Ending off its 13th successive year, the NSBC in association with World Famous Events has announced at a virtual gala event South Africa’s Top 20 Finalists, Special Award Winners and the Main Category Award Winners for the 2021 South African Small Business Awards. These prestigious awards have gathered a diverse range of entries all with one thing in common – a driving entrepreneurial force.
“We are astounded at the diversity of entrants again this year, but equally encouraged as it shows the depth and breadth of South Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit. Growing small and medium businesses is vital to the local economy and its ever-growing rate of unemployment. This type of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit will undoubtedly cultivate a much healthier business landscape for all involved,” says Mike Anderson, Founder and CEO of the NSBC.
The 2021 awards, in alphabetical order, are sponsored by Absa, Experian, Google, Mastercard, MTN Business, Netstar and Vodacom with Aramex as the official courier partner.
“We are humbled by the support of such esteemed industry leaders. Without their commitment to building tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, these businesses would have less opportunities to thrive and flourish,” says Anderson.
The 2021 Top 20 winners are:
(in alphabetical order)
Airshot – Samantha Staats
All Office Equipment – Sean Gotkin
Automated Publishing Services (Pty) Ltd – Charles Parrington
Bridgement – Daniel Goldberg
Company Partners (Pty) Ltd – Liam Stander
Drip Footwear – Lekau Sehoana
Filmer – Peri Van Papendorp / Janez Vermeiren
From The Barkery – Ceri Phillips
Great Africa Hair Company (Pty) Ltd – Salil Dhingra
JOBJACK – Christiaan Van Den Berg
JustSolve – Botha Van Der Vyver
KAINOTOMIA Polymers – Albert Ivan Gildenhuys
Lifestyle And Co (Pty) Ltd – Aslam Mohamed
Modern Centric Holdings (Pty) Ltd – Zakhele Mgobhozi
Noble Prosperity – Renate Jute
Pharsyde Accounting – Tamryn Dicks
Puno – Faith Mokgalaka
Reactive Maintenance Specialists – Celeste Margo Le Roux
Sage Wise – Darshen Moodley
WhiskyBrother&Co – Marc Pendlebury
The Top 20 all receive a Top 20 Winner Award and were all automatic finalists for the Main Category and Special Awards. Anderson says “the categories are selected with strategic intent, paying homage to sectors within the business landscape that potentially present greater stumbling blocks to success.”
The 2021 Special Award Winners are:
National Retail Award:
WhiskyBrother & Co
National Innovation Award:
National Rising Star Award:
National Technology Award:
The 2021 Main Category Award Winners are:
National Small Business Champion:
Drip Footwear – Lekau Sehoana
National Entrepreneur Champion:
Zakhele Mgobhozi – Modern Centric Holdings
National Woman in Business Champion:
Celeste Margo Le Roux – Reactive Maintenance Specialists
Renate Jute – Noble Prosperity
National Start-Up Champion:
Great Africa Hair Company – Salil Dhingra
“Each entrant has in some way made a difference to someone’s life, either through employing them or by offering services to them. At the heart of this great nation is its people and I am proud to be associated with all these worthy winners,” says Anderson.
He says that the NSBC and World Famous Events would not only like to congratulate the Top 20 Winners, the Special Award Winners and the Main Category Awards Winners, but also thank them for their relentless commitment to building a better tomorrow.
Meet the 2021 Winners
Airshot, an offering from The Taxonomy Co, is a stand-alone app that can be used by most businesses and industries to motivate and incentivise their sales teams or employees to drive consumer behaviour and demand.
In 2017, four visionaries sought to address a gap in the market with a tech-centred solution and Airshot was born. Everyone came from a different industry and brought their own set of skills and experience to the team. And, by honing in on their leadership, project management, problem-solving, delegation and networking skills, they were able after two years and hundreds of successes and 2000 users to go global. Their business has been built on the philosophy that “When you take care of your clients, the profits take care of themselves.” As a result, they have invested a lot of time and resource into creating and effecting change for their clients. In return, they have turned a start-up business with significant loan accounts into a profit centre within a year.
In the future, Airshot hopes to go bigger and better and see local and international opportunities abound because communication is key in creating a connected and motivated workforce.
All Office Equipment
Established in 1978, All Office Equipment is a family business. It supplies ergonomically-designed office furniture. They believe in treating their customers as individuals and specialise in designing complete office systems which meet their client’s specific needs.
With the recent uncertainty created by the different levels of lockdowns, All Office had to pivot. They firstly ensured their warehouse employees were not made redundant even though project work wasn’t able to go ahead. With the work-from-home trend growing, they expanded their products to supply home lifestyle products to existing customers who trusted their service offering. They also expanded into the hospitality industry. They are assisting hotels with furnishings, and refurbishing various hotels to support them and the economy in South Africa and throughout the continent.
In the future, All Office hopes to offer e-commerce capabilities and expand their range to satisfy their customer’s needs. Though expansion is their focus for the future, they will remain customer centric as this is the core of their business and has been the reason they have been able to ride out the trying times in recent days.
Automated Publishing Services (Pty) Ltd
Automated Publishing Services services is a small, unique team of software consultants and resellers, that uses their extensive global network and 30+ years of experience to find software systems for their customers that help them to maximise their content efficiencies. They have been in business for over 15 years.
In 1989, they were the first company to implement a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. Then in 2012 Automated Publishing Service were the first company to digitise Media24, the largest publisher in Africa. They have recently helped a global pharmaceutical company by saving them over 90% in production cost and time, and managed to help reduce the marketing turnaround time from months to days and the marketing material production from weeks to hours.
In the future, they hope to continue to enable their customers to maximise their automation and generate time to spend working on the customer’s business without having to work on manual or repetitive tasks. By automating the client’s environments – through smart software solutions- Automated Publishing Services brings about significant time savings and, subsequently, saves money too.
Bridgement was started by a group of data scientists and engineers with one goal – to use technology and data science to bring a new approach to traditional business funding and to minimise the complexity and costs associated with it. Because time is money and especially if you are an SME, Bridgement weaves together traditional funding and disruptive tech and data science with an automated application process that takes two minutes to complete. This leads to companies getting approved and having access to funding within hours.
Bridgement also focussed on removing barriers to access funding. They have managed to lower minimum criteria – specifically for SMEs with funding needs under R2-Million, as well as for businesses in their first 2-3 years of trading. Bridgement only requires an SME to have been trading for at least six months.
Bridgement managed to turn profitable within a year of beginning to trade and without the need for major capital raises. This was achieved through a combination of offering the simplest least onerous application process, the best turnaround times, and the best customer service in the market. The enabler to all of this was the fintech platform forming the foundation of the business enabling a very efficient operating model.
Daniel Goldberg started Bridgement as a solo entrepreneur and used funding from international consulting jobs to fund this capital-intensive venture in the first year and a half. Daniel also built and leveraged his networks to find investors that were specifically interested and knowledgeable about the SME funding industry. Daniel displays some of the key traits of an entrepreneur. He is resourceful, eager to learn about new things, and resilient.
Company Partners (Pty) Ltd
Company Partners is a team of over 50 dedicated experts that offer 120 company compliance services to South African SMEs and entrepreneurs. They pride themselves in providing their clients with a premium client experience through a free consultation with an expert business advisor and a dedicated consultant to guide their clients through the process and get the customer’s compliance documents completed in the quickest possible timeframe. They started trading in April 2013 and have been profitable every year and have managed to maintain a healthy profit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. This can only be achieved by being customer focused. They use the information they collect from their systems, teams and clients and work towards offering the client products which they need right now. This data and experiences help Company Partners to continually improve their online system, knowledge, services, and marketing. As a result, they can give their clients exactly what they need at the lowest possible price year upon year.
In 2022, they want to focus on start-up training and will begin by offering a free start-up workshop in January 2022. They also have other workshops scheduled so that any entrepreneur within South Africa will always know where to go when they decide to begin the journey of running a new business.
Drip Footwear is the brainchild of Lekau Sehoana. It is a sneaker brand but that’s just the start. They pride themselves on making quality sneakers that are functional and fashionable and they always keep their customer in mind.
Lekau began making sneakers in high school when he saw a pair of torn sneakers and refashioned them with denim and polyurethane. These were a hit with his school friends, and he had turned a pain in his life into profit. After leaving school, he ventured into many different industries but most of them failed, and he ended up in debt and in a life he wasn’t prepared to live. But he never gave up. In 2018 he returned to his first passion – the shoe-making business. He spent a year researching and developing his idea and on 26th July 2019, Lekau Sehoana sold his first pair of DRIP sneakers.
Through his business, he offers opportunities to young people within his community to build and strive for their dreams. He hires over 124 people and by the end of 2021 he will have opened 20 retail outlets. His business mission is to inspire his customers to define their “great” and live it no matter where they come from. This passion for people resonates throughout the DRIP footwear brand. Lekau is in constant conversation with his consumers on social media. In 2021, for Lekau’s birthday, he offered to support SMMES by giving them a portion of R33 0000 through a unique competition which asked DRIP footwear’s followers to select which business they would like to buy from and then giving them a portion of the money to make their purchases. Boosting the sales of SMMEs and giving back to their followers in a unique way. DRIP footwear and Lekau Sehoana are hands-on when it comes to helping to build a better and brighter future for his community.
Filmer is Africa’s first film and content crowd-sourcing platform that offers brands a direct line to a network of skilled creative professionals. Filmer is a win-win for clients and creatives. Clients get to create more quality content, more often, more affordably, more efficiently, and in a transparent and collaborative way. For creatives, they get access to more briefs, more budgets, and get to work with some of the biggest and best brands in the country. Peri Van Papendorp and Janez Vermeiren are the founders of Filmer and have over 40 combined years of industry experience from the client, ad agency, and production side. This tapestry of experience allowed them to innovate and guide the business in a way that benefited both sides of the industry – the clients and the creators.
This was a new disruptive model that was being introduced into the industry and they had many naysayers and cynics, but they committed to the idea. In the beginning, adoption was slow, but they managed to get the business running well in three months.
In future, they hope not only to be a platform to win work and connect with clients, but also a hub that educates and empowers the industry and is a functioning cross-channel resource for clients and creators alike.
From The Barkery
From The Barkery creates and bakes handmade artisanal treats for the furry friends we share our lives with. All their treats are carefully made with extra love and expertly taste tested by their Chief Tasting Officer, Jimmy Choo the cat.
Ceri Phillips believed in From the Barkery from day one. She left her corporate job to follow an idea she knew would be a success. Though she was not a baker, she worked hard to learn how to bake the perfect dog and cat biscuit. There were many failed attempts, but she finally got it right and this recipe is the one they still use today. This tenacity to succeed is one of the traits that define Ceri as an entrepreneur. She is also a good leader and is hands-on in her business.
From the Barkery believes in giving back and they donate to two local charities every month. They also encourage their customers to donate, and they will match the donation to the animal rescue groups that they support.
From the Barkery always strives to make products that will be enjoyed by both their human and animal customers. They hope to grow the brand into a national one and eventually, a global one. They currently have many loyal customers and hope to continue to share their delicious treats with every furry friend near and far.
Great Africa Hair Company (Pty) Ltd
Great Africa Hair Company’s core team are specialists in the FMCG industry and began their entrepreneurial journey with hair care products. In 2020, they responded quickly to the new demands of their market and offered a growing range of quality, cost-conscious sanitiser-based product ranges. Other areas they are in are skincare products and they are looking to move into the confectionary space. The Great Africa Hair Company was started during the global pandemic and has grown exponentially since the start. Their products can be found on the racks of major retailers like Dischem, Clicks, and Shoprite – to name a few. They have also broken into the Sub-Sahara Africa market by taking their products online.
After working for 12 years in corporate, Salil Dhingra decided to put his lived experience and qualifications into his own business. Due to his respected relationships, integrity, authenticity, and fostered networks over the past years, Salil’s enterprise took flight the day they commenced trading.
In the first year of operation, Salil and Great Africa Hair Company has made a profit from his business and actively contributed to the South African economy. He has done this through being an owner-run business that focuses on speed and agility to deliver quality products at the right time and price. He also works hard on R&D and taps into global trends and makes them relevant to the local market so that they are eagerly embraced.
Their underlying empathy, coupled with extensive research and development, continues to reveal new and exciting opportunities for each product line to grow, all of which bodes well for their next exciting chapter of growth and prosperity for all.
JOBJACK is an online platform that automates the entry-level recruitment process, not only easing the process for employers but making jobs more accessible to those who need it most by connecting job seekers to relevant opportunities whilst eliminating the cost and access barriers. They have enabled over 350,000 job seekers in creating their online profiles and exposed them to opportunities and increased this by about 2,000 per day in the last 12 months. They have increased the monthly amount of successfully placing job seekers into opportunities by 600%. By signing up some of Africa’s largest retailers and multiple SMEs, their revenue has grown by over 1,000% and their team has also almost doubled in size over the past six months.
JOBJACK are actively working to help decrease the unemployment problem in South Africa. Job seekers don’t pay for having their CV on the app and if they want to upskill there are courses and training available from third parties which they can pay for.
JOBJACK earns their income through a subscription model from corporate and SME employers. They hope to expand into Africa and other emerging markets in the future. Let’s employ the world.
JustSolve specialises in software development and all the services that come with it. With a group of low-code experts and being a thought leader in software development, JustSolve partnered with OutSystems in 2016 and have continued to lead from the front and assist businesses to review all the options available to them when it comes to building a new solution versus buying something off the shelf.
Botha Van Der Vyer is the CEO of JustSolve and his combined background as a techie, computer engineer and business owner has helped him have the edge in identifying opportunities, understanding what it will take to get it done and to practically execute it.
After being retrenched and having promises broken, Botha felt he had to create a place where people felt valued, included, – a place where both employees and clients truly became part of a thriving community. Shortly thereafter, he had an opportunity to work for a former employee and discovered the power of transparent collaboration. This meant that he worked with his client in the spirit of a true partnership, and it helped him to create a product five times faster than traditional software development. This was the birth of JustSolve.
Botha has also been featured as a future leader alongside the likes of Stephen van Collar (EOH), Willie Stegmann (Vodacom), Dirk van der Walt (WeBuyCars) and Dr Mosima Mabunda (Discovery).
In 2020, JustSolve received The Hero of the Year award for the MEA region from OutSystems. This award recognises the partner with the highest customer satisfaction rating. They were also part of the top three finalists in the MTN App of the Year for one of the products they helped to develop.
KAINOTOMIA Polymers opened their doors in September 2020. They specialise in the colour compounding and milling of Linear Low-Density Polyethylene into powders for the roto-moulding industry, a sub-industry of the plastic industry. Albert Gildenhuys has over 16 years of technical expertise in different plastic sub-industries. He came out of a trade restriction to face an industry hire freeze because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This encouraged him to embark on a new journey and he entered an industry that has historically been dominated by one provider. Albert identified an opportunity for a new entrant into this market to offer quality products, technical expertise, and exceptional customer service. Through his innovative ideas and the ability to pivot when needed he has created a business that made a turnover of over R14.6 million from inception and continues to grow.
In the first year that KAINOTOMIA Polymers was open, they grew to a staff complement of 20. They have 16 active customers, and they produce 238 tons of material per month. In May 2021, they received their ISO 9001:2015 certification from Alcumus ISOQAR. They have also introduced a new compound to the local industry which has never been seen in the South African market before. KAINOTOMIA Polymers is blazing a new trail in the South African polymer industry.
Lifestyle & Co (Pty) Ltd
Lifestyle & Co is a proudly South African furniture-manufacturing factory that offers the customer an opportunity to design, craft and purchase bespoke furniture to suit their needs and requirements. They opened their first flagship shop in 2016 and have three more stores. They hope to open four more stores to extend their reach throughout South Africa.
Due to the high unemployment rate in South Africa, Lifestyle & Co created the Lifestyle Home Academy. This school looks for unemployed people to train to become sales consultants, carpenters, upholsterers, and quality control consultants. The academy training is conducted by accredited teachers and Lifestyle & Co are in the process of getting an accreditation certificate for their academy. After the learners have completed their training, they are given a position in the company with a set salary and are given the opportunity to grow within this industry.
In the future, they hope to create limited ranges in conjunction with acclaimed and well-known individuals in South Africa. They also hope to expand their business into Africa.
Modern Centric Holdings (Pty) Ltd
Modern Centric Holdings is a reliable, energetic, and entrepreneurial player in the skills and recruitment services industry. It was founded in 2013 by Zakhele Mgobhozi and became a fully operational entity in 2018 with one employee. By 2021, they have over 50 employees and have helped numerous people find employment. They focus on helping people with disabilities and other marginalized groups to find a place in the workplace where they can work without limitations. Zakhele felt a call on his life after he survived an accident that put him in a coma for six months and left him having to learn how to speak again. When he re-joined the corporate world, he experienced first-hand how difficult it is for a person with disabilities to find employment and reasonable accessibility in the workplace. This inspired him to start Modern Centric and like most entrepreneurs, he experienced many challenges in this ultra-competitive business world, but he continues to push through because of the impact he has had on his customers and the Modern Centric family.
Zakhele and Modern Centric were finalists in the Top Empowered Awards for young achiever under forty, and Top Empowered Company: growth black-owned SMME. Zakhele won the award for Top Empowered Entrepreneur of 2021.
Noble Prosperity’s main focus is to educate and empower business owners, entrepreneurs, and key role players in business through courses, coaching and free material. The free material available to their audience includes podcasts, monthly masterclasses, written articles, e-books, and presentations.
Renate Jute is referred to as the numbers coach by her clients. She has made it her life’s work to gain specialist knowledge on complex matters and spent years distilling this knowledge and experience into easy to understand, implementable tools.
Renate’s philosophies in business are leave it better than you found it and if you know better, you do better. With these philosophies in mind, she has partnered with Girls on Fire (GOSA) in offering a coaching and mentorship program to empower women.
When Renate considers challenges, she also looks for the lesson and how she can move on. Though she has had many challenges in her life, she prefers to counter the challenge with the question “And?” – And did she grow? Did she earn? Did she succeed in the end?
Pharsyde Accounting, Pharsyde Solutions, Munching Mongooses and Cerebral Online are the current four companies in Tamryn Dicks’ entrepreneurial journey. She started this journey with Pharsyde Accounting in 2007. Though the industry was hard to break into and she was constantly questioned on her skills. She worked hard and grew her client base and her abilities. In 2020, she joined her friend and created Munching Mongoose. But running two businesses and being present in the day-to-day running of each led to burnout and eventually a breakdown.
However, Tamryn Dicks took this event and had a revelation about why she was in business. She needed her work to mean something not just be “successful”. She also realised she started her entrepreneurial journey to create freedom in her life.
So, she stepped down from the day-to-day workings of Munching Mongoose but continues to offer financial advice and acts as a virtual CFO for the business.
Through the burnout, she realised many small business owners are on the brink of burnout or burnt out already because they believe they need to do more to be successful. This lead Tamryn to register a new business called Pharsyde Solutions which mentors and coaches small business owners to grow and create a successful business without burning out.
The core of Tamryn’s success in business is because she and her teams genuinely care about the clients they serve. She focuses on having a genuine interest in her clients and how she can make them succeed. Furthermore, because of the sensitive nature of the documents she deals with she believes in having integrity and ethics.
Puno is a business that connects farmers with investors. They encourage farmers into commercialisation by empowering them financially into increasing their reach. At Puno, they aim to drive progress in the agricultural sector of Africa as a whole and they understand that progress is not only about doing something every day; progress is about doing something but doing it better every time.
Faith Mokgalaka is the owner and a computer science student at WITS. During last year’s lockdown, Faith bought 3 hectares of farmland and began farming. When she returned to university this year, she thought about the challenges faced by farmers and this is when she designed her agri-tech solution, Puno. She found it very hard to mobilise farmers into investing in her idea, but she has used social media and the Department of Agriculture’s database to help her reach out to the farmers and share a clearer message about her offering and now she is succeeding in the agri-tech field.
Though Faith has faced many challenges in her industry, she has overcome them and is a role model for other entrepreneurs and young girls who look up to her blazing a trail in the agri-tech industry.
Reactive Maintenance Specialists
Reactive Maintenance Specialists – React Group is a BBBEE level one, black-woman owned and operated corporate entity within the built environment. They offer a wide range of services from React 24 which does building, plumbing, electrical, roofing, waterproofing, redecorating and structural repairs to repairing tools with ReTool. They also have a pipe rehabilitation service and React training college. Celeste Le Roux is the CEO of React Group and the ambassador of transformation and changing the narrative within the South African built environment and construction industry. It has been exceptionally challenging entering this male-dominated industry, but with tenacity, perseverance, willpower, and determination she has shown that women are capable and have the abilities to participate in the construction industry competitively.
Celeste prides herself on constantly applying new, innovative, and sometimes, disruptive techniques to her venture. She wants to be a positive role model, and show that regardless of age, gender, or race, one can still achieve your goals and aspirations at any stage of your life if you are motivated enough to do so.
In the future, React group will tap into the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu markets as these are seen as growth industries. They will also expand their campuses nationally and hope to have one in Gauteng in the near future.
Sage Wise is a solution-based company in the field of unified communications. They have an innovative and efficient approach to delivering state-of-the-art audio visual and visual conferencing solutions to all businesses. They have worked with companies all over the African continent including South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya. Sage Wise was started in 2005 in Darshen Moodley’s garage. He has over 30 years of experience in the AV/VC industry and identified a need for a service provider that could streamline and simplify the installation of unified communications solutions. He started out importing AV peripherals required in the AV/VC field and then diversified his offering by introducing AV/VC solutions for the corporate and education sectors.
They build systems that are easy to use and allow the customer to focus on the business at hand without being distracted by the technology challenges.
They are working towards building long-term partnerships with clients and suppliers which will allow them to be a “household name” in the unified communications industry.
WhiskyBrother&Co are a specialist whisky and spirits retailer with two physical stores, a whisky bar, and online retail shopping across South Africa. In addition, they stock exclusive brands that they import as well as distribute on a small B2B scale. In 2020 and 2021, WhiskyBrother&Co were recognised for the best single outlet retailer in the world in the Icons of Whisky award and in 2021 they were also recognised for the best online retailer. The last 18 months have been the hardest yet with the constant alcohol restrictions and banning. All aspects of their business have been massively impacted, yet they are still standing and are proud to say that they took care of their staff all the way through. In addition, under these trying circumstances, they have even managed to expand their business with a new physical store and grow their online market with an average of 30% first-time customer orders per month.
In the future, they hope to expand their physical stores into Cape Town, Pretoria, and Johannesburg. They also aim to be the largest premium retailer of whisky, spirits, and wine in South Africa.