Entrepreneurs: Be recognised for your vital role in SA's development

Gugu Mjadu
Last chance to enter premier entrepreneurial competition

Many people fail to differentiate between inventors and innovators, and are therefore under the misconception that a prerequisite for being a successful entrepreneur is the creation of something completely new and unique. However, as many of the entrepreneurs recognised in the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS will be able to attest to, this is in fact seldom the case.

Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the competition, says being a successful entrepreneur is simply about doing something better than your competitors, regardless of who came up with the concept first. “All entrepreneurs are innovators as they have recognised a trend in an industry or identified a shortcoming, and then proactively created a solution to capitalise on a demand or overcome the problem at hand.”

“While sometimes it is about re-inventing the wheel, more often it is about making the wheel better. This can be achieved in the form of improved product quality or delivery, an added-service, or a higher level of customer service offered.”

She points to past Entrepreneur of the Year® winners as an example. “For instance, we have had a guest house owner who, through their resilience and determination, managed to achieve year-round high occupancy levels. While another entrepreneur noticed the trend of health conscious consumers and developed a product for the ordinary, non-gardener consumer to successfully grow their own vegetables in a garden or pot.”

Mjadu says that South Africa needs to be celebrating and uplifting such innovative entrepreneurs who have successfully grown their businesses through hard work and dedication so that these entrepreneurs not only feel empowered to continue contributing to job creation and economic growth, but also serve as motivators for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs to start and grow their own businesses.

This is the aim of the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, says Mjadu. “While the competition offers winning entrants prizes valued at over R2 million – with cash prizes of R60 000 for each of the five main category winners, and R160 000 for the overall winner – winners will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure.

“For many of the winning entrepreneurs, the ‘value-add’ prizes often prove to be the most valuable due to the brand awareness created for their businesses.”

Crowned 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® winner, Johan Eksteen, managing director of Agricon, says that out of the many benefits that followed winning the competition, he found that the exposure his business received was unrivalled. “Based on the publicity from the competition, my company was exposed to the investment world and I was offered the opportunity to sell 50% of my shares in a private equity deal. Although I declined the offer, I am grateful for the recognition and credit that I have received.”

Eksteen goes on to point out that because there isn’t a specific benchmark which entrepreneurs can use to measure themselves against, the competition helps in setting this benchmark. “In business you are ultimately in competition with yourself however winning this competition was the acknowledgement and affirmation that my business is on the right track and heading in the right direction.”

More than ever, South Africa needs to laud the work of entrepreneurs and promote the value they continue to bring to society, by ultimately showing them that they are supported as the job creators and innovators and much needed disruptors that our country requires. “We look forward to celebrating South Africa’s entrepreneurial excellence and honouring those who are truly successful heroes of our society. As such, we encourage all local entrepreneurs to consider entering the competition,” concludes Mjadu.

Local business owners wishing to enter should visit www.eoy.co.za for more information on the competition’s categories and how to enter. Entries close on 31 May 2017. For more information on the competition, call 011 713 6600 or email enquiries@eoy.co.za.