From humble beginnings - inspirational SA business

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Small business owners come from diverse backgrounds (educationally, financially, work experience), none of which are necessarily predictors of the business’ long term success.

Potential and existing small business owners should therefore not focus on superficial or extraneous details (e.g. past achievements and opportunities) in evaluating their prospects and planning their futures.

Far more relevant is what the small business owner is doing in the here and now to achieve success.

Aspiring small business owners only have to look around to see and learn from examples of South African business people who started off from humble beginnings and went on to build empires or businesses with longevity. They serve as reminders that no matter what a small business owner’s background, vision, and hard work can make all the difference.

For instance, Donald Gordon, the founder of Liberty Life, began his entrepreneurial journey working as an articled clerk in accounting who earned R11 a month. He supplemented his income by selling insurance policies in the evenings and is now a dollar billionaire after founding Liberty Life and concluding several other deals during the course of his business career. Like other entrepreneurs, Donald Gordon’s ascension cannot be explained by a single ‘magic bullet’.

His success was facilitated by a combination of factors such as his personality and drive, good support structures (e.g. capable co-founders who helped to drive Liberty Life’s growth) and a willingness to diversify and expand into new markets and sectors (e.g. property in the United Kingdom). Arguably, Donald Gordon founded his businesses in a different operating environment – the regulatory landscape governing who can own what kind of business has changed dramatically since 1958, as have criteria applied by institutional investors and other potential backers of a fledgling business.

Even the degree of crowding and competitiveness for some sectors has changed, forcing small business owners to create or seek out new opportunities as they evolve with the times.

But the challenge for small business owners in the 21st century is to stop making excuses for why they will not or cannot succeed and just go for it.

If some local business people Richard Maponya, Raymond Ackerman could fight to make it big, what is preventing others from reaching the same giddy heights?

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29 comments
  • I can so strongly relate to this article making the decision to start up your own business is an extremely tough one an a step that most will never take. It is so easy to make excuses and to rather stay firmly planted in the security of a job but once you take that leap the rewards are so worth your while! South Africa has so many inspirational stories of dynamic spirited entrepreneurs that have grown from humble beginnings to leaders to look up to people like Jabu Stone Ludwick Marishane Sibusiso Ngwenya Mixo Fortune Ngoveni Mogau Seshoene Daniel De Kock & Jarryd Bekker from Bushveld Labs and so many more that are pioneering the way forward for young entrepreneurs in South Africa. It is so easy to make excuses as to why you cannot start a business but you only need one as to why you should!
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  • And I always remind myself that there was once ONE Kentucky ONE Nandos One Pick n Pay... and so the story goes. These entrepreneursfaced the same challenges that you and I did and in some cases much greater. They certainly inspire me to reach for the stars I want to build a business and not just a job where I employ myself
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  • Who inspires you? Which South African business has you believing IT IS POSSIBLE
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  • Yeah I think many Startups look at the Entrepreneurs that they respect and expect to be there overnight they forget that it takes many years hard work and dedication to achieve your goals.
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  • It took me 25 years to become and overnight success
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  • Good question in Terms of Young Entrepreneurs that are getting going I really like Bushveld Labs and African Robot really on the cutting edge of technology and pushing the tech space with regards to a really basic product which I just see as having legs both locally as well as internationally I'd have to say Dry bath. With regards to larger more established businesses South Africa has so many we truly do have a culture of entrepreneurship we only have to remember where people like Elon Musk and Mark Shuttleworth got their start and what they have achieved. Why only hope is that the Entrepreneurial support in SA catches up with the Entrepreneurial spirit!
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  • How do we help ourselves until the Government steps in with real help for realEntrepreneurs
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  • Indeed it is never an easy road to the top! But Mike you have a seriously impressive portfolio behind you can only imagine what still lies ahead
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  • Mike what are some of your favourite SA sucesses?
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  • Very good question Mike but think Entrepreneurs need to be very inventive with how they launch their businesses use what you have set up quick fail quick and rework your strategy until you have a minimum viable product that is ready and then just hit the market hard. Once you have a proven business model and product the money will follow and you will be able to grow but don't try start at the top because you will only have one direction to go rather start at the bottom and build your business up learning along the way!
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  • There is a movie coming out shortly that will certainly be a must watch for allentrepreneurs. The Founder (the stoy of Ray Croc the founder of the McDonald's franchise) You see I say the franchise because few people know it was actually started by Mac and Dick McDonald and Ray actually sold them milkshake machines when he stumbled upon them. Take a look at a review HERE
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  • A few people have inspired me at different times and for different reasons...My Father was without a doubt my first inspiration in business. This is where my entreprenuerial fire wasfirst lit. From a young age I watchedhim in the daily struggles of building a business losing everything building another losing everything and finally building again and reaping the handsome rewards of his years and years of hard work. All the while providing well for his family!
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  • Seen it advertised... definite must watch!
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  • Whenever I think about entrepreneurs I always think about DISRUPTION. The one industry that I believe is ready for a major disruption is food and beverage. Anyone out there working on a couple of ideas to shake up this industry? Yes I know you won’t share the idea but just keep me posted and let me know what to watch out for
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  • Mine tend to run within the food and beverage industry simply because that is where I spent so many years. Mugg & Bean Famous Brands Steers Spur all home grown and all highly successful
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  • So onto someone that someone will actually recognise (sorry Dad) I recently read Herman Mashaba's Black Like Me and found it absolutely enthralling! His recent side step into politics aside he encompasses what it is to be a successful businessman. We all love a good rags to riches story however this one really speaks tothe South African dream
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  • It really does help having a mentor like that from a very early age my father was a corporate man so not much in terms of learning to run a small business from him but he strongly believed that if you want something you work for it. As a result I never got pocket money and was forced to find inventive ways of earning money from an early age so was spurred into entrepreneurship from a very early age by default.
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  • Looks fantastic will look out for it for sure!
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  • Going back to the subject of humble beginning at one point in my life I actually found myself homeless and living on the street for over a year and it was a very tough climb out of the hole I found myself in but with a lot of grit determination and endurance I eventually managed to build myself up again. I still believe that the trials and tribulations we have in our lives shape the entrepreneurs we become and it really doesn't matter where we start but rather the single minded determination of where we want to be that matters!
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  • I had no idea you had been through so much I suppose there is no way I would know that... If I may ask what do you think seperated you from others who have been in that situation and you who managed to drag yourself out of it... I believe there is a real lesson in that
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  • That rings so true Gareth maybe that's where it all starts? Access to pocket money and how to get more of it! I got a tiny amount of pocket money every month however got given the opportunity to get more if I worked. I would have to go to my dad and negotiate what I would do for the amount I wanted. I will never forget when I was about 12or so I hatched a plan (my first business)! We lived on a small holding in the midlands with plenty of fruit trees and an enourmous veggiegarden that my dad devoted all of his spare time to. My thinking was to collect the fruit and veg every Saturday morning and walk aroundto our surroundingneighbours and sell it simple enough. Turns out they loved it and my little business seemed to be booming! No more chores to make money I just took the produce and sold it. Easy right! Until one of the neighbours wive's called my dad to ask if she could get 12 more peaches for the dinner party she was having that night. My ruse was up or so I thought. I was not reprimanded he simply told me that Mrs Smith wanted a dozen more peaches today which I happily picked and delivered. The twist however was that on returning from the delivery my dad informed me thatI was now in charge of watering and weedingthe orchard and veggies EVERY day! Lesson learnt!
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  • Wow Gareth I had no idea! I would also like to know how you pulled through that to become the inspiring success you are today.
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  • To be honest I just think it boils down to stubbornness and a determination to not be satisfied with my lot in life. Doesn't matter what situation you are in there is always a way to dig yourself out.
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  • Mike you can check out Bean2Bloom still quite a long way from launching but we are heading in the right direction https://www.facebook.com/Bean2bloom
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  • Have a question for everyne out there what are you going to do THIS weekend to inspire someone or to inspire yourself?
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  • Well not particularly this weekend but I am on a daily basis living my truth meaning that I dont lie to myself about the state of my life my business my emotions my spiritual and physical well being. when you are able to be truthful to yourself first and foremost you are able to make the necessary changes and adjustments to be the best version of yourself. That's when you can truly be inspiring to others and yourself when you come from a position of truth.
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  • Gareth I am so inspired by you!! You are so right the challenges we have overcome builds up the tenacity and fire inside of us to make it against all odds... You are a living Testimony Gareth...
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  • We're hoping that SimplyBiz will be a platform to inspire business owners every day too! #punt for ourselves :)
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  • Wow @Gareth! thank you for sharing so bluntly. We admire your resilience! Keep on keeping on!
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