Successful entrepreneurs share lessons


I Am An Entrepreneur was a platform for small business owners and successful entrepreneurs and investors to talk about funding and lessons learned.

entrepreneurs lessons south african
Kgosi Diphokwane, Mpho Mashishi, Sifiso Ngcobo and Tshepo Mothibe attend I Am An Entrepreneur in Johannesburg on 19 November 2016. (Images: Melissa Javan)

Melissa Javan
Funding for small businesses – and how to access it – was a hot topic at I Am An Entrepreneur (IAAE), held on Saturday 19 November 2016 in Johannesburg.

The event coincided with the Global Entrepreneurship Week, was held at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) head office in Sandton. The IAAE, which is hosted across the country, is organised by Ignite South Africa and My Start Up South Africa.

The Johannesburg event was the seventh edition of the IAAE. Small business owners were invited to engage with successful entrepreneurs about their journeys, and to share lessons learned.

The IAAE has been to Kimberly, Polokwane, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, which was the last leg of the year.

Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part initiative is a sponsor of IAAE.

The guests

The speakers on Saturday were Ran Neu-Ner, co-founder of The Creative Counsel; Sonja de Bruyn Sebotsa, co-founder of Identity Partners; and Given Mkhari, CEO of MSG Afrika Group. Among the guests in the audience were comedian David Kau and fashion designer Theo Ngobeni.

Lynette Ntuli, CEO of Innate Investment Solutions and founder of Ignite SA, and radio presenter Andile Khumalo of Power FM 98.7 were the masters of ceremony.

Do homework on yourself

Mkhari advised that each small business owner should master himself and his trade. “Ask yourself how you can differentiate yourself.
“Do your homework about yourself and your abilities. You can’t lead people or in an industry, if you can’t lead yourself,” he said.

“If you don’t buy it [the business idea] with your own money, or skills, then why should I buy it?”

Humans were driven by self-interest, he added. “Only non-government organisations and some churches help people. Get rid of that idea that someone will fund you.
“Funders don’t fund people who need the money. They fund people who will give them a return.”

He warned that entrepreneurs should be wary before taking risks. “Take a chance like a coward – I do research before I take a risk.”

entrepreneurs lessons andile khumalo
Andile Khumalo, master of ceremony, prompts Ran Neu-Ner of The Creative Counsel and Sonja de Bruyn Sebotsa of Identity Partners to share the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journeys at I Am An Entrepreneur on Saturday 19 November 2016.

What do you do when you fail?

Neu-Ner agreed with Mkhari’s sentiments, saying entrepreneurs should invest in their businesses if they believe in it.
“I get about 100 emails a week from people who want me to fund them, because they have an idea [for a business].

“I just send these individuals a one liner with the following questions: how much revenue has your business done, and how much money have you invested in it?” He hardly got responses to that email.

Neu-Ner also advised that taking chances and failing would help to build your character. If you continuously failed to impress funders, you should tweak your business plan. “Question your business model — how can you make your business model better.”

Use your skills

De Bruyn Sebotsa said that the skills she obtained from working in a corporate environment became her toolkit. “Don’t discount the skills and development you get from working in a corporate environment. You can bring that structure and form into a new environment.
“It can also give you confidence to start your own business.”

It was difficult for a funder to give money to someone who had not worked in a structured environment, she added.

When a member of the audience spoke about seeking funding for her poultry farming venture, the speakers advised her to look into collaborating with a farmer who already owned land.
De Bruyn Sebotsa asked her: “Have you cultivated relationships and networks? Also, why are you in the poultry business?”

entrepreneurs lessons guests
The guests gain new insight at I Am An Entrepreneur on Saturday 19 November 2016.

“Your idea must be hot!”

Khumalo advised that entrepreneurs should tell funders such as the IDC how their business would benefit the development of South Africa. “Show that this business is going to create jobs. Your idea must a hot idea. It must be awesome that it’s going to stick.”

“Show the world what we can do”

Manusha Pillai, the general manager: communications at Brand South Africa, said the organisation was to be part of the IAAE initiative.

Building the nation brand rested on each citizen. The IAAE was important, she said because it was a place where entrepreneurs could find their space and engage with each other.

Pillai said she hoped the IAAE would help South Africa achieve its vision of the National Development Plan 2030. “We want an inspired, passionate South Africa. This is so that we can show the world what we can do.
“Play your part and show what South Africa you want… You each contribute what South Africa will look like.”

Other sponsors were the IDC, Renault South Africa, Power FM 98.7, and MTN Business South Africa.
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