The adjudicators at Eskom's annual Business Investment Competition (BIC) will tell you that, having listened to the inspiring stories of the finalists, courage is a non-negotiable when it comes to entrepreneurship in South Africa.
The competition encourages and rewards entrepreneurship and its gutsy forerunners by providing a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to cross the next major hurdle in business development. It provides SMEs with general business recognition and helps them build a client base. Each year, the competition invites registered, South African, black-owned enterprises that have been operating for more than 24 months to enter. The businesses may operate in any of the nine provinces but must operate in the agricultural, manufacturing or trade/services sectors.
This year the BIC gala awards evening was held on 11 September and proved to be an inspiring occasion for organisers and finalists alike.
The winners of the three categories are shining examples of the entrepreneurial spirit and what can be achieved when you follow your passion with determination and savvy. The winners were: Tlamelo Fresh Produce from Mafikeng, North West, in the agriculture sector; Elegant Line Chemicals from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, in the manufacturing sector; and ArchWorXS in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, in the trade/services sector.
All three winners were thrilled with their achievements. Nelly Shezi, co-owner of Elegant Line Chemicals, said of her entrepreneurial journey: "It hasn't been easy, but I have learnt that you have to persevere. It's important to know what you want out of life and to make it happen. It's also crucial to do something in line with your expertise."
The expert panel of adjudicators in turn offered their own advice to small business owners and South Africans in general on the power and importance of entrepreneurship in our country, and the profound effect it can have on the growth of the economy.
The panel noted that it is dependent on us as South Africans to buy proudly SA products. "Internally, we have to make a conscious decision to support our own entrepreneurs. We are asking them to do things but we are not supporting them," they said.
The adjudicators were brimming with inspiration they had gleaned from the finalists. Adjudicator Cecil Ramonotsi, Programme Manager at the Eskom Development Foundation, particularly enjoyed seeing the passion of small business owners.
"They are definitely moving the barriers around them in their daily life challenges," he commented. "It's not easy for them to start thinking about venturing into business without bravery. If you look at the amount of courage it takes, struggling through and failing as much as succeeding - it says a lot."
Winners received R100 000 each and runners up in each of the categories received R25 000 to improve their business.
Also recognized at the BIC awards evening were the winners of the Eskom Simama Ranta competition, which aims to identify, honour and showcase those South African secondary schools that are exemplars in entrepreneurship education. The 2012 winner of this competition was Sakhelwe High School in Ezakheni, KwaZulu-Natal. They win R25 000 to put towards expanding their enterprise projects.
In addition, all finalists will be exhibiting at the annual Eskom Business Opportunities and Franchise Expo (BOFE), held from 13 to 16 September 2012 at the Coca-Cola dome in Northriding, Johannesburg.
The expo provides SMEs with a versatile marketing platform from which to build brand awareness, interact with potential customers and investors as well as to generate media coverage. Like the competition, BOFE is dedicated to developing entrepreneurship in South Africa.
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