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In November 2011, the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (MEDO) launched a partnership with the UK Trade & Investment aimed at increasing micro business growth through strategic trade between South Africa and the UK. In conjunction with the launch of the partnership and a visit by the Prince of Wales, the Entrepreneur’s Development Programme was launched offering a 5-month intensive business skills training programme culminating in a trade visit to the UK in May 2012.
The cream of the MEDO training programme quelled their nerves ready to take on future business prospects at the historical Lilliesleaf Resource Centre in Johannesburg. MEDO proudly facilitated the finalists’ pitch presentations to top international and local business heads to determine who would be fortunate enough to depart to the UK on 28 May 2012.
Deputy Trade Commissioner Duncan Hill has driven the partnership between the UK Trade & Investment and MEDO with the intention of making a real and long-lasting impact on the local South African economy in order to continue to grow the already strong bilateral relations between the two states.
“The UK Trade & Investment aims to offer our UK business representatives superlative value. Through the joint programme and partnership with MEDO, UK Trade & Investment is able to pool their influence and contacts to create an avenue for UK companies to make a valuable contribution through the Code 600 of the BBBEE codes in the interest of South African economic growth, while simultaneously strengthening trade and bilateral relations between the two nation states.”
Judi Sandrock, joint CEO and co-founder of MEDO opened the event by quoting Winston Churchill saying that it was not the beginning of the end for these entrepreneurs but the end of the beginning.
“By partnering with like-minded organisations such as the UK Trade & Investment and the National Empowerment Fund and various other corporate partners, MEDO has been able to implement a programme that takes grassroots entrepreneurs with micro enterprises and mould them into sustainable businesses able to create long-term employment,” adds MEDO’s Sandrock.
CEOs and business owners as well as influential corporate growth organisations, alongside the UK Trade & Investment, listened intently to 11 presentations engaging entrepreneurs, some start-ups and others SMEs, on their products, their objectives and trade intentions in the UK and offering direct and honest feedback and advice. All the entrepreneurs attested to the immense value the programme and final presentation sessions imparted on their businesses and were unanimously positive and hopeful for their future business prospects.
Entrepreneurs pitched across a range of business sectors.
Cassim Nakkooda pitched for the South African Halaal Trade Services (SahTrade), a food export and distribution company aiming to make partnerships with international distributors in order to export high quality local halaal products into the UK and elsewhere in South Africa. After intensive inquiry Cassim established that South Africa’s Halaal Board is of the best in the world and is currently assisting Pakistan, a majority Muslim state, to set up their own Halaal Foods Board. Given the established Muslim population in the UK, the similar time zones, use of language and legal system, Cassim argued that there is an undeniable prospect for partnership and export, and perhaps even import, between the two countries.
Switch2Health Africa, a revolutionary health product and reward programme, was pitched by Jane Austin. The products and programme offer corporates, schools and individuals the opportunity to beat obesity with real rewards. Using one of the two products, the S2H REPLAY and S2H STEP, one monitors physical activity and uploads results to an online portal which then allocates points that can be used for a range of rewards. The entrepreneur duo has secured exclusive rights locally and has rights to operate in the UK.
“We started our business formally with the inception of the programme and have found the training and support offered by MEDO greatly beneficial. Our planning and projections are all in place and I believe we are ready to enter the market,” added Austin.
Capitalising on the trend of student voluntourism, Lorraine Keenan presented her business pitch for Hero’s Rest, an initiative that places socially aware tourists in real homesteads and within community development projects for them to enjoy the real South African experience while making a difference. This is achieved through partnerships with community organisations and the current Dinokeng facility. By engaging UK tour operators during the tour visit, Hero’s Rest would be able to access a high-income market and entrench Hero’s Rest as preferred destination for travellers who care.
Local Laaitie is an edgy children’s fashion line with a South African twist. Marea Lewis designs the kids range with dungarees, turn-up jeans and shweshwe dresses with handmade detail as well as hoodies and t-shirts that sport slogans in a preferred local vernacular. Marea plans to take the African design over to the UK with the custom made slogans, adjusting the product slightly to the market, fulfilling the need created by the current child fashion and accessory trend that established brands such as Nike and Puma are also capitalising on. “My experience within the MEDO programme has been invaluable. I am able to connect and network with other entrepreneurs; which I personally have found beneficial as I often feel isolated operating on my own – and in many cases the networking has brought in new work. MEDO have given me all the tools I need to continue the growth I have experienced since I started the programme and beyond,” added Marea.
Maphuti Kgomo and business partner, Mnqobi Mahlangu presented their plan for Ubuhle Be Nako (UBN) Tours, an authentic and original tour service through Soweto. The tour focuses on taking their guests on cultural experience – not just a hop on, hop off rushed view of one of South Africa’s urban cultural hubs. All tour guides are Sowetan locals and visits are made to the Royal Kraals and a local art school, which also receives support from UBN Tours. The tour team indicated that currently only 11% of their tour guests come from abroad and they would like to expand on this through trade partnerships with outbound tour operators in the UK.
“Even though we were already operating when we came on board the MEDO programme, we have now formalised our operations and business processes, keeping a necessary eye on financials and other business vitals. We are now also able to identify things such as our value chain and plan our business growth accordingly,” mentioned Maphuti.
Using software design to streamline event RSVP processes, Sechaba Ngwenya presented his business, Ayojak. Having developed the technology necessary to improve the laborious registration task of any event, Sechaba offers a full scale product including scanners, self-registration and validation while remaining cost effective. Ayojak has a resume boasting work for African Fashion Show, Kaya FM and corporate events for Peroni and Grolsh.
Busi Ntuli started her presentation with a confession that she has always been an entrepreneur, despite constant attempts by her father to get her formally employed. Busi Ntuli Communications, a company she started in 2003, offers media buying, strategic communication and branding and design services to a host of governmental departments and organisations. Busi indicated that her results-driven and media-neutral approach to client work differentiates her from other such service providers and makes Busi Ntuli Communications a perfect partner for a UK SME with a similar focus which represents clients operating within South Africa and Africa as a whole.
Folake Adejuyigbe designs and makes extraordinary hats and accessories for her company, Lord’s Hats and Accessories. Her unique blend of African culture integrated with classic European design and high quality custom made products managed to get her noticed at London Fashion Week 2011. Folake is now focused on finding agents in the UK to bring her custom made and stock products to the fashion savvy UK market.
Super Travel, is a local travel agent that aims to provide the most economically sensible and cost effective travel packages. Fred Shikweni summed it up during his presentation indicating that Super Travel wishes to compete with the best in the business. Fred hopes to collaborate with UK and European travel agencies through the UK Trade & Investment programme gaining both experience and partnerships.
Sanctus Okoye represented Chamash Global Logistics, an air and sea freight company, indicating that the company wishes to link with other UK SMEs in order to create a network between South Africa and the UK offering affordable and reliable freight handling for any size company. Locally, they have done work for Standard Bank.
When husband and wife power team; Samson and Patience Makadzange, started Palesa Bed & Breakfast in Midrand, Johannesburg 2-years ago, they did not expect the growth they have experienced, in part due to the exceptional support and knowledge they have gained from the MEDO / UK Trade & Investment Entrepreneurs Development Programme. Palesa B&B currently receives 65% corporate guests and wishes to expand their facility in order to increase their revenue stream by increasing occupancy and the capacity of their rooms. They stated that Palesa has excellent investment potential as they have already experienced such growth and are still in their infancy. This simple fact offers potential investors greater return on investment than what they could expect from a mature business.
Samson Makadzange shared with Judi Sandrock after the presentations; “It was not until I was compiling my report back that I realized how much we have learnt and the experience we’ve gained through the MEDO programme. All our processes and planning are in place – prior to MEDO we were highly exposed and didn’t even know it. We are now able to proceed and grow with confidence. Thank you!”
WeArtLoveIt, a Fashion PR and consulting company, is run and owned by the passionate Keitu Boane. The young go-getter works a cost-effective networking service for young fashion designers in South Africa, and assists them in gaining brand exposure through PR. Her formal qualification in fashion design places her in a unique position to be able to also consult for her clients on aspects such as retail buying and seasonal line planning. She has also made two appointments in the UK with the Arise Magazine and Jay Shoes wishing to emerge into the South African market. Keitu’s perspective is unique in that her work revolves around how fashion becomes art and how this art can be made accessible to the masses.
CEOs and business owners who were present were inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs. York Zucchi, an experienced Swiss businessman and owner of over 40 businesses across the world participated in the presentations offering entrepreneurs valuable advice, opinions and a sometimes just a different perspective.
York shared his thoughts on the challenges faced by South African start-ups and SMEs: “The South African entrepreneur has to deal with a number of personal challenges and hardships, but in many ways it is easier to do business or to start a business in South Africa. There is less red tape and permits are not required for every little venture, potential for exponential growth and development, no shortage of innovative ideas, and perhaps most importantly – there is no safety net; which drives the real entrepreneurs all the more!”
Duncan Hill in his opening quoted Mary Kay stating that one should “turn every obstacle into an opportunity” and his aim through the UK Trade & Investment’s partnership with MEDO is to provide funding and make it easier for UK businesses to operate in South Africa. With such excellent business proposals on the tip of the iceberg, UK Trade & Investment and MEDO are set to grow a new generation of entrepreneurs – that learn through success and not failure.
For more information on MEDO, visit www.medo.co.za
Issued By: The Lime Envelope