Giving entrepreneurs a platform to shine

JOHN HARVEY

Entrepreneurs are the soldiers in the fight for economic freedom in South Africa, and everything needs to be done to support them.

With these words, Pick * Pay director of transformation, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, paid homage to 50 South African entrepreneurs who have excelled in the retail giant’s inaugural Boost your Biz competition, which saw more than 540 small-business owners vying to become a national supplier for the chain.

The event, held at Pick * Pay’s head office in Kenilworth last week, was attended by the who’s who of the business community, including retail legend, Raymond Ackerman and Absa managing executive, Doug Walker.

Entrepreneurs from around the country were flown in to share the stories of their businesses with guests. The 50 finalists will now take part in an intensive entrepreneurial training programme before the final selection and listing of the top 25’s products or services in June.

During the six-week training programme, they will get expert advice on financial planning, strategy, mentorship and other aspects of supplying the chain and the retail sector in general.

“The quality of applicants has been phenomenal. We appreciate that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and by giving these start-ups access to training, funding and opportunities to become part of our national supplier network, Pick * Pay is helping to develop a new generation of entrepreneurs,” Ms Ackerman-Berman said.

“We want to ensure we create new jobs, teach new skills and share our knowledge and experience with small business owners.”

In his brief address, Mr Ackerman emphasised his daughter’s words, saying entrepreneurs were the foundation on which South Africa’s economic prosperity could be built.

A talk by the founder and director of Magaliesburg-based Tropical Mushrooms, Peter Nyathi, stressed the potential of the country’s entrepreneurs to succeed, provided they put in the work. “As an entrepreneur, you can never sleep. The customer is unforgiving. All they are interested in is a good product, and you have to make sure they receive that. If you don’t deliver, you’re gone. It’s as simple as that,” Mr Nyathi said.

Tropical Mushrooms has gone from strength to strength, having supplied five tons of product a week in 2000 to an astonishing 18 tons a week currently.

Limpopo’s Portia Mngomezulu, founder and director of the Portia M range, explained how she had seen a gap in the local market for products that suited the African skin.

“I noticed that there were all these overseas brands in our shops, but none of them really were suitable for the African skin. My mother-in-law often spoke about how marula oil could be used to treat skin ailments, including stretch marks. So I saw this as an opportunity to start my own skincare company.”

Ms Mngomezulu buys the marula oil from rural women in Limpopo. Her vision is to be a leading household brand in skincare products throughout Africa, using natural ingredients that empower the communities where they are sourced.

One of the more touching moments came during the address by Pondoland Maize Meal founder and director Phil Makabane.

Hailing from the tiny village of Manquzu near Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape, Mr Makabane explained that even in this remote area copies of Mr Ackerman’s books on entrepreneurship were available to readers.

“I want to thank you, our father, our mentor, for what you have done,” he said, bending down from the stage to embrace Mr Ackerman.

Mr Makabane’s business has been supplying maize meal and animal feed exclusively to Boxer and Pick * Pay stores since April 2014.

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