An entrepreneur whose internet café gets the community of Senekal to be technology savvy has won a worthy prize at this year’s entrepreneur competition.Richard Montoeli won R10 000 for his thriving Richy’s Computer Shop. His business stole the show at the Tholoana programme award, an initiative of the SAB Foundation. The winners were announced recently in Johannesburg. The award is for diligent adherence to all programme requirements, as well as the top prize for excellent entrepreneurship. A total of 60 entrepreneurs were admitted to the programme, with just 15 of them coming from the Free State. Montoeli’s internet café and printing business distinguished itself from the rest. The selection team recognised his remarkable potential. In 2015, fortune changed when Montoeli applied to the Tholoana Programme.Montoeli received mentorship from knowledgeable business mentor Simon Kerr. With the mentoring and training received, Montoeli expanded his business plan to offer computer training to the residents of Matwabeng, a small town in the Eastern Free State. This, it turned out, was exactly what was needed in the area. Slowly but surely, things improved and Montoeli put systems in place to transform his business into a sustainable one. “This business started out of necessity and need, but Richard now sees his business as a science. He also found a way to have fun, which should be the benchmark of any business. Beyond simply making money, he puts his customers first,” said Kerr.At the outset, Montoeli did anything and everything to make ends meet. Back in 2012, while repeating his second year at the University of the Free State, he assisted in the computer lab to pay his fees. This practical experience set him up with the skills to run his own computer business.The dedicated entrepreneur’s parents were struggling to make ends meet, and his bright younger brother was writing matric. Montoeli chose to sacrifice his studies, believing that he had acquired sufficient knowledge to survive in the world. He believed his brother deserved a chance at university.In response, he opened an internet café believing he could make enough money. Self-employment, it turned out, was much harder than he imagined. Montoeli overcame challenges of low sales and high travelling costs in building his empire in a small town which offers a limited number of IT consumers and growth typically stagnates. Despite this, he kept going and growing his business.