Contest to unearth entrepreneurial trailblazers

2014-02-09 06:00

Budding entrepreneurs who are head and shoulders above their peers, now have a chance to showcase their innovations and live up to the legacy of the likes of Herman Mashaba.

Business Partners together with Sanlam launched their Entrepreneur of the Year competition this week, which seeks to unearth some of the country’s brightest small business stars.

According to Christo Botes, executive director at Business Partners, to strengthen South Africa’s entrepreneurial culture and build a flourishing entrepreneurial community, flourishing entrepreneurs need to be celebrated.

Meanwhile, Mashaba – an entrepreneurial icon who founded hair-care range Black Like Me – said a climate more conducive to entrepreneurs needed to be established. He pointed to the country’s labour laws as a particular point of contention, arguing that small companies cannot be expected to pay the same wages as big companies as the law prescribes, and that this ensures that big businesses keep winning and keep small businesses out.

Tommy Makhatho, who was the entrepreneur of the year in 2013, founded Bibi Cash and Carry – a retail group found in QwaQwa in the Free State. Makhatho said South African entrepreneurs faced many hurdles, the most common of which were finding funding and fear of failure.

“Entrepreneurs who have failed before have been shown to have higher rates of success than first-time entrepreneurs. However, these experiences need to be shared in order to motivate budding entrepreneurs to remain steadfast and not buckle under the pressure,” he said.

One of last year’s winners was Jonathan Pepler, who founded construction company Silverline Group. The company specialises in constructing light frame steel structures, a high-performance, environmentally friendly alternative building not widely used in South Africa. This method, which reduces the time needed to construct a building, has been used for the construction of some McDonald’s and KFC stores.

Entrepreneurs in South Africa are often touted as the solution to South Africa’s 25% unemployment problem; however an entrepreneurial culture is still absent from South African society.

According to the 2013 EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer report, 84% of respondents indicated that raising awareness of entrepreneurs’ role as job creators would significantly improve attitudes and perceptions of entrepreneurship, and only 15% believed their country’s culture encouraged entrepreneurship.

The report, which is designed to be an entrepreneurial benchmark, surveyed 1 500 entrepreneurs from the G20 nations, and identifies the various countries’ entrepreneurial growth and performance, as well as opportunities for further development within each nation. The report also showed that 70% of the respondents found it difficult to access funding in their country.

But Botes said through the competition, they aim to celebrate entrepreneurs so that South Africa’s entrepreneurial culture can be strengthened.

“[The] competition has seen a strong year-on-year improvement in the quality of entrepreneurs entering the South African market, as well as a diversification into sectors such as e-commerce, technology, alternative health and entertainment,” said Botes.

He said that South Africa’s natural resources, as well as developed financial, legal, energy, and transport sectors provide ample opportunities for local entrepreneurs to take advantage of.

“The various opportunities available in these sectors have also improved the calibre of entrepreneurs produced in the country.”

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