Rondebosch resident Uzair Essack (27) was announced as the winner of the 2019 Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year category at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rosebank, on Wednesday 4 September. He was one of 15 finalists in South Africa’s premier annual entrepreneurial competition, the Entrepreneur of the Year competition, sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners.The founder and owner of Cape Crops, a fruit and vegetable export company based in Cape Town, says he was over the moon when his name was called.“Of course all of the finalists were hoping to walk away with the big prize, 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year, so there was a little bit of disappointment mixed in with the excitement of being announced the winner of the medium business entrepreneur category.”He says the best part of the evening was being able to share it with his mother Shameela Minty, and his grandparents. His father, Ebrahim Essack, who was visiting the company’s Dubai office at the time, wasn’t able to attend. “It is thanks to their sacrifices that I am were I am, that I have achieved what I have,” Uzair says.Prizes won include R50 000 worth of mentorship vouchers from Business/Partners and R70 000 cash which, Uzair says, he will use to travel and establish new markets for his business.Beyond the monetary prizes, is the networking opportunities, associated marketing and national media exposure that winners of this prestigious competition receive. Uzair says, since he won, the telephone hasn’t stopped ringing.“They either want me to partner with them or to sell or buy their products. I have also received calls from people wanting to nominate me for other entrepreneur competitions. To the world at large, I am now an award-winning entrepreneur. The credibility it has given me is priceless.” He says his plans include to keep on pushing his business, to identify new markets and to open new lines in response to global trends and demands.“We are incorporating other lines, for example, orange flesh sweet potatoes and avocadoes are very popular right now.”Utilising tech-savvy and innovative marketing strategies, the BCom student has built a global export business with a customer base in 23 countries in three years. However, he says he didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to sell fruit. “I started my first business when I was seven, selling laser pointers, Tazos and Pokemon cards to my fellow learners at Crawford School in Sandton.”Uzair says that, although his parents weren’t wealthy, they decided to enrol him at a private school to give him the best education possible. “I wanted to have the nice things my friends had, but I couldn’t afford them so I had to find ways to earn my own pocket money.”He attributes his entrepreneurial spirit to his father, and his grandfather.“They were all entrepreneurs. I grew up spending afternoons and weekends working in their businesses. After a while, it just becomes part of who you are.”Uzair says his father, Ebrahim, has been part of the company since the beginning. At present, he runs the company’s Middle East office.“I started Cape Crops when I was a student, importing rice from Pakistan and India. My truck driver introduced me to someone in Saudia Arabia who needed pineapples,” he says. His father, who was living in Durban at the time, helped him procure the pineapples and it just went from there.“I have been lucky enough to have a mentor by my side from the very beginning. The lessons my father have taught me have been invaluable,” Uzair says.Even though his business is taking off on a global scale, Uzair says success didn’t come overnight. He says he worked very hard in the early years and lost a lot of money. His advice to budding entrepreneurs is that they should keep on believing in themselves. “There will always be challenges and losses, you have to push through those until you see better days.”He says it is important to first find what you are passionate about. Then you need to learn all there is to know about your industry, your target market and your product or service.“Take things one step at a time. It is when you try to go too big too quickly that you end up making mistakes.” Lastly, he says you need to be honest with yourself, in your business dealings and your relationships.“Your reputation and integrity is the most important part of being an entrepreneur.”The other 2019 category winners are: . 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year: Andrew Weinberg, managing director of Retail Engage. . 2019 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year: Theo Baloyi, founder and owner of Bathu Swag. . 2019 Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year: Carmen Stevens, founder and owner of Carmen Stevens Wines. . 2019 Innovator of the Year: Wynand Geldenhuys, founder and owner of Vectra.