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FOCUS: Be that incredible entrepreneur

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Entrepreneurship; start-up; flexibility; corporate; innovation

Any entrepreneur will tell you that this enviable title may allow you to get out an 8 – 5  job, but you’ll have to roll up your sleeves a few extra times, lose some sleep, take risks, and perhaps even experience a couple of failures along the way before  it pays off. But they’ll also add that it’s fulfilling, completely worth it and they’ll definitely do it again. A few highly successful entrepreneurs advise and discuss whether you’ll be suitable for a start-up right to the challenges of corporate entrepreneurship.

Are you suited for a start-up?

Jeffrey Bussgang explains how to assess your fit, find the right company, and make the leap

When I finished business school, I had two job offers. The first was from the Boston Consulting Group, where I’d worked before my MBA programme − the obvious choice for a young professional in search of a stable, lucrative career. The second was from a Series A-stage venture-backed start-up with only 30 employees that wanted to transform the Internet into a secure business environment − a much riskier bet. I accepted the second offer and never looked back.

In the years since, I’ve worked for three start-ups and, as a venture capitalist, invested in more than a hundred. I’ve learned a lot not just about how to found a company − raising money, finding initial customers, hiring a team − but also about what it takes to join a start-up and help build it into a successful organisation.

Relative to established organisations, start-ups can be hard to figure out. What are the jobs to be done? The best entry points? How can you tell whether a company has potential for success and is the right fit for you?

ASSESSING YOUR FIT

To work at a start-up, you’ll need to do three things you might not have learned in school or in jobs at larger companies: manage uncertainty, push the limits, and think like an owner.

  • Manage uncertainty. Start-ups represent giant experiments. Every initiative is new. One hypothesis after another is being tested. Titles, functional boundaries, roles and responsibilities are often fluid. Anyone working for a start-up has to be comfortable with large doses of ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Push the limits. My father was an entrepreneur, and I remember that whenever he was confronted with an obstacle − having to stand in a long line at a popular museum, for example − he would look for a way around it, not by cutting in line but by testing assumptions. This tendency to actively question rather than passively settle is key to success at a start-up.
  • Think like an owner. Working at a start-up, you’re expected to become emotionally invested. The sense of mission and adventure is greater than at a traditional organisation, and your efforts are clearly and directly linked to the value and success of the enterprise. You must therefore be someone who can care deeply about not just your own work but all aspects of your company.

PICKING THE RIGHT COMPANY

If you feel that you’re right for a start-up, you next have to choose the right company for you. My advice is to approach this important decision methodically, in four steps.

  • Pick a domain. First, find a field you’re passionate about. This means asking yourself a series of questions: ‘Do I prefer a business that focuses on consumers or on businesses? What kind of customers would I like to serve? Which brands do I admire the most? What are my favourite websites, apps or subjects to read about?’
  • Pick a city. Not everyone can relocate anywhere for work. But for those who do have that flexibility, I recommend thinking very carefully about where you’d like to live. If you’re not currently based in an entrepreneurial hub such as Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv or Berlin, you should consider moving to one.
  • Pick a stage. When describing the various stages of a start-up, I often use a road-building metaphor. In the jungle stage you have no idea where the paths are. Many use the term ‘pre-product/market fit’ to characterise this nascent period. In the dirt road stage, the path is bumpy and winding, but it’s there, and the goal is to move down it as quickly as possible. You’ve developed a well-defined product and are pursuing a clear market. In the highway stage you’re speeding down a straight open road. You’re improving operations incrementally while executing, scaling up and iterating.
  • Pick a winner. This step – choosing a company that you think will be a huge success and therefore provide you with tremendous growth opportunities – is the hardest to get right. Even the most experienced investors in the world are wrong more than half the time. How can an outsider identify the likely winners in a given domain, market and stage? Do your own due diligence, using the simple criteria that we venture capitalists employ:
  • Is the founding team compelling? Can its members articulate a vision that inspires you and others around them?
  • Is the market in which the company is operating huge − that is, greater than $1 billion in revenue potential? Is it experiencing some kind of disruption that might lead to opportunity for a new entrant?
  • Are the unit economics − the ratio of net revenue to costs for each customer or product unit − attractive? Can the company articulate and compare the lifetime value and acquisition cost of each customer?

SELLING YOURSELF

The next challenge is to position yourself so that the start-ups on your list want to hire you. You’ll need to do two things well:

  • Arrange a warm introduction. Many start-ups are full of people with large social networks. It is your job to identify key players at the companies you’re interested in and find ways to connect with them. Websites such as Crunchbase and Mattermark list valuable information about start-ups, including their key executives. LinkedIn searches can help you find other employees. Then look for mutual connections, or friends of friends, who might put you in touch with these people. Through those various networks and databases you should be able to identify an ’in’.
  • Articulate how you can contribute. Start-ups run lean, so they’re willing to take on only those people who can drive their success and have a point of view on their business. Before meeting with management, do your homework. Try the product or service yourself and analyse the business model; then develop ideas for improvements and present them in your interview.

Finally − and this is something few people do well − come bearing gifts. Yes, you’re the one looking for a job. But you can flip the relationship by immediately offering help − expertise, advice, contacts − with no expectation of reciprocity. Ask, ‘How can I help? What are you challenged with?’

If you make the start-up leap in a strategic way − assessing your fit, picking the right company and effectively selling yourself − you’ll be rewarded with a type of personal and professional fulfilment that’s increasingly hard to find in big, traditional organisations.

IDEA IN BRIEF

If you make the start-up leap in a strategic way − assessing your fit, picking the right company and effectively selling yourself − you’ll be rewarded with a type of personal and professional fulfilment that’s increasingly hard to find in big, traditional organisations

AUTHOR l  Jeffrey Bussgang is a senior lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners

NOTE

© 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp

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Entrepreneurship flexibility: The big trade-off for women

Entrepreneurship is hard work. Initially, you won’t have the flexibility you crave, but remember why you’re doing it in the first place

One of the biggest reasons why women leave the corporate world to start their own businesses is the idea of having more flexibility to manage family and household responsibilities.

In ’The Hidden Factors: SA Women in Business’ research report carried out by the Sage Foundation and Living Facts, 59% of respondents indicated they had bought into the promises of self-employment: being paid to do what they love; to work when they want; and to use their skills to build their own businesses rather than someone else’s.

The idea of being able to cheer her son on at his football game or to attend a networking breakfast on a Tuesday – because she wanted to – appealed to many female entrepreneurs.

But the research also found that when it comes to entrepreneurship, time is in short supply – at least in the beginning. In fact, 19% of women returned to corporate life because a nine-to-five job gave them more flexibility than self-employment.

‘Flexibility is one of the drivers of becoming an entrepreneur. However, without adequate support structures in place to manage the administration and the financial side of the business and assist with family commitments, flexibility is eroded and entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed. Corporate provides a more structured environment – with both business support internally and a more defined line between work time and home time, allowing women to better manage their roles and responsibilities,’ says Marylou Kneale, founder of Living Facts.

But those who stuck it out and put in the long hours in the first crucial years of business development say the hard work is worth it. Once their businesses were thriving, they eventually got their flexibility back and so much more: financial independence, a sense of purpose, and an important role in growing South Africa’s economy and empowering other women.

‘Many women don’t realise how much time goes into starting and running a business and often a corporate job actually gives them more time to spend with their families. Many would-be entrepreneurs find it difficult to strike that balance between work and their personal lives. Changing gender stereotypes of who does what in a family and women overcoming their own reluctance to ask for help are key changes that could encourage female entrepreneurship,’ says Joanne van der Walt, Sage Foundation Programme Manager for Africa.

Those who have found the sweet spot between entrepreneurial success and flexibility say the secret is time management and prioritisation.

They offer the following advice to women who are considering venturing out on their own:

  • Focus on your core business and delegate the rest. If someone else can do something better and cheaper than you could do it yourself, outsource it.
  • Buy time by automating as many business processes as possible such as billing and accounts receivable. Streamline payments and accounting processes with reliable, secure online solutions.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on your support network to help manage the household responsibilities. Arrange a carpool with other parents; ask your partner to hang up the washing or cook dinner this week. Everyone wants to see you succeed. Let them help you do that.

IDEA IN BRIEF

The women who have found the sweet spot between entrepreneurial success and flexibility say the secret is time management and prioritisation.

Focus on your core business and delegate the rest.

Buy time by automating as many business processes as possible such as billing and accounts receivable.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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The challenge of corporate entrepreneurship

To large companies, creating new businesses is the challenge of the day. Because of maturing technologies and ageing product portfolios, a new imperative is clear: Companies must create, develop, and sustain innovative new businesses

Innovation. It seems like everyone is talking about it these days. And rightly so, but the realities with innovation is that 80% of innovation projects never reach the market.

The innovation process from idea to market is full of pitfalls and inefficiencies. Stage-Gate founder Robert Cooper shows that for every seven new product ideas about four enter development, 1,5 are launched, and only one succeeds. A study of Stevens and Burley gives even more disastrous ratios. Their study shows it takes 3 000 raw ideas to come up with one successful product.

The biggest challenge to innovation is not how to generate new ideas and opportunities. It’s how to make innovation a deeply embedded capability in the organisation. I have witnessed various company initiatives over time, some of them focusing on idea creation and the so-called creating ‘a culture of innovation’ – so they launch some kind of ideation initiative with a lot of hoopla and they get a whole bunch of ideas. But then they hit a wall because there is no back end – there is no organisational system/method for effectively screening ideas, aligning them with the business strategy, allocating funding and management resources, and guiding a mixed portfolio of concepts/opportunities through the pipeline toward commercialisation.

Then you have the companies that have no clear strategy. Without a clear strategy you have no focus for innovation. Companies also struggle with issues that impact innovation, for instance culture, uncertainty, the lack of support, processes and tools, lack of market insights, politics, the fear of failure and insufficient skills, and the wrong teams. So, invariably, what we find is that the whole innovation effort eventually loses momentum and fails. And all those enthusiastic innovators inside and outside the company become cynical and discouraged as they watch their ideas go nowhere; sound familiar?

The real challenge, therefore, is to turn innovation from a buzzword into a systemic and widely distributed capability. Yet how many companies have actually achieved that? The sad truth is this: most organisations today still have absolutely no model, no practical notion, of how to drive innovation.

Most companies have no clue of how to build a corporate innovation system that seamlessly integrates leadership commitment, creates internal support, inspiration, infrastructure, prioritisation, processes, tools, talent development, cultural mechanisms and values; they wouldn’t even know where to start. It is not the lack of willingness to innovate that is missing, it’s the how.

For innovation to succeed it has to be woven into the everyday fabric of the company just like any other organisational capability, such as quality, or supply chain management, or customer service. In other words, for innovation to really work, and to be sustainable, it has to become a way of life for the organisation.

What we are seeing when working with clients is that customers lack the imagination to envisage innovative products that address their emerging − or even existing − needs or desires. For example, participants in focus groups typically opt for product innovations that feature only minor changes from the current version. When these products hit the market, they often fizzle out because small improvements aren’t enough to alter customers’ entrenched buying habits.

INNOVATION AND OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Companies often confuse innovation with operational excellence.

Operational excellence is:

  • The theory A philosophy of the workplace where problem-solving, teamwork and leadership results in ongoing improvement.
  • The reality Trying to do things better and cheaper.
  • The impact In the long run, you cannot survive indefinitely by producing existing products at a lower cost. Innovation budgets are cut.

What is innovation, then? Innovation is:

  • The conversion of a new idea into revenues and profits (Lafley & Charan)
  • The process that turns an idea into value for the customer and results in sustainable profit for the enterprise (Carlson & Wilmot)
  • The creation of a viable new offering (Larry Keeley)
  • A product, process or service new to the firm, not only new to the world or marketplace (Hobday)
  • Promising ideas that are transformed into powerful new ways to create value and wealth (Coenie Middel)

We are also seeing in the market that companies encourage employees to ‘think outside the box’ as a way of getting beyond predictable product extensions. ‘Give free rein to your creative impulses,’ they are told, ‘and try to imagine products that respond in truly innovative ways to customer needs.’ But more often than not this kind of brainstorming yields a flurry of ideas that, while appealing, are just too far out given the company’s brand image or capabilities. They are quickly discarded or if they make it to market, simply flop.

Many businesses also focus on customer-led innovation instead of customer-centred innovation. Customer-led innovation are reactive and too self-consciously explicit about putting the customer first. Customer-centred innovation, on the other hand, is grounded in a deeply empathetic understanding of customer needs and wants but also grant the organisation the freedom to make unexpected and often unasked-for leaps forward that will lead to long-term success.

So how can companies hit the innovation sweet spot − far enough from existing products to attract real interest but close enough to fall within a company’s existing positioning and capabilities? Companies need to adopt a proven innovation methodology like FORTH. FORTH is a globally renowned innovation methodology rooted in design thinking developed in the Netherlands and was adopted by various international companies over a decade. Through a structured facilitated process, in only 15 weeks an internal team of the company delivers 3−5 innovative solutions tested with real customers and validated business cases. Recently it was scientifically proven that FORTH increases the efficiency of the innovation process as it leads to more ideas being actually launched in the market compared to commonly used stage-gate processes.

A proven innovation methodology will address the following elements required for success:

  • Ideate: Generating and choosing original relevant ideas for a product, service, process or experience.
  • Focus: Defining your innovation centre of interest, including all the boundary conditions.
  • Check fit: Checking if your idea, technology, customer issue or business challenge fits your personal and corporate priorities.
  • Create conditions: Organising the right moment, the right team, the right pace and the right funding for your innovation initiative.
  • Discover: Discovering trends, markets, technologies and customer insights.
  • Create business model: Creating a viable business model.
  • Select technology: Identifying and selecting the right technology to deliver your new product, service, process or experience.
  • Check freedom to operate: Checking if you do not infringe the intellectual property rights of others.
  • Experiment: Carrying out a systematic research or test which validates the adoption and attractiveness of your new product, service, process or experience.
  • Create new business case: Creating a well-founded convincing business case for your new product, service, process or experience.

Various research studies have been conducted and Larry Keeley and his colleagues structured innovation into 10 types by analysing nearly 2 000 examples of the then best innovations.1

They found that four types of innovation are focused on the innermost workings of an enterprise and its business systems:

  • Profit model – How you make money
  • Network – How you connect with others to make money
  • Structure − How you organise and align your talents and assets
  • Process – How you use signature or superior methods to do your work
  • Two types of innovation are focused on an enterprise’s core product or service:
  • Product performance – How you develop distinguishing features and functionality
  • Product system – How you create complementary products and services

Four types of innovation are focused on more customer-facing elements of an enterprise and its business system:

  • Service – How you support and amplify the value of your offering
  • Channel – How you deliver your offerings to customers and users
  • Brand – How you represent your offerings and business
  • Customer engagement – How you foster compelling interactions

First, analyse the present offerings in the industry in which you want to innovate. And then ideate with the help of various innovation techniques and try to innovate among as many types as possible for each new offering. Experience has shown that with real breakthrough innovations, at least five of the ten types can be checked off.

Remember the front end of innovation starts with an idea, a technology, a problem or a business issue and ends with a well-founded new business case.

There are no old roads to new destinations.

AUTHOR l  Coenie Middel CA(SA), RA, is founder of Middel & Partners. In 2016 Coenie was awarded one of the most “Inspiring Accountants in the World”.

NOTE

1 Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel and Brian Quinn, Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs, Heboker, NJ: Wiley, 2013.

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The dark side of entrepreneurship: The emotional roller-coaster

The entrepreneurial success stories that come out of Silicon Valley could give the man in the street the impression that it’s easy to build a company, raise capital and successfully exit your venture where after you move onto the next conquest. The reality is basically the opposite though

Ideas are easy, and everyone has them. Without execution, ideas are just thoughts in your head that never see the light of day. So, with execution being everything, why is it so difficult to accomplish the end goal? It’s because, more than anything, entrepreneurship is a game of mental toughness that tests a person on every level.

Personally, I’ve always worked with the mindset of breaking my end goal into achievable short-term goals knowing that as those milestones are achieved, so the complete picture for the business will take shape. However, I’ve also found that achieving those short-term goals is met by short-lived highs and followed by gut-wrenching lows as a new reality sets in. Kind of like an emotional roller-coaster! Examples of this are the high you’re on when your product is finally ready for launch, which quickly translates to a low as you realise now you need to start selling and figure out if there really is a market out there. Or the high you get after you’ve raised funding and then realise now you need to start hitting targets otherwise you’re in a world of pain with your investors. Or even the high you get when you hit your quarterly target only to realise you need to show 50% growth for the following quarter.

After six years of entrepreneurship, a few pivots, a number of funding raises and a successful exit, I’ve come to realise that managing the mental side of execution is the most important.

Celebrate your victories and don’t let your mind wonder too much onto the next milestone rather keeping in mind that if you continue to execute on the short-term goals your vision will come together.

And hey, if you’ve put in the work, shown patience and tried everything possible to make your venture succeed and it doesn’t, don’t take it personally – there’s far more to you than just your business.

AUTHOR l  Trevor Gosling CA(SA) is Co-founder & CEO of Lulalend. Trevor was also a 2015 Top 35 Finalist.

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How SAICA, is helping small businesses

South Africa is experiencing an entrepreneurial renaissance. South Africans from all walks of life are taking risks and joining the hustle

Some researchers and observers are saying that although the rise in entrepreneurial activity is encouraging, it is still not sufficient. We are not as entrepreneurial as we need to be. We are still operating well below what we are capable of and what our economy needs. We are also lagging behind the rest of the Western world.

Small businesses are said to be the key to South Africa’s unemployment problem. It is estimated that SMEs employ about 60% of South Africa’s labour force.

GDP growth rates in South Africa has not lived up to its potential for the last 10 years. There’s been a steady decline in our GDP growth and expected GDP growth rates are constantly revised downwards. GDP growth can be boosted significantly by nurturing entrepreneurs.

Incubators and accelerators can be very instrumental in nurturing entrepreneurs. Effective and efficient incubators can help small businesses grow from survivalist enterprises to sustainable, growing businesses that could reduce unemployment significantly and, grow the economy and contribute to the fiscus.

When one speaks to entrepreneurs and enquire about their challenges, those below are some of the most commonly mentioned:

  • Lack of funding
  • Lack of management skills and business knowledge
  • Inadequate support structures
  • Access to markets
  • Corporate and government bureaucracy

Entrepreneurs therefore expect incubators and accelerators to assist them in breaking down the above barriers.

THE HOPE FACTORY

The Hope Factory (THF), powered by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), is an established enterprise development not-for-profit company. It plays an important and active role in transforming the South African economy by advancing the sustainable growth of entrepreneurial black businesses.

THF’s mission is to foster a greater entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Africa through providing entrepreneurs with holistic mentorship and business development services; facilitating access to funding and new markets; and positively influencing corporate and government policies towards the growth of small black businesses.

Personal development, business skills mastery and financial skills development are critical elements of THF’s enterprise development and mentoring model. Financial skills transfer and financial skills development is therefore an important aspect of THF.

THF firmly believes that small businesses have a better chance at success when the entrepreneur is equipped with financial knowledge, financial awareness and is assisted by financial and business experts.

THE ROLE OF THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT

Entrepreneurs tend to focus on the operations of the business, on producing and selling. Transactions are often not recorded and accounting is placed on the back burner. Entrepreneurs only approach their accountants or bookkeepers for tax clearance certificates or financial statements on a very ad hoc basis when they deem it necessary.

Most entrepreneurs either neglect financial management or is ignorant about the importance thereof.  Entrepreneurs tend to know their businesses but don’t know their numbers. Most informal business owners and entrepreneurs do not possess the financial knowledge and skills required to master their numbers. Financial management is a critical and crucial function in every business, no matter how big or small. Business is finance.

CAs(SA) are consistently recognised globally as leading finance professionals. They run and manage some of the biggest businesses in South Africa and even abroad.

CAs(SA) therefore play a crucial role in business development and business leadership in South Africa. And they can play an even bigger and more impactful role with  small business and assisting small businesses with financial management and strategic management of their businesses.

CAs(SA) assist small business with so much more than tax, accounting and bookkeeping. We assist entrepreneurs to articulate their strategies, draft their business plans and most importantly financial management. We bridge the gap between funding institutions and small businesses. We help SMEs identify their funding needs and requirements. We assist them with using appropriate finance products and suitable capital structures for their business.

We help small businesses to be more forward looking and more strategic in their approach. We help them frame their challenges differently and come up with solutions together. A small business with a well-defined strategy is able to focus more long term and is likely to be more sustainable.

With a business plan that’s articulated properly, it’s easier to approach customers and funders. We therefore enable them to get closer to markets.

When small businesses and CAs(SA) work together, we break down many challenges that entrepreneurs typically face.

As CAs(SA), we have a significant role to play in small business development. Our training and education equips us with vital business and problem-solving skills. If we apply ourselves to the need of small businesses in South Africa and combine our skills with entrepreneurial flair we can reduce the small business failure rate.

IDEA IN BRIEF

The Hope Factory offers customised enterprise and supplier development solutions to suit your company’s B-BBEE strategy.

Its innovative solutions maximise your return on investment and will earn you vital B-BBEE points on your scorecard.

It also offers socio-economic development solutions through programmes aimed at start-up businesses.

Partner with The Hope Factory today and let’s build hope in our nation through high-impact SME development.

AUTHOR l Emuron Plaatjies CA(SA) MMFI  is co-founder of of Rubele Consulting, a Hope Factory ambassador and Financial Management Consultant to the Incubated entrepreneurs.

The Hope Factory SAICA Enterprise Development

Entrepreneur Profiles

WISEDUBE CONSULTING SERVICES

Mpumelelo Dube

Industry/sector: Accounting and taxation

What we do: Our business provides a range of services with a specific focus on SMEs and start-up companies. We specialise in accounting and taxation services

Operational areas: Nationwide

What is your company’s X-Factor? We are obsessed with client satisfaction in that we strive to produce a high-quality result for each client by applying a decent work ethic and a result-driven approach to our dealings

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? To strike a balance between building a trusted brand and turning every opportunity into sales so as to grow the business

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? The Hope Factory has created a platform to interact with various entrepreneurs and this has increased my business network

MAPONYA MAGEBE PROJECTS (PTY) LTD

Thobela Maponya

Industry/sector: Construction

What we do: Our core business is construction project management and construction management. Other business offerings include general building and maintenance, civil works, and product supply

Operational areas: Gauteng, Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga

What is your company’s X-Factor? Excellence in the delivery of quality services and solutions on time and within budget through the knowledge, experience and exposure to industry. We strive to be ‘good stewards’ by contributing and applying professional practices

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Market penetration and access to the market

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? In rebranding the company to reposition it

NZUZA ARCHITECTS

Nompumelelo Nzuza

Industry/sector: Construction (professional services)

What we do: We are architectural service providers, professional architects who research, consult and manage projects in master planning for new developments and the design of buildings, landscapes and interiors

Operational areas: Gauteng and Eastern Cape

What is your company’s X-Factor? Business integrity, upliftment and mentorship, collaboration, design creativity, superior project delivery, and client satisfaction

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Cashflow management in an industry where late payment has become prevalent and largely discounted. This led me to quickly understand that your business needs to be diversified to ensure multiple income streams in order to survive

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? The Hope Factory has taught me better management tools and a way of seeing my business from a financial perspective. The financial boot camps have allowed me to step out of my business − to start working on how I can start working more on my business rather than in it. I am becoming an entrepreneur rather than self-employed

HAIRTURAL

Botlhale Tshetlo

Industry/sector: Manufacturing

What we do: We manufacture quality products for ethnic natural hair, including moisturiser, sealer, clay cleanser, conditioner and hair oil

Operational areas: Gauteng

What is your company’s X-Factor? Our amazing products are made from 100% indigenous oils and nourish, soften and hydrate natural hair

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Financial assistance

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? It has assisted with making the company aware and compliant with all regulations (financial, labour, etc)

MARARA RISK SOLUTIONS

Thando Sadiki

Industry/sector: Insurance

What we do: We are an insurance brokerage with our primary focus on short-term insurance intermediary and advice services, particularly personal, motor and household, commercial, corporate, and municipal insurance. We also do niche market products like medical malpractice, public liability, professional indemnity, construction guarantees, and goods in transit

Operational areas: Nationwide

What is your company’s X-Factor? Demystifying the myth around insurance. We take time to educate our clients about insurance products and also try to tailor-make it according to their needs. We also try to service clients in their home language

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Not having access to the market

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? It has helped me learn more about my area of business, especially the financial aspect of the business entrepreneur rather than self-employed

BALISTROM FURNITURE SOLUTIONS

Thapelo Senoamadi

Industry/sector: Carpentry manufacturing

What we do: We specialise in the manufacturing of office furniture, shop fittings and kitchen installations. We do interior design and offer space solutions for various clients through carpentry methods

Operational areas: Gauteng and Mpumalanga

What is your company’s X-Factor? We provide our clients with the highest quality at minimal cost by ensuring our product offerings are aesthetically pleasing. Our team believes in creating convenience and lasting relationships with our customers by providing an unforgettable customer service experience that continues to exist long after the sale of a product

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Breaking into new market segments (the intended target market), especially when the business is still in the start-up phase and you do not have credible references and experience. After the start-up phase one of the toughest challenges is obtaining clients that will keep the business afloat and sustainable

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? In various ways, particularly financial management. As entrepreneurs we often think we need more money or funding but forget the importance of financial management. The Hope Factory helped imparted vital knowledge on how to manage money in business as entrepreneurs through implementing fluent financial systems and making sure that one closely monitors every cent

BRIMSTONE CEILINGS & PROJECTS CC

Brian Moloantoa

Industry/sector: Construction and building maintenance

What we do: We specialise in the installation and maintenance of ceiling and drywall for residential households, commercial buildings and businesses, as well construction companies

Operational areas: Gauteng and surrounding areas

What is your company’s X-Factor? We are ISO-9001/2008 audited and are stringent in meeting and exceeding clients’ requirements at the first attempt. We always go the extra mile to ensure that our clients’ belongings and property are well taken care of

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Securing competent, long-serving supervising and sales employees. Accessing high-volume markets such as malls and hospitals

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? By introducing me to a lot of business concepts I was unfamiliar with. I learned how creating, implementing and sustaining systems can help improve and prepare a small business for growth. Today we are ISO-9001/2008 registered. Also, keeping proper accounting records and analysing accounting reports

CATIN SYSTEMS (PTY) LTD

Byron Catin

Industry/sector: Information and communication technology

What we do: We build custom information-processing solutions for corporate companies and SMEs. We also map business and workflow processes and manage IT governance risk and compliance issues

What is your company’s X-Factor? We build custom information-processing solutions that are specific to an organisation’s workflow processes and business rules. Our mobile app solutions are platform independent and scale well across mobile platforms such as Windows Mobile, iOS and Android. We use the best-of-breed resources to ensure that we deliver solutions built for you within time and budget

The greatest challenge you experienced as an entrepreneur? Not having proper access to markets and competing against companies who have saturated the industry over time

How has The Hope Factory assisted you? The financial boot camp was by far the most intuitive and impactful. It assisted us to better understand and manage finance

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