Ntombenhle Khathwane, CEO of hair care brand Afrobotanics believes that women should define their own path in life. No matter their environment or circumstances, women should never let themselves be put down.
Growing up, Ntombenhle took inspiration from her mother and grandmother, two fiercely independent and business-minded women. Their successes spurred on her own business success. She strongly believes that there’s nothing stopping women from playing in the big leagues when it comes to business. She says, “You just got to dream big’’.
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Afrobotanics CEO Ntombenhle Khathwane says as a black businesswoman you really have to prove yourself. “ I’ve had to work twice as hard at proving myself. This is why I have spent a lot of time investing in making sure my product is twice as good as what is out there.”
She cites racism as being a major challenge when she started out her business. However, this didn’t stop Ntombenhle from launching her product to market. Through perseverance and a commitment to selling a quality product she was able to overcome and still make her business a success.
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Choosing a business partner can be tricky business. Jaco De Witt, founder of coffee franchise, Roast Re:public has had his fair share of run-ins with business partners. It has certainly made him more wise and cautious in choosing business partners. For him a business partnership must be founded on trust. A business partner is someone who can walk a journey with you. They must be self-starters and be able to align with your business vision.
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Business is about successful collaborations. The collaboration between you and your business partner can either make or break your business.
Kalipile Mabentsela, the Chairman of Ikhwezi Investment Holdings believes that a business partner should bring the funding, the right expertise and local knowledge to the table, Above all else, he believes that business partners need to be prepared to work together to ensure the success of the business. Open and honesty communication is also essential to building a solid business partnership.
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The Natural Hair Movement mirrors what Afrobotanics focuses on and believes in. Some women simply wear their hair and others make statements with theirs. Regardless of the reason for the styling, Afrobotanics makes themselves available to capture the essence of hair’s nature – rather than change it.
A tool that helps Afrobotanics’ develop its strength is providing women with the tools to focus on theirs – by affirming their beauty and lessening their insecurities.
Whether you’re an individual or a business, focusing on your strength can outshine any weakness.
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To be the best, you need to identify customer needs and have in-depth marketing intelligence. Once that is done, you need to provide a service and product that supercedes the requirements. It doesn’t matter whether you supercede by being quicker, better or more reliable – as long as you supercede.
It comes down to being passionate and caring about what you do.
A passion coupled with skillset translates into moving forward.
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No matter how well you plan your business, your timings or your product – something might go wrong.
However, things going wrong don’t need to be seen as problems, but rather opportunities to start something over – with more experience and knowledge.
See how Miles Khubeka learnt a very expensive lesson on staying lucrative with his Vuyo’s restaurant in Braamfontein. Instead of feeling defeated, he managed to create a winning location formula that has propelled Vuyo’s forward monumentally.
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There is no stronger support structure than family. They keep you grounded, they keep you going and they keep you great.
Initially, they might not understand your dreams or business ideas but once they see that you have a plan, they learn to trust that you know what you’re doing. They become more supportive and they make all the sacrifices worth it. The founders of Zkhiphani stay humble in maintaining their family relationships and remembering where they come from – regardless of how successful they get.
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It doesn’t matter what moving forward means for you – as long as you’re moving forward.
Moving Forward happens on different levels, especially for a company as diverse as AGT Foods. For AGT Foods it revolves around production and creation. They’ve managed to maintain progress due to their young and dynamic managing director who understands the vision of moving forward. Key factors to progression include being at the forefront of relevant solutions and employing people smarter than you and keeping them motivated.
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No matter what sector you end up in as an entrepreneur, a theme that is always prevalent is “opportunity”. Opportunity is always around but it takes the mind and willpower of a true entrepreneur to recognise it and use it. Rajen Reddy’s empire began with his service station fascination and his supposed luck of being around when a service station was up for sale. We believe KZN Oils’ success isn’t luck-based but rather the result of passion coupled with opportunity.
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It’s unusual in the money-orientated world of business today to find a business leader who lists the major requirement for the ideal business partner as being ‘compassion.’ However, to Norah Fakude of Mpumalanga, whose business touches more than 160 000 people a day, compassion in business is non-negotiable. When one hears her story, the reason why she values this characteristic above all else becomes obvious. It’s a classic story that begins in the rural areas of one of the most economically challenged provinces within South Africa and ends in Nelspruit, the region’s capital, where Ms Fakude leads Buscor - the largest commuter bus company in Mpumalanga.
As a girl growing up in Marite, a township near Sabie in the rural reaches of the province, one of her earliest responsibilities was helping care for her labourer father who suffered from epilepsy. Subject to unpredictable seizures the biggest danger facing him was the fire - the central family meeting point. Her duty to avoid him being burned when suffering a seizure, was to be constantly on hand to move him if he fell and distinguish the fire with water. Helping to stretch the family budget saw the early stirrings of her entrepreneurial spirit in her High School years where she used her transport money to buy face cream and stockings to sell to fellow school-goers.
The next phase of her life, took Norah to qualify at teacher’s training college. It was while teaching that her entrepreneurial spirit emerged again, this time combined with a concern and compassion for the children under her care. It was the beginning of a concern for others that decades later, still guides her business decisions. Malnourished and unable to benefit from the basic comforts of life - let alone regular meals, Norah’s pupils couldn’t absorb the knowledge she wanted to share while teaching. “I tried to teach, but realised that they weren’t listening. I saw the poverty of the children, and wondered what I could do to help. I started assisting them with making crafts like grass table mats, cloth flowers and other items. To find a market for the items I would catch a bus at weekends and walk the suburbs of White River and sell their work. “Taking the money back I started cooking pap (porridge) and soup for the children. They changed. Their faces filled out and they were able to concentrate on their school work. A number of them achieved first class passes, it was the soup that made the difference.” Little did Ms Fakude realise at the time, but hawking goods on the streets would soon open the next chapter in her life. It was while walking through town on a selling expedition that she saw a state-subsidised curio shop. This became an outlet for craft handiwork and an unexpected job offer. “When the curio shop manager resigned I was recruited to run the Dayizenza Homecraft Centre. My parents were angry that I was leaving teaching, but I felt that I could add value. I helped improve the standard of the products and the centre grew.
“Disaster struck after the riots of 1976. By 1979, the Numbi Road on which the Dayizenza Centre was located, had to be closed to traffic. The BIC (Bantu Investment Corporation) wanted to close it down. I told them they couldn’t and I offered to buy it. I bought the stock and business for R 4 500 - for me at the time, that was a huge amount of money.
As a result of the road closure, “The tourists weren’t coming, so I had to take the curios to them.” This involved taking the handwork to shops as far as Johannesburg to secure sales.
“Because of the fear of paying off the loan, I managed to sell all the stock and settle the loan in six months. I then asked to buy the building. It became mine, and the debt grew to R 32 000. I struggled, but paid it off. “I then decided, because I now had young children who needed me, that I would have to diversify the business. I opened a small general dealer and was later granted a liquor licence.” A butchery, filling station and bakery followed at Dayizenza, making it the ‘go to’ venue for a community that previously had no shopping facilities.
For the woman whose business interests had always involved the community, the most unlikely change was about to dawn. It was after the presidential inauguration of Nelson Mandela that accreditation with Armscor was realised and an interest in transport was kindled.
The first foray, the first black-owned venture in the sector was Bohlabela Wheels workshop, opened in 1998, which supplied manufactured parts and also refurbished gun tractors for the South African army and selected military bases. Amongst the tasks undertaken by the firm was repairs and engineering to Buscor buses. They were impressed by the business and, in due course, an offer of a directorship at Buscor with an option to buy equity followed. The rest, as they say, is history- except for one thing; now heading up the company and the majority shareholder, nothing has really changed for Ms Fakude.
Although Buscor carries about 160 000 passengers a day, the main priority is the cleanliness, safety and comfort of the vehicles.
“People using the buses leave home as early as four in the morning. It is important that the buses are clean and the seats are comfortable as this is often when the passengers catch up on their sleep so they are refreshed when they get to work,” she explains. The concern with passenger welfare has extended to the construction of the buses. As the vehicles are required to travel through dusty rural areas and navigate rutted and potholed roads, the company had purpose-built chassis’s constructed. Engine outputs on the buses were also improved to cope with the hilly terrain and demanding conditions. Rigid bodies were replaced with larger bi-articulated buses allowing buses to increase the number of stops and carry more passengers -ensuring that everyone can get to work on time.
All buses are monitored for speeding, harsh braking and other bad driving habits. Drivers who avoid these habits are rewarded with incentives. Opportunities for women have increased with 72 women getting behind the steering wheels of Buscor’s behemoth’s every day.
The result of all this attention to the welfare of drivers and staff is a transport company that has a remarkably low staff turnover. “At board meetings we examine staff records and often find ourselves approving certificates for employees who have 30 years or more service with the company,” says Ms Fakude. The final sweetener is the Staff Trust Scheme that owns 10% of the company’s equity and from which dividends are paid to qualifying staff. Further participation in communities is driven by various initiatives. These includes what started as a mobile crèche stocked with toys and run by two teachers which visited rural areas on a programmed basis and assists children in poorer communities with their early childhood development. Running in tandem with this is a scheme to train child caregivers who become qualified in this field. In 2015 alone, this resulted in 42 caregivers receiving formal certification. Being an essential part of the provincial economy, and formally being acknowledged as one of the key contributors to Mpumalanga’s GDP, means that chances to create economic opportunities are also carefully assessed. Buscor has its own terminal buildings in White River and Nelspruit-the main hubs for the bus service.
Constructed around the needs of the community, they provide safe, sheltered venues for people to wait for transport. Space set aside specifically for hawkers and small business operators means that they also become hives of industry and help build employment opportunities in the informal sector.
The impact the service can have on commerce is proudly pointed out by Ms Fakude, who points out that a local mall in Nelspruit was erected near the main Buscor terminus to take advantage of the local foot traffic the service generated.
And Dayizenza, the place where it all started? Has it been forgotten?
No, says Ms Fakude. The title deeds for the development were finally received in 2013 and the site is home to the 198 000 square metre Dayizenza Plaza.
“I believe in a full circle of service. Nothing matters more than people and their happiness. Aiming to be the biggest and the best requires being involved and assisting the community where you can,” says Ms Fakude, adding that one of her greatest joys is seeing elderly shoppers at Dayizenza enjoying an outing at the centre-a place they don’t have to travel far to get to.
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Through their passion and drive, Shafin Anwarsha and Anish Shivdasani had the makings of a successful business partnership that helped bring tech company, Giraffe to life. Driven by passion, they turned their dream into a brand that betters people’s lives. Giraffe is currently being hailed as SA’s fastest and cheapest mobile recruitment service.
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Whether its being a security guard or production manager, David Motsage knows a thing or two about working hard no matter your position. 27 years later and David has gone from guarding the gate to being in charge of imports and exports for one of the biggest agricultural companies in Africa. That’s the power of recognising potential in all staff – regardless of position and skill. That’s where businesses have the power to give back the most – through opportunity and upliftment.
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Ntombenhle Khathwane began her journey into the industry of ethnic hair and body care products after discovering her grandmother’s beautiful, soft hair one afternoon. It was the all-natural, generational recipe that her grandmother gave to her that helped start her business.
The combination of aloe vera and marula provided a great alternative to the chemical-rich hair products that are on the market. Not wanting to mix it every week and realizing other women might not want to mix it either, she began producing it in larger batches. After a 6 year evolutionary journey, her product – Afrobotanics – has grown to become a continental product, one store at a time.
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Opening a business that you are passionate about, is the ultimate sign of faith and love for the country that it is opened in. This is especially true for Jaco De Witt, founder of Roast Re:public. Whether it’s supplying African coffee to fellow South Africans or using the profits from Roast Re:public to further the lives of other South Africans – his work, passions and dreams are entrenched in his love for SA.
He doesn’t doubt that we have challenges as a country, he just focusses his energy and thoughts on the possibilities instead. As a country, we have proven that we are the people who can change the world and we can do that if we look beyond our own self-interests and differences. Together we can move forward, with the love for SA.
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CEO of KZN Oils, Rajen Reddy has a system for how he deals with different challenges. For Rajen Reddy the best reaction to a challenge is to prepare yourself with information. Don’t walk away or you’re denying yourself the opportunity to learn from and overcome the challenge. Challenges will always be there – ignoring them only makes them bigger while conquering them, makes you better.
Different challenges taught him that you should always stay lucrative, which he did by renting equipment out from the get-go. Learn more how he’s taken challenges in his stride and turned them into opportunities.
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You might have the next big business idea right in front of you but do you have the drive to take it to the next logical step? Miles Kubheka certainly did. He watched a TV ad that he thought would make for a great business idea. But while millions of others would have watched the same TV ad and thought the same, Miles was the only one who decided to do something about it – and that is how his restaurant business was born.
If ever you had the itch to start your own business, there is no time like the present. Learn how Miles Kubheka took a simple TV ad and turned it into a business.
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South Africa is a country where gender and business stereotypes are rapidly disappearing. Although it still comes as a surprise that one of the nation’s leading social housing developers with more than 75 000 units to its credit is owned, managed and run by a woman. In fact, Motheo Construction has been breaking down stereotypes since opening its doors for business in 1997 under the leadership of Dr Thandi Ndlovu, a medical doctor who has seen the company complete projects valued at more than R5.5 billion. With headquarters in Randburg and offices in Durban, Kimberley, East London and Johannesburg, Motheo has successfully completed building projects anywhere in the country where their skills have been required. Clues of how a doctor, once schooled in Soweto, ends up running a successful construction company lie in Dr Ndlovu’s background. She is a woman of strong convictions who, when committed to a course of action, cannot be easily swayed.
While studying and acting as Secretary of the Student’s Representative Council at the University of Fort Hare in 1976, she was forced to abandon her BSc, because of the oppression that followed the Soweto student’s uprising. Her brother, Hastings, fell victim to shots fired at the students on 16 June 1976 - the same day that Hector Pieterson, a symbol of the revolt, died from the violent action. Dr Ndlovu spent the next few years actively fighting apartheid as part of the ANC’s MK military wing, moving into exile in Angola. She undertook several tasks, including that of running literacy and education programmes, and assisting as a medical officer before moving to the USSR. Later, she moved on to Lusaka in Zambia, where she enrolled at the University of Zambia in 1984 and completed her BSc (Human Biology) and MBchB degrees, finally realising her medical ambitions.
After the regime change, she returned to South Africa and identified a need in Orange Farm informal settlement, where she set up shop as the only doctor assisting a population of about 200 000 people. And there she could have remained, living out what she describes as “her life’s work”, and educating people on the benefits of preventative and community medicine. The event that changed the direction of her life came when she began working with local health committees, pushing for improved housing to replace the shacks that exacerbated the health problems in the area. Dr Ndlovu’s first challenge was to find suitable premises for her medical practice.
“I found a half-built shack and began working with some men to replace it with properly built medical rooms from which I could treat people,” she recalls. She learned a lot about building, but saw her investment rewarded as patients came from other townships to consult and admired her building and facilities. “I read about a former MD of Premier Milling who was introducing the art of brickmaking to rural communities. After seeing what he was doing, I got excited and phoned government to find out how I could get involved in building houses for the people. Eventually, I received six large files on the processes and rules to be followed to build homes.” Not knowing the meaning of “impossible”, Dr Ndlovu drove to Pietermaritzburg to meet with a builder, and by the end of a weekend session she knew that what they wanted could be done.
“If you could persuade a professional team to work at their own risk, it was possible to get the drawings and engineering services planned and approved. Then government would provide a subsidy that could finance the required project, and that was the birth of Motheo Construction. “We began to target chiefs in rural areas of Mpumalanga who could give permission for building. I realised that we needed people of vision to assist us, so I contacted Matthews Phosa, Premier of Mpumalanga, who arranged for us to do presentations. The chiefs were fascinated by our model for building 1 000 units, as we did not only concentrate on building, but used the activity as an opportunity to train and develop people. “We proposed coming in with a competent professional team to train people in these areas to build houses within the subsidy guidelines. Once we left, they would have the skills necessary to add rooms and improve the houses as needed.”
Phosa responded by asking her to build 10 000 houses. Political pressure and suspicion about Motheo’s model led to auditors being brought in. After a full audit, and three years later than scheduled, Motheo began their work. The medical practice in Orange Farm was sold to another doctor, and Dr Ndlovu began structuring Motheo for the future. The result is an enterprise where women own 52% of the equity and work in the business on a daily basis. They also represent professionals ranging from quantity surveying, project management, and water and civil engineering disciplines. “Like their male colleagues, Motheo’s women work on site in both rural and urban environments. The success of our empowerment initiatives can be measured in the achievement of the 20 Motheo Trust beneficiaries who progressed from newly qualified, inexperienced individuals to full members of Motheo. Today they manage projects and departments within the business.”
The agenda to develop and empower those with talent is undertaken by the Dr Thandi Ndlovu Children’s Foundation, which currently supports 20 orphaned and vulnerable children through their schooling and tertiary education. The Foundation covers education fees, accommodation, meals and provides the support that the children would normally have obtained from parents. The career paths chosen by the children are as diverse as their backgrounds; they are pursuing professions as chartered accountants, musicians, chemical engineers and agricultural economists. The development of small- to medium-sized enterprises is another passion that is served by Motheo, assisting identified companies with bridging finance, technical skills and guarantee facilities so they can undertake projects on their own account. Going into the future with a full order book, Dr Ndlovu’s company is benefitting from her belief in investing in people and expanding their skills. Although Motheo’s activities still centre around housing, about a third of the projects they have successfully completed involve building facilities that range from the R60 million Orlando station in Soweto, rail refurbishment projects valued at R100 million to a R35 million administrative building for the eThekwini municipality.
Dr Ndlovu herself goes into the future with strong views about strengthening her own company: “This is a truly South African company. It is built on a model where everybody works together for its benefit. We are still true to our original model. We send in the professionals and work with young people to carry things forward and leave skills behind.
“Motheo believes that there is room for everybody to benefit and grow in our country,” she concludes.
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In a country where the official unemployment rate is running at about 26%, finding out about jobs and then working out how to get your head above the crowd of other applicants can seem like an impossible task. If only there was a better way. Well, now there is: To date more, than 120 000 South Africans have registered on Giraffe, a job-finding app designed and developed by two entrepreneurs who took the frustrations of jobseekers and employers alike to heart.
When social entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha created a mobile platform on a shoestring budget in 2014, they had two things in common; neither had any experience in HR recruitment and, secondly, neither could have anticipated the excitement and demand that their mobile application would generate. Their success can be measured by the fact that the service, originally offered only in Gauteng, is now available in Cape Town and Durban where job seekers are already benefiting from the advantages of simple, fast online recruitment.
According to Anish, the use of a giraffe as their company’s logo is significant. “It emphasises that we are an African company and that, like a giraffe with its long neck searching for the best leaves on a tree, we help people lift themselves to new heights where they can find new opportunities. It also emphasises the qualities of a giraffe; it projects an image that is friendly, warm and reliable - it is all reflective of our brand and what it delivers.”
The idea of Giraffe didn’t come about all of a sudden. Anish and Shafin identified that there was a gap in the market, and that they could use technology to solve one of South African’s biggest challenges - unemployment. The idea was born and the two took the plunge, cashed up what resources they could and began researching and building the Giraffe application. It was in Gauteng, the centre of commerce and industry in South Africa, that the Giraffe application underwent development. However, the partners had to address the major challenge of getting Giraffe known and trusted in the market.
Not afraid to get stuck in, and with a limited budget, the two took to the streets, townships, major taxi ranks, supermarkets and cafes to take the message to their audience. Reaching people meant printing and handing out thousands of leaflets telling them how to access the app and register. Good results from happy Giraffe users and word-of-mouth did the rest. For employees, the major benefit offered by Giraffe is that they can register and create a simple CV using their cellphone at no cost. Employers are able to submit their vacancies online and the intelligent matching algorithm does the rest, verifying IDs, screening CVs and even scheduling interviews within 48 hours. Due to the fact that the algorithm has removed the manual process, Giraffe has passed on this cost and time saving to employers, and so delivers candidates at a fraction of the cost and ten times faster than a recruitment agency or employment service.
Since initial development, the Giraffe offering has undergone a number of changes. Customer feedback and requests regarding the service provided most of the input needed for improvements to be made. These included features that allowed interviews to be scheduled online. “Ultimately, we learned that we should let our customers design our product for us,” comments Anish. Among the other lessons learned at Giraffe as it adapted its products and built a following, were:
The value of research. “Most start-ups don’t do enough research. It’s great to have an idea, but it’s research that will tell you whether your idea is valid and if there is a market for your service,” says Anish.
That focus is essential. Without determination and paying continual attention to detail, things can go wrong.
You have to be prepared for the long haul. Success does not come overnight and, as it can take some time for a company to achieve critical mass, entrepreneurs should be ready for the inevitable hardships and challenges that can arise.
Anish shares advice to other entrepreneurs, commenting that when you are creating a company from the ground, you have to wear mulptile hats.
“You cannot have an ego. The CEO must go from strategic planning, to talking to managers and HR firms, to delivering the mail. Every day is different. When there are only three of you, you all have to get involved,” he said.
Keeping the business on track has meant that both founders have devoted most of their efforts to ensuring that the business remains relevant and up to date. Their persistence has been rewarded by appreciation not only from the public, but also from the broader business world. Two major events have put Giraffe firmly on the map. The first major achievement was Giraffe’s win of the ultimate accolade for start-ups; taking the Seedstars Global Award for social entrepreneurs in the face of competition from 63 other international competitors. For the two entrepreneurs who left behind the corporate world and the security of good salaries, the prize of US$500 000 (R7.2 million) in equity investment within Giraffe was a dream come true. The publicity that followed Giraffe’s win at the Seedstars Global Award event enabled them to spread the message further and faster. Subsequent radio and TV interviews had an astounding impact, with a single radio interview generating 3 000 registrations on the Giraffe app in three hours.
The second major milestone was the announcement that the Silicon Valley-based Omidyar Network - whose founder is Pierre Omidyar, the man who started eBay - had closed a venture capital funding deal with Giraffe. Very gratifying results for people whose automated mobile recruitment application has performed a vital social service by bringing businesses and the ‘medium-skilled’ staff they require together. It is on the subject of funding that Anish is most vocal. For tech start-ups in South Africa, one of the most difficult things to accept is that investment is hard to source. “Although money and investment is the lifeblood of any company, investors will often be hesitant to part with their money and invest in a start-up. However, they are attracted to success. If you concentrate on getting traction for your business and show what you can do, the investors will come to you,” he says.
This may well be the case, but Giraffe’s most significant testimonial is the thousands of South Africans who have had employers come to them and now, because of a cheap and easy process, are able to support themselves and their families.
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At first sight it’s hard to imagine that Jaco De Witt has been anything other than a barista. But, as they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Wearing jeans, chequered shirt and standing at the counter of the Roast Republic coffee shop, he is obviously happy and totally at home in his surroundings. His welcoming smile and open personality speak of a person who is exactly where he wants to be, doing exactly what he wants with his life.
It is only when he begins to speak that you realise his passion for coffee is driven by something far deeper than just being a maker and purveyor of coffee. His conversation is peppered with phrases that soon make you realise that he is far from being your average young entrepreneur.
He talks about ‘capitalism with a conscience’ and the need for entrepreneurs to have an approach to business that speaks to social obligations as well as a contribution to the corporate ‘triple bottom line.’ It soon becomes obvious that he is also a man who literally ‘puts his money where he mouth is.’
This entrepreneur, the founder of Roast Republic is both dedicated to the art of coffee making and making a difference by ensuring that 50% of gross profits made by the business are funnelled into educational development projects in South Africa.
“Social entrepreneurship is about challenging the way that people do business, challenging capitalism that is just about the bottom line. It is about challenging the way that you make a living. It is really about the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, and making a sustainable difference in life and helping others. I believe that you can have a profitable business and a social conscience at the same time. You can make a difference by doing what you love and what you are good at,” says Jaco with a conviction that recalls his days as a pastor.
Putting his passion for people and business into the same ‘basket’ began about five years ago when his interest in coffee led him to study the art of coffee roasting. His business persona saw the high profit margins available in coffee, his social conscience the chance to base the business on a ‘shared profit model.’ The concept of ‘social franchises ‘ was born and took root.
“The idea was that we should access enterprise development funding from large corporations that are legally obliged to funnel one percent of their profits into enterprise development and use the money to create opportunities for young, qualifying individuals to own a business. “
The vision has translated itself into three shops that operate as coffee shops and also market the various coffees roasted by the business. Located in office parks the businesses meet the growing need for office workers to have a steady supply of quality coffee close at hand during working hours.
The next step in the Roast Republic concept, the ‘coffee shop in a box’ was born from Jaco’s conviction that a coffee shop needed to be small, movable and able to get to coffee drinkers where they were, rather than have the customers come to a shop.
After toying with the idea for a while, Jaco brought together some friends in the shipping container industry and architects to help design a mobile coffee shop.
“It is a self-contained unit that is fully equipped. It just opens up and is ready for business. It is a plug and play solution that can be operational within 45 minutes of being placed on site. For an entrepreneur entering the franchise, the advantage is that a site for the business, which requires a minimal infrastructure, can be identified and the business can then be placed in situ ready to serve the public.
“Where the social franchise concept comes in is that we realised that people within the coffee industry were working in an enterprise where their upward mobility was restricted. Unless they received assistance, they would never be able to own a business,” says Jaco.
“We began looking at enterprise development and finding ways that we could help people working at Roast Republic become their own bosses.”
A partnership with Standard Bank has helped find a way forward. The coffee shop accelerator programme will involves the bank and Roast Republic in developing business training to help young entrepreneurs. Following this with hospitality industry and franchise training sees the emergence of people ready to compete in the coffee industry. The first intake of potential barista’s will kick off the programme later this year after all applications have been assessed.
The final component is access to corporate enterprise development funding to open the business. The keys to a Roast Republic franchise are then ready to be handed over.
Running a business that has social involvement as its key element requires being committed to openness. It is this quality that Jacob most values and advocates for people entering business.
“Having an open attitude means that you are always ready to expose yourself to different things and learn from anyone. There is so much to learn from so many people and so many ways to grow. My first mentor said; ‘In life always say yes’. Many times we have opportunities and we say ‘no’-mainly because the opportunities are difficult or look like long shots. Rather say ‘yes’ and follow the road to see where it leads.
“Being open means stumbling across things that you would otherwise not have experienced. Standing still means falling behind. It is up to you alone to decide whether you want to be relevant 10 or 20 years from now.”
Staying relevant is the mantra of Roast Republic. The way it sees itself being pertinent is through being an active agent for social change. To quote the Roast Republic website:
“Not only do we pride ourselves in sourcing & roasting the finest coffee beans on the planet, but we also have a huge passion for South Africa and her beautifully diverse people. We have a dream for our country, and that dream is a republic in which education is accessible for all.
Coffee is our currency, education our priority.
We trade a cup of coffee for a day at school.
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Converting your corporate provident fund to cash to go into business knowing that this will keep you financially afloat for just three months, is the ultimate in business risk taking. But, when the ‘entrepreneurship bug bites’ and you need challenges in your life; it can seem like the only thing to do.
This was the case for Mahmoud Homayoun who walked away from a job with a major oil company. He later convinced colleague and friend Boston Moonsamy that they could parlay their knowledge into building their own Petrochemical Business, Umongo Petroleum.
As simple as the concept sounds, the business is much more complex than obtaining product and distributing it to customers. It is about having bulk stocks on hand, place to warehouse inventory, storage, transport and then only getting product to customers.
Mahmoud received his first order before he even owned a phone or a fax machine. Fortunately he had an obliging friend with a carpet business just down the road-and more importantly a fax machine that he was prepared to share.
“It was on the carpet shop fax that I received my first confirmed order. It was fairly complex and so required a lot of fax paper, something that concerned my friend. He saw almost a roll of fax paper disappear into his machine and emerge as printed sheets that just about covered the floor in his office.
“Our head office was a garage in the early days. It was also the place where we ate breakfast, lunch and supper and worked an average 15 hour day. Our start-up costs were contained, leaving income to be ploughed back into the business to build sustainability and a steady cash flow,” recalls Boston.
”Chevron, our supplier, which provides petroleum products for Caltex, agreed to provide stock on consignment and allowed us to pay them as we sold stock on to our customers. Although the oil business is usually conducted in US dollars, they also allowed us to pay them in Rand - a major convenience and one that cut a fair amount of costs out of our early operations.”
Their total dedication to business has paid off over the years.
With nearly 18 years in business their mantra is still on keeping costs low and reinvesting back into the business. They also recruit staff carefully - looking for people who are not necessarily steeped in the petroleum business, but individuals who are energetic and are determined to learn and meet their requirements about having a lean, productive business structure.
Their almost zero staff turnover is testimony to the fact that employees are justly rewarded with opportunities to grow with the company. Encouragement and the chance to better their educations and build futures keep them where they are; part of a proud, effective team.
Just how far they have moved is illustrated by their turnover. From their ‘heydays’ when they celebrated a monthly turnover of just over R2 million, they have a business today where this figure equals their daily business levels.
The original single division business now boasts six divisions with different specialities and customers that span 10 sub-Saharan countries.
“This move into Africa required years of preparatory work, building of contacts and relationships and then taking care to ensure that the business grew steadily and did not expand exponentially beyond our capabilities to control it,” Boston recalls.
Having both worked in major energy companies before setting up Umongo and aware that the energy field is massive and highly competitive, both partners agree that staying focused, knowledgeable and delivering quality is needed if a business is to enjoy the opportunities and ride out the ‘bad times’ that are an integral part of the oil industry which is vulnerable to swings in the economy.
Trust between partners suppliers and customers are the basis of cementing strong relationships which last and ultimately create a sustainable business.
For Mahmoud and Boston, the formula works – the testimony is their business which is highly ranked within the oil industry locally and across South Africa’s borders.
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Watching and learning from his father’s experience as an entrepreneur, Khudusela Pitje discovered at an early age that standing still is never an option in business.
As the CEO of investment company, New GX Capital, Khudusela is a strong believer in innovation and creating your own business opportunities, if you are to move your business forward.
Find out more on how Khudusela went from a cashier in his father’s cinema business to owning a hair salon business at 17; to becoming a chartered accountant at JP Morgan and eventually the CEO he is today.
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Keeping an eye on potential avenues for investment in startups and companies that are operating across various South African infrastructure sectors and assisting them in achieving their growth potential through incubation, capital and strategic input, has seen family owned investment company New GX Capital grow from start-up to an established enterprise.
Established in 2005, with a consolidated turnover of about R1.2 billion in addition to a Private equity fund with assets under management of more than R3bn. This family owned business is mulling the next strategic steps which might include a listing founder and CEO of New GX Capital Holdings, Khudusela ‘Khudu’ Pitje, is now on the brink of realising his father’s dream of a socially conscious business that contributes towards job creation.
Behind him are a number of events that shaped and changed his life, bringing him to where he is now; an astute businessman who is using his entrepreneurial insights to the benefit of companies in its diverse set of portfolios. By taking an active leadership and management role in New GX companies, he and his colleagues work strategically to strengthen the value propositions and market reach of the entities in which they invest in, helping them to achieve sustainable returns for investors.
It has been a long road that began with observing entrepreneurship from a father who started as a kitchen boy turned businessman in the Pretoria township of Mamelodi.
A “bootstraps township businessman” with a primary school education, HM Pitje, as he was known in Mamelodi, was forced into entrepreneurship by the need to generate additional income for his family. His ventures included acquiring a transistor radio and charging people to listen to it, and eventually grew in scale and formed an entertainment business using a old reel-to-reel projector that showed films to Mamelodi residents in community halls.
This grew into the first real cinema in the township, creating similar facilities in New Brighton, with the building of shops, a liquor store and an investment in flats. He was also the first Mayor of Mamelodi in 1967, but lost all his businesses in a politically motivated attack in the 1980s when Khudu was in Standard 7.
As a learner with a balanced record of achievement at St Andrews school in Grahamstown, Khudu was a balanced scholar when news came of his father’s business reversals. The prospect of dropping out of school or going to another school, because of the family’s financial misfortunes, threatened to stop his personal growth in its tracks. The headmaster, however, took action and secured a school bursary so that Khudu could complete his high school education at St Andrews.
The bursary only covered his tuition and boarding fees, so at the age of 17 Khudu and a couple of friends started a makeshift hair salon at St Andrews that augmented his pocket money.
After school, getting ahead meant taking an offered bursary from Lindsay Saker that entailed working part time for R1 500 per month across the company’s various operations within the Rosebank branch’s retail car division as well as studying part time to further his ambitions of becoming a qualified accountant. By 1999, the years of sharing cramped accommodation with others to stretch his budget, working all day and studying paid off and Khudu graduated.
Post his articles with PwC he gained corporate experience working for JP Morgan in London, specialising in the sectors that would later prove to be valuable for New GX when selecting South African businesses to invest in.
The turning point came in 2005, when one of South Africa’s major banks, looking to invest and actively enter the new wave of black empowered companies, identified New GX as a start-up with high potential for growth.
The company forged ahead steadily, actively partnering with the companies it invested in and simultaneously, the sectors which New GX was involved in steadily expanded.
The common thread, remaining in the company’s approach in 2016, is that Khudusela conducts the due diligence exercises necessary in determining the value of a company and identifying potential risk. High on the agenda is also assessing these partners for the possibilities that exist for them to expand into new business niches.
Major areas of investment have, however, been concentrated on telecommunications and technology, energy solutions and waste and logistics.
Some of the key ventures in which New GX has been involved include:
Founding member of DFA an open access network that has created over 6 000 jobs within South Africa and is poised to expand within the continent;
New GX Enviro a waste management and sustainability business that is building waste processing infrastructure and developing renewable energy projects;
Dynamic Instruments, an electrical and control instrumentation business working within thermal power stations;
Acquiring a 24.5% stake in the South African arm of In2IT Technologies, a global technology services firm that provides software and IT infrastructure services to many of South Africa’s top 100 companies.
Dartcom, a specialist distributor and service provider in the telecommunications and higher-end technology sectors, also offers fibre optic solutions manufactured in their own facilities.
“New GX provides its partners with the necessary business acumen, financial expertise and industry knowledge needed to achieve their growth potential. We help them through repositioning these entities into competitive and sustainable empowered companies, delivering a notable impact on all stakeholders, be it internal or external,” says Khudusela. “We believe that we all have a responsibility to create jobs, and to help make things better for all.”
“We recently added New GX Environment Solutions (New GX Enviro), a waste management service provider with operations in the City of Tshwane. The company has created over 200 new jobs by sourcing labour from the areas it services. It has also developed a number of small- and micro-enterprises within its service area, procuring services locally where possible,” says Khudusela.
The company now provides services to more than 86 000 households in the townships of Atteridgeville, Lotus Gardens and Olievenhoutbosch through weekly house-to-house refuse removal services, litter picking and bulk container services. In addition, reinforcing its community focus, the company also helps prevent illegal dumping and supports community-based recycling initiatives.
The move into sectors that concentrate on making life better for many is an integral part of the New GX philosophy. Tangible expressions of this approach include backing a female doctor who started a low-cost medical clinic in Diepsloot under Qualihealth brand and has ambitions to extend her services into other townships.
Close to Khudusela’s heart is education. Through the HM Pijte Foundation established in honour of his father, who he refers to as “economic activistism”, New GX focuses on township schools, the first adopted being Khudusela’s former primary school Meetseng in Soshanguve.
His philosophy about life and business is deceptively simple: “At the end you want to look back and say;’ I have made an impact on so many families and so many lives’. It is not just all about us.”
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Never stop moving, never stop dreaming and never stop doing.
Having the ability and the motivation to never stop lies in having the vision of greatness. Bonga is inspired by the vision of having Zkhiphani available in every single one of the 53 countries in Africa.
The founders of Zkhiphani realised that owning your own business doesn’t mean that you work less, like many people think. Between the responsibilities and the hunger for greatness, they stay lucrative by not slowing down.
Even if you don’t see the rewards immediately, know that they are there and they will present themselves in time – as long as you work hard.
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Roast Re:public foundation lies in the essence of teaching. Between giving away 50% of their profits in the form of education development programs and challenging South Africans not to separate business and charity - they’re making it their mission to reteach business and the way things are done.
With Jaco’s “coffee shop in a container” concept, he’s taking the idea of being teachable a step further. He’s reinforcing the idea that people learn better on the job when you equip people with the means to learn on the job.
“Coffee is our currency, education our priority.” Roast Re:public practices what they preach – daily.
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Giraffe is all about moving SA forward. This tech company is about helping people find jobs and businesses find the right candidates to get the job done. The success of the business has spoken for itself and that is what’s gotten the word about Giraffe out there.
However, starting a tech company is never easy. The company might not begin to make money for months, or even years. Find out how the founders of Giraffe have managed to grow their company from strength to strength.
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An opportunity arose like all great opportunities do – out of the blue. When the opportunity to operate from the most famous street in Africa came up, entrepreneur Miles Kubheka was ready for it. He set up his restaurant, Vuyos, in Vilikazi Street, Soweto – one of the most famous and historical sites in SA.
Miles had realised that foreign cuisine still drew crowds – this presented the gap for an authentic franchise that provided cultural dishes.
For Miles it was not just about seeing the gap, but also about knowing how to go after it.
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Roasting and selling coffee from their home base in Johannesburg, South Africa; Roast Re:public operates as a social enterprise which means they have a double bottom line as a business and a brand. Traditionally, people separate business and charity. This is one of the biggest challenges – and it’s what Jaco De Witt saw as a gap. Having identified the profit margins available in coffee, Jaco founded and brought the concept of Roast Re:Public social franchises to life. Through creating a successful business, he has brought positive change to the world.
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Being available to mentor staff when they need it is essential to Brian Lever. He remembers the mentors who were there for him and ultimately helped him get to where he is today. Mentorship and learning should be handed down from person to person to create a cycle of growth and entrepreneurship. He employs people that he can learn from as well as teach. Giving leeway for mistakes is essential because it promotes even more learning. Understand the people, what they’re doing and what they want to do.
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At Ikhwezi investment in people is essential – staff need to be trained in the necessary skillsets. At Ikhwezi everything needs to be measurable. Measurement happens with regard to quality, speed, cost, safety and people. It needs to be able to be measured daily, weekly and monthly. The transparency of the information leads to better work, and a better sense of trainability. The Japanese principle Kaizen, is the practice of continual improvement. This ancient principle is evident everyday when you work at Ikhwezi.
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