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Pitching in the Dragons’ Den

Dragons’ Den Series 10 on BBC Entertainment – what lessons can entrepreneurs take away from episode four?




Dragons-Den-South-Africa-BBC-Entrepreneur Today

This episode of Dragons’ Den was all about a good investor/investee fit. How do you best present your business idea – and have you chosen the right investors to pitch it to?

When pitching your business to potential investors, there are three things to bear in mind:

  • What is the value of your pitch?
  • Do you have a value proposition?
  • Do your numbers work?

This week we saw a variety of investors pitching diverse businesses ranging from a word game to an online funeral planning service. But most of them had one thing in common – they failed to tick all of these boxes.

Clever idea not enough

The first entrepreneur before the Dragons was Crystal Rose. She was hoping that they would invest £80 000 in her Scrabble television show, which will be supported by a board game and mobile phone apps. After an entertaining demonstration of how the game would work, Crystal went on to explain her idea to the Dragons. However, not clearly enough, as the Dragons felt that they didn’t have sufficient knowledge of the television industry to add value to her venture.

Despite Crystal having done her homework and having previous experience in the industry, none of the Dragons wanted to invest in something they knew nothing about.

  • The lesson: Unlike a bank, investors don’t just offer money in return for interest, they usually want to have a say in the business, so it’s important to choose investors who have some experience in your chosen industry so that you can benefit from their business acumen.

Your idea has to be viable

When pitching your business idea to investors you need to be able to show that it is a viable proposition that will provide them with a return on their investment. Brothers Tony and Sid Heath wanted £50 000 for their idea for a gadget that would override the automatic cut-off often installed in showers at camping sites and gyms.

However, they failed to show how the idea would provide a return and the Dragons were dubious about the viability of the gadget, bearing in mind that the cut-off system is aimed at water-saving.

Rebecca Jane’s idea for a public relations firm with a difference fell into the same trap. While the basis for PR should be relationships, her business model didn’t emphasis relationships and the Dragons felt that she was taking a shotgun approach to publicity, one that wouldn’t succeed in the long run. She, too, left empty-handed.

Passion and enthusiasm can sway investors

22-year-old student Harrison Woods wanted £60 000 for a 20% stake in his parking bay letting agency. He also sells barriers that prevent people from parking illegally.

The Dragons pointed out that in order to succeed, a business had to meet one of three criteria:

  • It has to have a key differentiator
  • It has to be a new idea
  • It has to have first-mover advantage.

Harrison’s business idea met none of these criteria, however the Dragons liked his enthusiasm as well as the fact that his persistence had seen him sell an impressive number of parking bay barriers. As a result they invested in his business, albeit for a far greater stake than he initially offered.

  • The lesson: It’s not always about the business. Sometimes an investor will take a chance on you, as the entrepreneur, as was clearly the case with Harrison. The Dragon’s saw potential in the young entrepreneur, and wanted to be a part of his journey. Passion and a willingness to work, and take advice, will go a long way.

It’s not just about the money

Harrison’s pitch also proved that sometimes you need to be prepared to give up a far bigger stake than you initially wanted in exchange for the investment and wisdom that the investor can bring. A lesson hard learnt by gardening duo Michael and Joe Smith, who had a brilliant business concept but proved so hard headed that the Dragons decided not to invest in the business.

Investors need to know that you will take their advice on board and implement it to grow your business and they questioned Michael and Joe’s ability – and willingness – to do this, as the duo were unable to even negotiate a stake in their business with the Dragons. Investors want an open-minded and willing business partner and unfortunately these two proved to be neither.

Know your numbers

Final Fling businesswoman Barbara Charmers presented a quirky funeral planning website business idea. While the idea ticked all of the three criteria for a successful business, Barbara’s poor grasp over her numbers (and the belief she could turn a 75% profit in year one) proved to be her undoing, and she left without an investor.

Know your Dragons

When choosing an investor for your business it’s always a good idea to understand their mandate – who they are and what their area of expertise is. As this episode has clearly shown, investors can only add value to industries that they are familiar with. Here is an overview of this season’s Dragons:

  1. Peter Jones – telecommunications giant
  2. Theo Paphitis – retail magnate
  3. Duncan Bannatyne – hotel and health club owner
  4. Hilary Devey – Queen of logistics
  5. Deborah Meaden – leisure industry expert.

Are you an entrepreneur with a viable new idea and an investor-ready business? Could you handle the heat in the Dragons’ Den? Enter BBC Entertainment and Entrepreneur Magazine’s exclusive Dragons’ Den Series 10 competition and you could win a business makeover worth R140 000 with business guru Pavlo Phitidis and Aurik Business Accelerator.

Entrepreneur Today

Win 1 Of 50 Free Tickets To This Exclusive Event With Entrepreneur And Matt Brown Media

Calling start-up business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs 25 years old and under. Win a free ticket to this life-changing event with Entrepreneur Magazine, Matt Brown Media and South African entrepreneur Max Lichaba.





Are you a young, start-up or aspiring entrepreneur looking for inspiration from someone who started with nothing and built a R120 million business?

You could be one of 50 lucky, young start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs to join Lichaba Creations, Kwa Lichaba, Lichaba Custom Rides and Lichaba Refinery owner Max Lichaba on Tuesday 20 March 2018 for an exclusive two-hour lunch and in-person interview brimming with entrepreneurial insights.

Enter to win this once in a lifetime opportunity

If you’re 25 years old and under, and looking for business advice to help you build a successful start-up, then don’t miss this opportunity to receive access to the event, which will be held at Kwa Lichaba in Soweto.

50 exclusive seats up for grabs!

Your prize will include:

1. First-hand insights from successful South African entrepreneur Max Lichaba.


2. A free Brand ID workshop with Vega on ‘How to Develop and Launch Your Brand’.

The workshop focuses on the importance of reflection and self-belief when offering your own personal brand and products to the world. You will be encouraged to explore your own values, meaning and purpose, and guided as to how to create an identity that will capture the unique individual that is “brand YOU”. The workshop will be hosted in Soweto or at Vega’s campus in Randburg, and the date is still to be determined


  1. FREE access to the premier Kwa Lichaba venue.
  2. FREE lunch included in the event.

How to enter the competition

You must be under 25 years old to enter the competition:

  1. Send an email to Entrepreneur Magazine at
  2. Give us your full name and ID number.
  3. Tell us in your email why you should win a free ticket to this premier event.

What you will learn from Max Lichaba

Max finished school with a Grade 10 education, and was expected to become a miner like most of the men in his community. Instead, he focused on becoming a business owner. It’s been a long, hard road, full of challenges, but today he heads up a R120 million business. Share in his journey as Matt Brown interviews him in person, and unpacks his journey, the hardships he’s faced, and the lessons his learnt in overcoming those obstacles, including:

  • Wanting more out of life than being a miner in his hometown, like his peers and seeking alternative opportunities to make money and uplift his community.
  • The power of persevering even in the face of closed doors – they eventually opened up because he pushed through for long enough.
  • The importance of starting, even if you start small, by initially focusing on breaking even before buying into the fancy additions to presumably make business faster and easier.
  • Banking on a new business and losing it all, with the added responsibility of paying employees’ salaries and pension packages with money he didn’t have

Max will join a list of some of South Africa’s most successful billionaires, entrepreneurs and the CEOs hosted on The Matt Brown Show, on Tuesday morning. Matt’s 20 years’ experience in business strategy, technology and marketing communications and over a dozen local and international awards make this a discussion worth participating in.

Don’t miss out – enter the competition to win your ticket

  1. Send an email to Entrepreneur Magazine at
  2. Give us your full name and ID number.
  3. Tell us why you should win a free ticket to this premier event.


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Entrepreneur Today

Franchising Sector Ready To Lend A Hand

How business can use franchising to improve jobs and support entrepreneurship throughout South Africa.





“We are at a moment in the history of our nation when the people, through their determination, have started to turn the country around.
Now is the time to lend a hand…
Now is the time for each of us to say ‘send me’…
Now is the time for all of us to work together, in honour of Nelson Mandela, to build a new, better South Africa for all.”
Cyril Ramaphosa, SONA 2018

The Presidents commitment to small business

The SONA speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his commitment to supporting small business and entrepreneurship has been welcomed by Tony Da Fonseca, the Franchise Association of South Africa’s Chairman, who in 2017 had already met with the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Trade & Industry to pave the way for greater co-operation between government and the franchise sector.

“We are encouraged by the President’s promise to increase co-operation with business and look at ways to encourage entrepreneurship, youth training and job creation” says Tony Da Fonseca.

“We are confident that the franchise sector can play a pivotal role through innovations like the development of social and micro franchising which hold enormous and largely untapped potential for the development of the economy and improve service delivery.”

Confirming that the growth of the economy will be sustained by small businesses, “as is the case in many countries”, President Ramaphosa confirmed that government would honour its undertaking to set aside at least 30 percent of public procurement to SMMEs, co-operatives and township and rural enterprises and would continue to invest in small business incubation. “It is our shared responsibility to grow this vital sector of the economy.”

Franchising is ready to play a larger role


As a sector that already contributes 13, 3% to the country’s GDP generating an estimated R587 billion through its 845 franchise systems, 40 528 franchisees and employing 343 319 people, franchising is perfectly poised to play an even bigger role in furthering small business development, skills transfer and job creation.

“As a successful businessman and former franchise owner himself, Cyril Ramaphosa is familiar with the far-reaching potential that franchising has in small business development, skills development and job creation, says FASA Chairman Tony Da Fonseca.

“We are hopeful that he will look to us in the franchise sector to assist in building that ‘small business support ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs’ that he referred to in his SONA speech.”

That, together with the welcome measures by government to reduce the regulatory barriers for small business and the introduction of an innovation fund targeted at start-ups and small suppliers that could become supply chains to the franchise sector, will go a long way to opening the doors to small business expansion and the benefits to the economy that will flow from that.

Related: Multi-Unit Franchising Growing In South Africa

The Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) has always been a proponent of small business incubation and has, over the years, embarked on various public/private initiatives to grow the franchise sector. Their efforts have included youth cadet schemes through the Jobs Fund, developing micro businesses to become franchise-ready through the Department of Small Business Development’s Micro Franchisor Development Project and through various private initiatives with funders and franchise members.

The franchise sector to stimulate entrepreneurship and jobs

According to Tony Da Fonseca, much more can be done in the public/private development space. “The opportunities to transform government services, such as health care, water delivery, education and in many other areas, through the social franchise format, are enormous. Both locally and internationally, pilot projects in social franchising that operate on commercial principles, making enough profit to sustain operations and re-investing surplus profits into the community they serve, have proved to be viable.”

According to Tony Da Fonseca, the franchise sector is well-positioned to come together in a concerted effort to stimulate entrepreneurship and create much-needed jobs.

Franchising in South Africa currently services around 17 business sectors – way behind countries such as Australia, Europe, Canada and the USA who boast between 25 and over 70 business categories.

Related: Key Franchising Trends To Consider For 2018

“The opportunities to expand into many more sectors and particularly in the social and services sectors of the economy are endless. We welcome the opportunity to work with government in creating an entrepreneurial environment that will grow investment confidence, introduce new small business concepts via the franchise system, accelerate BEE and enterprise opportunities, giving training to the youth and above all create those much needed jobs.”

Mr President, the franchising sector is ready and able to take on the opportunities for ‘renewal and revitalisation, and for progress to build the fair, just and decent society to which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life.’

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Business Model

How To Pick The Business Model That Works For You

So, you’ve picked your lane.  You’ve decided what you want to do and why you want to do it.  You’ve picked something you’re good at.  You’re convinced the world needs and values it.  You now need to decide how to make money.  That’s where business model design comes in. 

Anthony Miller




There are plenty of business model options for the same idea.  For example, let’s say your idea is to offer historic tours of Cape Town.  You could either do it yourself or hire professional guides to do it.  Or you could use mobile technology to provide DIY walking tours.  You could charge per tour or you could charge a membership fee.  There are so many options.  How do you pick the model that works for you?

The Lean Canvas is a great tool for entrepreneurs who are faced with this question. Adapted from The Business Model Canvas, it provides a simple, one page framework for brainstorming possible business models, prioritising where to start, and tracking ongoing learning.  It walks the entrepreneur through the business model process logically and ensures the key elements of a successful business are considered.

Related: Business Model Design – Picking The Business Model That Works For You

My co-founders and I have used the Canvas extensively at Simply – for designing our business model, and for communicating it to partners and investors. The only thing you know with certainty when you start a business is that it’s not going to turn out as you expect it to.  The Canvas evolves as you go – it was, and continues to be, a very useful guide in our journey.

Recognising an opportunity for disruption

We figured there was an opportunity to do something disruptive in the SA life insurance space.  It was clear to us that lots of people were either not covered or getting a rough deal.  Guided by the Canvas, we defined our first Customer Segment as adult South Africans, aged between 25 and 45 and earning between R5k and R30k monthly.

We then identified the 3 big Problems – specific to that segment – that needed solving:

  1. Most of the people in our segment have some form of funeral cover, but very few have life or disability cover.
  2. The cover they do have is often expensive relative to the benefits provided (i.e. a very small % of the premium goes towards the risk costs).
  3. There is no simple, intuitive way to buy good value life, disability and funeral cover online.

Developing a value proposition

Next came the Value Proposition.  We believed we could use technology, digital marketing and human-centred product design to deliver simple, online life, disability and funeral insurance at a great price.  We felt we could be for life insurance in South Africa what Takealot has been for retail.

We thought the world was moving far faster than incumbents realised; that millennials were ready to buy life insurance online; that we could build for the digital world and be in the right place at the right time.

And the rest flowed from there.  I don’t have the time or the space to walk you through the other elements of the Canvas here, but you can probably fill in the blanks.  Suffice to say, the process was invaluable and enabled us to build our business around a clearly considered business model.  It’s early days, but the signs are good – we’re making a positive impact, having fun and keeping our investors happy.

Creating a Lean Canvas

So, how should you go about sketching your own Lean Canvas?  The team at suggest the following approach:

  1. Sketch a canvas in one sitting. While a business plan can take weeks or months to write, your initial canvas should be sketched quickly.
  2. It’s okay to leave sections blank. Rather than trying to research or debate the “right” answers, put something down quickly or leave it blank and come back to it later.
  3. Think in the present. Business plans try too hard to predict the future which is impossible. Instead, write your canvas with a ‘getting things done’ attitude.
  4. Use a customer-centric approach.  You may need to sketch one Canvas per customer segment.  Start with the Customer Segment and go in sequence.

The Canvas has brought clarity and a common language to our business model design process.  It’s enabled us to agree upon and communicate our business model effectively – both internally and externally.  It’s also allowed us to tune and adjust our model as our story has unfolded – an inevitability for entrepreneurs.  I highly recommend the Lean Canvas as a tool for designing your business model.  Give it a try – I think you’ll like it.

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