A budding innovator to watch out for
Innovative entrepreneur Lebohang Motsoeneng is a young woman with a mind steeped in innovative ideas.
From waitressing at a multinational fast food chain in her hometown, Ficksburg, in the Free State - Motsoeneng's innovation is now the most sought-after gadget in the food and restaurant sector.
It was three-years ago while working at a Wimpy outlet that Motsoeneng - now a Top 7 finalist on e.tv's Hangman innovation competition - conceptualised her innovation, I-Waiter.
Motsoeneng, 28, said she got tired of disturbing business meetings and interrupting customers' conversations - that is when she came up with the idea of I-Waiter.
She describes her brainchild as an electronic device that attracts the attention of a restaurant waiter via a fashionable vibrating watch.
"I felt I was annoying customers every time I would enquire about the meal or if they were ready to order," she said.
From experimenting with a transmitter and through trial and error using a functioning model, Motsoeneng came up with her prototype, which she sent to China to be perfected.
Motsoeneng said there were other devices on the market, called buzzers, but they could not compare to I-Waiter.
"I use a different functionality. My transmitter is embedded in the restaurant table and the receiver or smart watch is worn by the waiter."
To make a success of her innovation, Motsoeneng left Ficksburg to settle in Joburg with her partner Ntsikelelo, her daughter and her mother.
"You know, small towns do not adapt easily to innovation. More so if it comes from a black person.
"I experienced a lot of negative feedback from racist people. Some asking 'how did you come up with that?' They expect blacks to [only] be dancers and soccer players."
Through her start-up, Motsoeneng Corporate Agency, she has sold the use of the device to Impilo Boutique Hotel group. The device is used at their Joburg CBD hotel.
Motsoeneng is in negotiations with Mugg & Bean to supply them them as well.
"The first thing I did was to register and patent it so that it should belong to me and no one else. I had to part with R65000 for the patent.
"And if I want to take it internationally, I will have to pay R120000. Mind you that is for use in only four states in America."
When Motsoeneng dropped out of university, she believes she saved her parents a lot of money in fees, money she said she paid back because she believed it was a family loan.
"Before I entered the Hangman show I was an introvert, but I believe I can now market my innovation better. I'm a better speaker and I'm assertive.
"With the help of my partner, who is good at marketing and is helping finance the project, I believe we are on a journey to make I-Waiter a sought after device in the restaurant sector.
"I have other innovative ideas but at the moment I'm concentrating on taking my baby to the market."
Being onHangman has done wonders for Motsoeneng's business venture as more inquiries about the product are coming in thick and fast.
"Even if I don't win the R1million prize money, I believe the exposure I'm getting is worth more than the cash."