ENTREPRENEURS OF THE YEAR
Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner
Founders and owners of The Creative Counsel
Oved jokes that he never really thought about “becoming an entrepreneur” until after the age of one. “I knew from a very young age I wanted to be the master of my destiny and the director of my life. That happens to be called entrepreneurship.”
Oved and partner Neu-Ner’s business The Creative Counsel (TCC) is the largest advertising group in South Africa by staff and turnover. TCC has more than 1 000 permanent employees and provides jobs to thousands of temporary staff.
Friends since they were 15, they started small. After their internet business went bust, they “were kind of broke”.
Neu-Ner’s student girlfriend at the time was earning extra money as a promotional field worker and living comfortably. Inspired by her, the pair set up a small, low-risk, low-barrier-to-entry business placing promotional staff. “We hoped that would make us enough money to tide us over until we got a ‘proper’ business idea,” said Oved.
What started in 2001 as a two-man operation is now a R600 million business. In the past year, TCC grew by more than 25% and was recognised as the largest local advertising and communications group – a first in South Africa for a nontraditional agency. Oved said South Africa was a land of opportunity. “It’s well known that diversity leads to richness. We have plenty of diversity in this country and our company.”
SMALL BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Co-owner and co-founder of Delta Steam Systems
Anderson established an internationally renowned technical business without possessing any technical qualifications. He scraped through matric and was rudderless through much of his early adulthood, ending up in the steam industry by chance.
“I was working as a labourer and I remember telling my boss one day that, before the age of 30, I would be a millionaire. He just laughed at me. That inspired me even more.” After working in the steam industry for almost two decades, Anderson noticed that steam traps, which are critical for efficient steam systems, were continuously failing and needed to be replaced. This cost companies not only huge amounts in maintenance, but even more through wasted steam.
“I saw the opportunity and, with the help of a very enthusiastic customer, we developed the Delta Venturi steam trap.” Delta Steam Systems was started in 2008 and its steam trap revolutionised the global steam industry due to its simplicity and longevity. After a hard slog to market the benefits of the new trap, business started booming.
“Sales snowballed and we ended up getting large orders from Sasol and Engen, among others,” he said. “Once our website was up, we were inundated internationally. We now export to more than 20 countries and have distributors in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Australasia and China.”
MEDIUM BUSINESS AND INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR
Nadir Khamissa and Ahmed Shaazim Khamissa
Owners and founders of Hello Group
Acompany dedicated to helping immigrants clinched both titles due to its impressive financial results and ability to constantly adapt to the changing market.
“We are a platform for the voiceless,” said Nadir. “We help millions of migrants and smooth the path for them in every way we can. We help them communicate, travel, transact, become entrepreneurs, obtain comfortable living space, educate themselves, plan for their future, socialise and share.”
Sanlam’s judges believed the Hello Group brought families and friends closer together no matter where they were. The group consists of a number of subsidiaries, each of which offers an innovative product or solution to individuals from migrant and marginalised communities. Hello Group’s three main products and services include HelloMobile – a prepaid SIM card that offers customers discounted international calls and competitive local tariffs; Hello Distribution – the distribution arm for telecoms and financial services products to a base of 43 000 registered agents in city centres and townships; and HelloPaisa – a budget International Money Transfer company.
Hello Group has an entrepreneurship programme that trains individuals to understand basic concepts of business and then employs them as distributors.
EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
Co-founder and co-owner of Once in Cape Town
As a young female traveller, Whitaker never felt at home in hostels.
“I appreciated the finer detail in my accommodation,” she said. At the age of 23, she opened her first backpackers’ lodge in Observatory, offering comfortable digs for travellers on a budget.
With a partner, she had a vision of taking old, run-down properties or hotels and turning them into “poshtels”, a big travel trend at the moment, combining features of hostels and hotels
After scouting buildings for many years, she and her partner found an old lodge in Kloof Street that she revamped and opened in September 2013. Her four-star poshtel now offers a concise brand promise – the fun and adventurous qualities synonymous with a backpackers lodge with the cleanliness, safety, centrality and efficiency of a modern hotel.
The poshtel managed to increase occupancy rates from 32% to 80% in only a year. Despite constant reinvestment, the business maintained a 23% profit margin.
Whitaker is planning to open another poshtel in Johannesburg, and to take the concept to other African cities.
JOB CREATOR OF THE YEAR
Owner and founder of Partners Hair Design
Thomas, who is originally from the UK, arrived in South Africa more than three decades ago with little to his name. He opened his first hairdressing salon in Cape Town in 1984. Now he runs 14 unisex and eight gents’ hairdressing salons in the Western Cape. Thomas’ Partners Hair Design Training Academy, which trains local hairstylists, caught the eye of the Sanlam judges.
The academy speeds up training, enabling stylists to qualify in one year, not the usual three. Training includes a fully functional salon that accurately simulates a day’s work in a salon.
Partners Hair Design employs about 250 people nationally.
“Our staff are our most important asset, not only as they are the essence of our business, but because we care for them as individuals,” said Thomas.
Owner of the Coastal Nephrology Centre
When the local health company that clinical technologist Maphumulo was working for closed down, she decided to start her own business in 2012 to help stranded kidney dialysis patients, as well as patients travelling long distances for treatment. Maphumulo now owns the Coastal Nephrology Centre in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
The centre offers dialysis treatment to the population of Ulundi within the Zululand District and her business has branched out to new renal units in Nongoma, Mahlabathini, Melmoth and surrounds.
The centre also offers an education programme that involves a management programme for patients with end-stage kidney disease, a family history of kidney disease, compromised kidney function, hypertension and diabetes.
Maphumulo said entrepreneurship for her was all about risk-taking and building something from nothing