a small business can make is not having a good admin system in place. Without booking keeping records, SARS compliance and financial records for example, you will at some point hit a brick wall.

Whether it’s because you are growing and need to access funding – which will prove very difficult without business documentation – or you have neglected your SARS payments and compliance, the wall be there. From the start, learn how to manage your admin yourself, or employ the part time expertise of a professional. It will be well worth the initial spend.

Don’t be scared to ask for money

Many successful businesses have become so because they sought funding when they needed it. Whether this is at the start-up phase or when the business is already established but ready to be fast tracked to the next level. While there seems to be a lack of understanding of how many and what options are available to SMEs in SA, the truth is there are literally hundreds of funding products available. Search Google with keywords such as: Access to finance in South Africa and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the what is actually available.

Don’t be scared to look for support

Success often comes with support. Being an entrepreneur or small business owner can be a very lonely existence. Whether you seek the backing of a Mentor or join a support programme, improving your business skills and having a cheering squad behind you is empowering.

Another form of support can be found in initiatives and competitions geared towards developing and rewarding entrepreneurs. Look out for ones that talk to the genuine needs of an entrepreneurial business – such as financial support backed by business training and support.

The journey for entrepreneurs is really tough, but certainly well worth the effort in the long run.

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How Firstwatch can help you!

Firstwatch is currently running the ‘Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge’. This serves as a platform to move business ideas and concepts to the next stage of growth for the 100 applicants selected to join the two-day workshop.  The training programme is chock-full with robust, hands-on experiential learning with some of the country’s leading business experts.

At the culmination of the programme, entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to pitch their business or business idea to a panel of judges – where the top 10 will be selected. All entrepreneurs will be invited to attend the closing ceremony on the 19th May, where the top 10 will pitch to the entire audience and a final panel of celebrity judges and successful entrepreneurs.

The overall winner will walk away with R50 000 support for their existing or start-up business.

The entry closing date is the 31st of March with workshop dates on 27 and 28 April 2019.

For information on the initiative simply call or send a Whatsapp, SMS or “please call me” to 072 391 9937 or e-mail info@firstwatch.co.za.

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Digital Transformation Should Be A Priority For Small Businesses In South Africa

With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

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When a water pipe bursts in your home one morning, your initial reaction will probably be to grab your smartphone and search Google for a plumber nearby. Perhaps there is one just around the corner, but you wouldn’t know about them if they don’t show up in your search results. This scenario sums up why a good digital presence has become a must for small businesses in South Africa. The internet – and almost any business opportunity – is where the customers are.

According to the 2019 Global Digital Report prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, 54% of the South African population are internet users. This means there are 31 million people in South Africa who are searching for products and services online; 29 million of them are active mobile internet users. With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

First step on the road

We believe the journey of digital transformation starts with creating your own online identity. This is creating a place of your own online, starting with a website, and letting people know who you are, what you do, and what you offer. Think of it as your mobile storefront or your online business card. Start small and grow over time: no need to over-engineer or over spend.

Website builders like GoDaddy Website Builder can help you get a professional-looking website up and running in a short amount of time, even if you don’t have a big budget or any technical skills. And it will look amazing on a smartphone, not just yours! Once you’ve created your website, you can start looking at using tools like social media, search engine optimisation, and e-mail marketing to help reach new customers and stay in touch with existing ones.

Thanks to the internet and the digital tools available today, it’s not as hard or as expensive to create and promote your brand as it once was. First, a solid strategy is important, and it should include ways of showing your target audience what makes your brand and products unique.

Here are some other tips about how you can get value from your digital presence:

  • Mobile continues to rise: As we’ve mentioned before, more than 90% of internet users in South Africa are mobile. You should focus on improving site speed, navigation structures and readability on mobile devices, and look to optimise your website from the start for the mobile experience.
  • Simple design: This is an extension of creating mobile-first experiences, and it’s important that your website looks and works great on all screen sizes. This year, web design will focus on relevant and catchy content as well as design to help ensure you catch your users’ attention.
  • Feature “platforms”. What do I mean by platforms? This includes maps, payment solutions, food delivery services, and shared rides fall into this definition. Our friend the plumber might not need these for his website, but a restaurant could truly benefit from adding maps, partnering with a booking or reservation service and even a customer rating solution.

With an increased number of data breaches occurring, protecting your new website and your customers’ data has become even more important for companies of all sizes. Whether or not a website has an SSL Certificate, it can affect your search rankings, so you should ensure your site has the added SSL Certificate protections.

Voice search and chat – are they in your business’s future?

Looking to the future, we can expect to see the digital world evolve at breakneck speed. Two trends to be on the look-out for in the not-too-distant future are voice search and chatbots. Currently, one out of every five internet searches come from voice queries, which means people are speaking their searches into their smart devices.

Therefore, while optimising your website and content for search engines, it will be important to do it for voice searches, keeping in mind the growing use of virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana. We can also expect to see more businesses using chatbots powered by AI on their websites, as well as social media profiles and applications, to provide instant assistance for their customers.

Perhaps your small business is planning to start implementing these tools during the year. Or it could be several years before these features are on your radar. Either way, they highlight some potential ways your evolving digital presence can allow you to find and interact with customers in new powerful ways.

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