Getting a small business off the ground in these tough economic times is not for the faint-hearted. Proving they have what it takes are Bergvliet residents Mario and Hayley Roos, finalists in the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year competition.Mario, along with his wife Hayley, founded LighTec – a lighting and electrical maintenance business – in 2017. “To start and grow a small business like this takes a lot of guts, and then a lot of sacrifice is required to keep it going in the right direction. I have had to sell things so that the crew could have fuel. I have had to pawn my laptop and car so that the crews could have enough stock for that month,” says Mario. Today LighTec services around 1 000 South African retail stores every month, but this healthy business flow did not happen overnight. “LighTec started on a shoestring budget and has grown organically over time, without any outside funding,” says Mario. “We started with just one technician – me – and an assistant, and have grown to 16 staff across South Africa in just two years.”With big plans for the future, Mario is confident that this high level of business growth will continue. “Given the challenges that South African businesses face with regards to rising electricity costs, we have recently shifted focus in a big way to energy efficiency projects with new LED technology, to alleviate the pressure on the national grid. “We provide in-depth energy analysis and payback periods for energy projects, a service which is increasingly in demand. With this service offering, we hope to employ 100 staff members in the next five years, which will enable us to serve more than 4 000 retail stores a month.”He is quick to add, however, that the company’s success would not have been possible without the support of his dedicated staff. “Our crew is as committed as I am. We do not have the resources that some of the other bigger companies have, so if one of our vehicles breaks down our technicians may have to be the mechanics as well,” says Mario. “In this sense, we work for each other because we know what the end goal is. We believe the rewards will be greater than the temporary sacrifices. This is why our technicians around the country always go the extra mile for our customers,” he says. The 2019 awards ceremony for the Entrepreneur of the Year will take place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rosebank, on Wednesday 4 September. Sponsored by Sanlam and Business/Partners, the competition recognises and honours successful South African entrepreneurs in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector.“For Hayley and me to be nominated as a finalist in the Entrepreneur Of The Year Competition is a great honour. It shows that with determination, hard work and sacrifice anything can be achieved. I believe it will have a great impact on others who are in a similar situation,” adds Mario.Now in its 31st year, the competition celebrates excellence in entrepreneurship, serving as an inspiration to others to succeed in the world of business. Finalists stand the chance to win prizes worth a total value of R2 million, which includes cash prizes of R500 000. Finalists and winners can expand their networks and receive invaluable exposure for their businesses as a result of the competition.