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Santam 1001 Days: A Milestone Business Interview with JesseJames

Day 1 to 1001 of the successful start-up, JessieJames’ journey from an idea to a budding business.

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The first 1000 days of business are make or break for a business. Statistically, very few entrepreneurs survive past 1000 days (3 years) of business. Santam is profiling diverse businesses to get their advice on how businesses can succeed to 1001 days – and beyond.

Meet JesseJames: a successful start-up founded when two childhood friends turned their mutual passion for design into a budding business that produces custom interiors, installations, activations and products for corporate clients.

Day 1 of 1001: Starting out 

After studying and then working abroad, Jesse Ede and James Bisset returned to South Africa. “There were not that many jobs”, says James. “The environment was very stark with few opportunities.” One day, surfing at Milnerton beach in Cape Town, the duo decided to start a design business that “makes things”. Their first ‘studio’ was James’ bedroom, and their first workshop was in Jesse’s artist father’s garage. They began by working for friends.

“We made a bookshelf for R1000. We made no profit, maybe R100”, Jesse remembers. But slowly, through word of mouth, they got more projects.

“Those first days were tough”, explains James. “We were living off our savings and having to make sacrifices in terms of lifestyle.” One of the first marketing exercises they did was to create a website, which they built themselves, and continue to update regularly.

Tip: “A lot of what we do has to do with attention to detail. When you’re starting out, it’s so important to form good relationships with your clients and the way to do that is to make everything absolutely perfect. That way, you build trust, and then a reputable brand.”

JesseJames Workspace

Day 155 of 1001: Created a creative hub

One of the first JesseJames standout jobs was a project for ELLE Magazine, designing the award for their “Rising Star” competition. Around this time, they decided to take the leap and acquire offices.

They found a great space but couldn’t afford the rent. They decided to sub-let the space to like-minded creatives. This not only covered overheads but also proved to be a valuable incubator. “We were all spinning off one another’s ideas and really learnt from one another”, James reminisces.

Tip: “Consider sharing your premises with other businesses to keep overheads low.”

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Day 577 of 1001: Creating systems

Another turning point was to start implementing an invoicing system. “We use Freshbooks and it has really saved us time. One of the biggest surprises of running a business is the amount of time spent on emails and not actually doing work!” laughs Jesse.

   Tip: “Don’t spend your precious time on a task if an online solution or another person can do it.”

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Day 763 0f 1001: A breakout client

JesseJames landed a breakout client in 2013: a yearlong project for a medical aid company. “We had to create a mobile lab that would tour around South Africa,” James explains. “It was very challenging as there were many innovations we had to brush up on.” The client was very happy and this retainer really helped to develop the business into what it is today.

Tips: “In client service, communication is key. If something is going wrong, let a client know early. Always try to get clients to commit some money on a job upfront. Even if it’s 10 or 20%, it will make them have a vested interest in the project.” 

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Day 1001:  Refocus your offering

In 2014, they decided to put new product development on hold and focus on commissions. “The retail world is fickle and suffers from recession”, explains James. “Service-based work always does well. Commissions will hone our skills and give us opportunities to do R&D that can be used on product development in future.”

Tip: “Sometimes you need to keep it simple and focus on what you’re really good at. Don’t try to do too many things at once.”

The next 1000 days

What is on the JesseJames agenda for the next 1000 days? “We would like to invest in more hi-tech machinery as a way to improve further on quality, hire another designer and do more community-based work”, says James.

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Santam is passionate about giving entrepreneurs the right tools to achieve business success. Over the next few months, Santam will be sharing the stories of those that have made it past the crucial 1001 Days, to help more businesses get to this important milestone. For more great business advice, visit our blog: www.santam.co.za/posts/business-advice or follow Santam for Business on Facebook and Twitter

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The Ins And Outs Of A Good Exit Strategy

The thought of parting with a business you’ve grown from the ground up may be unsettling, but Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, says that it is better for both your business and yourself to plan for this as early as possible.

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“The challenge that business owners often face in this respect is comparable to the difficulty that many new parents have with imagining their children grown up and leaving for university. Imagine, however, if parents did not plan ahead for the cost of their education – that would be detrimental to the future of their children. The same could be the case for your business.”

Mjadu says that a good exit strategy is about sustainability and being able to measure your business performance against the goals you have set for it. “It’s really about being able to say, ‘this is when the work is done and I can exit the business or take on a different role – this is what success looks like in terms of monetary return on investment and other business growth indicators’.

“The lack of an exit strategy could be telling of a fundamental lack of measurable business goals and this needs to be addressed,” she says.

From immediate liquidation to liquidation over time; family succession; selling to staff or external investors; the open market or another business; or the gruelling but profitable exercise of taking your company public – there are many different ways in which an entrepreneur can exit their business, but Mjadu says that whatever the process, a strong and solid strategy is essential.

She shares five key points of a good exit strategy:

1. It tells you when you are done

Mjadu says that a good exit strategy should reflect a core understanding of all the intricacies of your business and should be able to tell you when the lifecycle of your business (or of your involvement in the business) should come to an end. This is usually done by including a set of tangible measurables or objectives so that it is easy to ascertain when these have been achieved.

Related: When Do You Know It’s Time To Sell Your Business

2. It sets out the right environment within which to exit

A good exit strategy considers the economic, social and political environment at the time of your exit. Mjadu says that this is important in order to plan for a secure financial future.

“Failure to think about this could result in short-changing yourself by exiting during a tough economic climate when the risk to buyers reduces the value of your business.”

She references the case of Victoria’s Secret when founder, Roy Raymond, sold the failing business for $1m unknowing that it would later grow into the multi-billion dollar empire it is now. “While Raymond’s exit was ultimately necessary for Victoria’s Secret’s growth, he sold it in 1982 during the global recession of the early eighties – one of the world’s biggest financial crises and this influenced the selling price at his exit”.

3. It compensates those who have contributed to the life of your business

It is important to consider the impact your exit could have on investors and staff, says Mjadu. “Closing shop for example, means that your staff no longer have employment at your business. Selling could mean the same.” She adds that it is important to consider ways in which your exit could also benefit these stakeholders – for example, selling to a bigger business could mean more career opportunities for your staff, as well as continued job security.

4. It compensates you

Mjadu says that entrepreneurs often struggle to recognise their own true worth, especially when this involves attaching a monetary value to what has been achieved. “The time of exiting a business is no place to short-change yourself. You need to get out the full worth of what you put in,” she says, explaining that this means ensuring that you are financially secure before and while you go into your next venture.

“Your needs for retirement and medical insurance, as well as the maintenance of your living standard, should be met at your exit.”

Related: Want to Exit the Company? Here’s Your Shareholder Exit Strategy

5. It sustains your entrepreneurial drive

Mjadu says that while you may be nearing the end of one journey, your exit should enable and encourage you to continue to be an entrepreneur – and to look forward to the next journey. “Your entrepreneurial skills and capacity do not end when you exit your business and whatever your strategy, it should egg you on to more entrepreneurial activity including becoming a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Mjadu says that exiting your business should allow you a good retrospective look at what you have done over the years – and so planning the strategy early on in your business lifecycle will set you up in regards to what you hope to achieve. “Upon exit, you should be able to say that you have done what you set out to do, financially and socially, and you have some energy left to do more elsewhere.”

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Search Is On For SA’S Online Retailer Of The Year

World Wide Worx in partnership with Platinum Seed, Visa, Heavy Chef and the Ecommerce Forum of Africa, launch new awards to recognise online stores that promote shopper trust.

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World Wide Worx today announced that it was launching a new awards programme — called the Online Retailer of the Year — to honour online stores in South Africa that grow trust amongst digital shoppers. The awards are part of a broader project to boost online shopping by World Wide Worx in partnership with Visa, Platinum Seed, the Ecommerce Forum of Africa and Heavy Chef.

“Online retail in South Africa has consistently grown above 20% since the turn of the century but only passed 1% of overall retail in 2016. Research shows that trust is a big factor in ecommerce growth, which is why we want to recognise online retailers who help to grow the entire sector by ensuring the kind of ecommerce standards that engender trust with online shoppers,” Goldstuck says.

“But once online retail passes two per cent it crosses an essential psychological barrier and this often leads to a tipping point in emerging economies. That’s when we see online retail snowballing. It gathers real momentum and everyone in the sector benefits,” Goldstuck explains.

To be eligible for entry to the Online Retailer of the Year, owners of digital stores are urged to participate in an essential survey of local online shopping being run by Goldstuck’s World Wide Worx, together with Visa and digital growth agency Platinum Seed.

To participate in the research, local online retailers can go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/OnlineRetailSA

All online retailers who participate will be entered into the award. However, participation in the survey is not a precondition for entry to the awards. However, only online retailers who operate from within South Africa’s borders are eligible for this local award.

The awards will be made at a Heavy Chef event in Cape Town on Thursday, October 01 2018. At the same event, World Wide Worx’s Arthur Goldstuck will lay bare the state of local retail, with Brad Elliott, CEO of Platinum Seed, and Visa.

Related: Up To R1 Million In Funding For Tech Solutions To Early Childhood Challenges

Goldstuck, who is judging the awards, will present the following awards:

  • Online Retailer of The Year
  • 1st runner-up – Online Retailer of the Year
  • 2nd runner-up – Online Retailer of the Year
  • Best New SA Online Retailer of the Year.

The winners of the Online Retailer of the Year awards will be given a digital badge that the online store can display online. The winners will have bragging rights for a year — until the next award is made in 2019.

Judging criteria for the awards include trust, innovation, customer service, digital excellence, customer engagement, product excellence, and the online reputation of the digital store. Visa, Heavy Chef, and Platinum Seed will oversee the judging of the awards. The Ecommerce Forum of Africa will audit the results.

Retailers or entrepreneurs who want to attend the awards and presentation of the research results by Goldstuck can purchase tickets from Heavy Chef.

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Up To R1 Million In Funding For Tech Solutions To Early Childhood Challenges

Applications from individuals, non-profit and for profit organisations are welcome. Innovation Edge accepts early stage ideas pre or post proof of concept phase.

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Innovation Edge, an early stage investor and venture builder, has launched a call for tech solutions to problems faced by young children and those who care for them. The most promising ideas stand the chance to receive up to R1 million in funding and will have access to a range of incubation support. Qualifying ideas will address a defined need within early childhood and have a sustainable route to scale that includes families living in poverty.

Deadline for submissions is 19 October 2018.

The human brain is naturally wired to learn, but the brain’s capacity to absorb new information and learn new skills is most pronounced in the first 5 years of life. During this period of development, not only does the brain learn best, but it gets wired in ways that impact lifelong learning. Experiences during early childhood literally shape the architecture of the developing brain.

Sonja Giese, Executive Director for Innovation Edge, explains why investing in solutions to early childhood problems is critical; “ Eight out of 10 Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning. Six out of 10 Grade 5 learners cannot do basic maths. These scores are predictive of final school outcomes, meaning that by the age of 10 years, a child is on the educational trajectory she will most likely follow.”

“There is no conceivable way in which South Africa will realise its development goals, including increased employment, radical economic transformation, reduced crime and dependable leadership, without significantly altering the current trajectories of our youngest citizens. This sector is desperate for innovative solutions that offer impact at scale.”

Related: The Truth About Venture Capital Funding

While Innovation Edge welcomes submissions for any bold ideas at any time throughout the year, this call is specifically focused on tech solutions to early childhood challenges.

Examples of the types of challenges that applicants are invited to respond to include the following :

  1. Paper-based systems of recording classroom attendance are time-consuming and lacking in accuracy. How might you create a tech solution that enables pre-school teachers (in both high/mid and low income environments) to quickly capture verifiable classroom attendance for children aged 3 to 6 years?
  2. Young children’s (birth to 6) developing brains thrive from having daily positive back and forth conversations with their parents. How might you create a tech solution to help parents (in both high/mid and low income environments) embed this behaviour into their daily lives?
  3. Approximately 33% of women living in adversity will experience a mental illness (primarily depression) during or after pregnancy.  What opportunities could tech offer to support mothers, particularly those in low-income environments, who are suffering from depression?

Applications from individuals, non-profit and for profit organisations are welcome. Innovation Edge accepts early stage ideas pre or post proof of concept phase.

To submit a proposed solution and for more information on Innovation Edge visit http://innovationedge.org.za/opportunity-hub/.

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