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Stormers’ Siya Kolisi: On Being An Entrepreneur And Employer In SA

Many sportsmen only begin thinking about other sources of income after their professional sporting careers draw to an end, Springbok Siya Kolisi has opted for a head start.

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Stormers captain Siya Kolisi has branched out into small business ownership with Frankees: A designer underwear brand with a South African spin. This is Kolisi’s first business venture, which adds him to the ranks of many South African ‘slashers’ who have alternative sources of income to their day jobs. With a current unemployment rate of 26.7%, SME business owners play an increasingly important role in uplifting South Africa’s economy and tackling unemployment.

Ahead of Workers Day on 1 May, Kolisi chatted about being an entrepreneur and employer at the Cape Town Live Better Talks sponsored by Capitec Bank – a bank that partners with business owners to offer smart banking solutions to employees. In SA, SMEs comprise 90% of formal businesses currently and could catalyse 90% of all new jobs in the country by 2030 – especially if President Ramaphosa delivers on his promise to remove current barriers to small business growth. So ventures like Frankees have the potential to make a big difference.

Related: 8 Lessons Rugby Can Teach Us On Achieving Peak Performance In Business And Life

Here’s what Kolisi had to share:

Tell us a bit more about your new business venture and why you decided to found it?

SK: I founded Frankees, a designer underwear company, with my former class and teammate Tim Whitehead. He originally approached me to be the face of the business, but when I looked closer at the business model I saw the opportunity that existed and brought my full skillset on board in exchange for 50% ownership.

It was an easy decision because Tim and I have walked a long road together, I can trust him, and, after a good business model, trust is the most valuable business commodity.

How do you balance playing rugby and managing a business?

SK: I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. You’d think that investing your money in a good business model is sufficient but that’s only the starting point. I’ve learnt that you have to work hard to make your money work for you.

Tim and I split up our roles based upon what comes naturally to us – this makes it less taxing. I focus on marketing and networking. It’s taught me perseverance and persistence. Having someone famous post a picture in your underwear on social media can have a big impact, but they are also usually very busy so it takes a lot of effort to get the photo out of them.

It sounds like you’re learning a lot along the way, what has been your biggest lesson?

SK: You need to set boundaries about who you listen to. There’s a lot of negativity out there and if you’re not careful people can talk you out of your business idea. I’ve chosen a select few people to walk this journey with me and their advice is the wisdom I value.

Do you think an employer has a responsibility to financially upskill employees?

SK: I do, but only if they’re open to having the conversation. I think there’s a lot to be said for transparency: As an employer, you need to be open about what’s working and what’s not. When things fail, you need to talk about the lessons you learn from the experience. From a financial perspective, I try to ask my staff about their future plans – whether they want to start their own business or pursue an educational venture of some kind, etc. – and offer gentle advice from my own experiences, if they’re open to this. I think, as always, there’s a lot to be said for leading by example. I talk about the way my family is saving and investing in our future. I also am open about the company finances: The importance of cash flow, plus insurance, emergency funds and all those key components to getting a new company off the ground.

Related: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

What role do you think SME’s play in the economy?

SK: Small businesses are very important not only for providing job creation, but they drive innovation and efficiencies in our economy. They have the largest potential to move people out of the poverty cycle of structural unemployment but one must be brave starting up a business because it’s not easy.

Personally I’ve been driven by the need to ensure I can always provide for my young family, even after I hang up my boots. I’m also passionate about being a change maker – running a successful business at scale will result in the ability to employ more staff thus creating jobs and empowering people.

What’s one lesson you hope to impart to your employees and other hopeful entrepreneurs?

SK: Always be on the lookout for creative ways to diversify your income; it is possible to hold down more than one job or to begin something small on the side to add to your income. Don’t wait until you’re confronted with a problem – begin now and be proactive.

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Fintech Hackathon To Support South Africa’s Entrepreneurs

Xero hosts South African developer technology challenge – and appoints a new General Country Manager.

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 Xero, the global leader in online accounting software has today launched a national competition, to put South Africa’s growing fintech industry firmly on the map. To mark the start of the developer technology challenge, Xero has also announced the appointment of Colin Timmis as Country Manager for South Africa, to take Xero forward.

Launched with Amazon Web Services, the virtual hackathon will enable the region’s technology entrepreneurs to compete with other forward thinking developers on a global scale. To take part, they need to develop an app that can sit within the Xero’s global ecosystem of over 600 apps.

As announced last night at an exclusive event in Johannesburg, the winner will receive R62,720 and the opportunity to attend and exhibit their app at Xerocon the world’s largest conference for over 3,000 accountants and bookkeepers, taking place in London in November.

Related: How The SA Government Can Help Small Businesses Thrive

Xero, which first launched in South Africa in May 2016, is now one of the fastest growing software companies globally, with 1.4 million subscribers around the world. In South Africa, the company is currently supporting tens of thousands of local small businesses, and a substantial support network of accountants. The competition marks the first in a series of Xero-led initiatives created for the South African tech community, as it continues to help more businesses and their advisors thrive.

“Since Xero first set foot in South Africa, I’ve been really impressed by the strong entrepreneurial spirit amongst the small business community. It’s really important that they are supported in the right way; and given space to pursue their best ideas and to grow. That’s why it’s time to open up our global developer competition to a South African audience. Those that have won it elsewhere have instantly been able to propel their business, and compete at a global scale,” said Gary Turner, Managing Director, Xero EMEA.

To support its continued growth in South Africa, Xero has promoted Colin Timmis, to Country Manager. Previously Head of Accounting at Xero SA, he brings a wealth of experience and skill to his new role. Before arriving at Xero, Colin founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice, Real Time Accounting, in 2011 – becoming Xero’s first Global Gold Partner in 2013, and its third fastest growing partner in the global territory by 2014.

“With over 12 years of experience in the accounting profession, promoting Colin to Country Manager will accelerate adoption of Xero in South Africa.” said Gary Turner: “His experience in cloud accounting, software implementation, development, integration and best practice is peerless. He’s already done great work for us during our market entry phase and I can’t wait to see how together we can help more and more South African small businesses realise the benefits of cloud-based accounting.”

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Breaking Down Borders – Top Considerations For SMEs Expanding Into Africa

In light of Africa Day on the 25th of May, more South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners should be encouraged to look at how they could expand their operations into the rest of the continent.

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In light of Africa Day on the 25th of May, more South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners should be encouraged to look at how they could expand their operations into the rest of the continent.

This is according to Mark Paper, Chief Operating Officer at Business Partners International (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that Africa has for long been regarded as a region with untapped economic opportunity. “The African Development Bank1 reports that the economic growth in Africa is set to accelerate to 4.1% over the course of 2018 and 2019, which can potentially yield benefits for SMEs.”

Paper points out that entrepreneurs should however firstly consider that each of Africa’s 54 countries represents a unique market with differing challenges and intricacies for doing business.

“The various economies, laws, languages and cultures need to be thoroughly assessed as part of the entrepreneur’s expansion plan, which should be structured around the target region’s strengths, weaknesses, potential opportunities and threats.”

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

He says that once the enterprise is ready to start operations in a specific region, the entrepreneur needs to ensure that the regulatory requirements of the region are adhered to.  “It is crucial to conduct due diligence and understand all relevant regulations. Most of the companies that make mistakes during this phase find themselves facing massive fines or potentially devastating legal action further down the line.”

According to Paper, the information that should be at the entrepreneur’s fingertips include the required permits, business and property registration processes, credit requirements, tax legislation, labour market regulations, and local content requirements.

He adds that the entrepreneur should also know which laws are in place to protect foreign investors. “Developing robust contracts and using local attorneys to ensure that contracts can be enforced under local laws is therefore imperative.”

Next, Paper says that it is essential to have a strong local presence, knowledge of the local market, and an understanding of customer expectations. “Employing workers from the region can potentially be one of the best ways to support the company’s operations. It will not only benefit the business and its reputation, but the local economy too.”

He notes that finding the right employees, creating cohesive teams and implementing skills training within the organisation relies heavily on understanding the culture of the region, and being able to effectively work around the potential language barriers. “It could help to consult local human resources firms and hiring agencies with strong track records in the region.”

Another point for entrepreneurs to consider, is whether the country has reliable electricity supply, says Paper.

“Electricity supply continues to be a challenge in various countries, and there are many regions that only receive electricity from their national power grids for a few hours per day. Where necessary, the entrepreneur will need to budget for the installation of generators, or even consider signing contracts with mobile fast-track power suppliers who can operate and maintain their own generators on the business’s property.”

Related: Thinking Of Cross-Border Expansion? Consider This First

While entrepreneurs need to consider a number of aspects when expanding across borders, he adds that the rewards for getting it correct are significant, and that the perceived challenges should not deter entrepreneurs from taking the leap, rather serving as a reminder of the amount of research that should be conducted beforehand.”

“Africa is open for business. All it takes is enough drive, passion and perseverance to tap into its growing markets,” Paper concludes.

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President Ramaphosa To Address SA’s Biggest Board Meeting, The Directors Event

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering a keynote address at The Directors event on 8 June 2018, at the Sandton Convention Centre.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering the keynote address at South Africa’s biggest board meeting, The Directors Event, which will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 8 June 2018.  Dr Jabu Mabuza, Chairman of Business Leadership South Africa will deliver this year’s Chairman’s Report.

Now in its fourth year, The Directors Event invites industry leaders to unpack three issues of national importance and discuss solutions in a public forum, moderated by highly-respected media personalities.

Youth employment & entrepreneurship, the use of technology to promote inclusive growth, and our political economy will be hot topics in this year’s highly focussed discussion programme which attracts participation from the country’s most prominent business and government leaders, and an audience of 300 ‘board member’ delegates.

“We are honoured to have President Ramaphosa address this important gathering of some of the top minds in South Africa. We invited him as a response to the call he made during his maiden State of the Nation Address earlier this year, calling on all South Africans, in their small corners, to help develop this country. We believe, strongly, that corporate South Africa has a massive role to play and we are very excited that everyone seems to have accepted the President Ramaphosa’s “Thuma Mina” call,” says Bongani Siqoko, editor of the Sunday Times.

Nontokozo Madonsela, Chief Marketing Officer of MMI, the JSE listed holding company for Momentum, Metropolitan and other financial services providers says, “We are incredibly honoured and excited that President Cyril Ramaphosa will be delivering the keynote address at this year’s Biggest Board Meeting. Over the past few months, we have experienced a wave of change in the country that has brought with it much needed confidence in what we can achieve. As a company with deep roots in South Africa serving a broad spectrum of citizens and businesses, we are heeding the President’s call to lend a hand in addressing our challenges. We are saying #CountUsIn, we want to be there. We believe this platform creates a space where we can have constructive dialogue and come up with concrete solutions that can positively contribute to improving the state our country”.

Related: President Ramaphosa’s Support Of Entrepreneurs And SMEs In SONA Had Us Cheering

President Ramaphosa will be the highest ranking government official to address The Directors Event with his keynote message.  Previous keynote speakers at The Directors Event have included Caroline Galvan (Lead Economist & Editor: Africa Competitiveness Report for the World Economic Forum), and Mcebisi Jonas (Former Deputy Minister of Finance).

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Science & Technology, and Enoch Godongwana, Chairperson of the ANC sub-committee on Economic Transformation will also be representing the perspectives of Government and the governing party during the round-table discussions at this year’s event.


The Directors Event programme is tailored for corporates, SMEs, educators, and non-profit organisations who are serious about turning South Africa’s socio-economic crisis around.

The Directors Event will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 8 June 2018.  To view the 2018 agenda, speaker profiles, or to book tickets: www.thedirectorsevent.co.za 

The Directors Event brought to you by the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies and MMI Holdings Limited, is supported by partners Mancosa (GSB), the Institute of Directors (IoD SA), and Greymatter & Finch.

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