Started From The Bottom Now We Here: Leading Entrepreneurial Awards Platform Announces SA's Top SMEs - Business Media MAGS

Started From The Bottom Now We Here: Leading Entrepreneurial Awards Platform Announces SA’s Top SMEs

South Africa’s premier entrepreneurial platform - Business Partners Ltd Entrepreneur of the Year® competition - recently announced the overall 2023 winner, as well as five category winners, at an awards ceremony hosted in Johannesburg.

Winners walked away with prizes valued at over R2 million, including a cash prize of R250 000 for the business owner who clinched the coveted title of Entrepreneur of the Year®. The overall 2023 is none other than Theo Baloyi, founder and CEO of Bathu, a leading local sneaker brand.

SA’s premier entrepreneurial competition – back with a bang

This year’s competition saw entries from business owners across the length and breadth of South Africa – all of whom were looking to enhance their industry profiles, grow their national footprint, and interface with the broader business community. For Business Partners Ltd Entrepreneur of the Year® spokesperson, David Morobe, there could not have been a more inspiring way to mark the competition’s post-pandemic return.

“Covid-19 was a disruptive force that no one was truly prepared for. The shock waves the pandemic sent through the SME ecosystem were felt in a very visceral way, and we know that unfortunately, thousands of businesses did not make it through to the other side. Those who were able to adapt swiftly to change, rise to a brand-new set of challenges, and put a laser focus on streamlining their efficiencies, came out on top.

“Those are the stories we set out to showcase through the relaunch of the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition. This year’s entrants were small and medium businesses who have demonstrated unmatched resilience and what I like to refer to as a high ‘adversity quotient,” he said.

Presenting the 2023 winners

Theo Baloyi, the overall winner of this year’s competition, founded Bathu in 2015. Encouraging everyone to ‘walk their journey,’ Bathu’s brand of sneakers was first established in Alexandra Township just outside Johannesburg. After successfully launching the brand, Baloyi has expanded his footprint into 32 stores nationwide and today employs over 300 employees.

Baloyi was also in fact the winner of the 2019 competition award for the top Emerging Business Entrepreneur. His second, post-pandemic Entrepreneur of the Year® award is a testament to his unrelenting determination and drive to succeed – a trait that Baloyi exhibits as much today as he did as a young, emerging businessman. Baloyi also walked away with the title of 2023 Job Creator of the Year® – an award which Morobe explains, is “at the heart of showcasing the contribution that entrepreneurs make to alleviating the high unemployment rate in the country.”

·       This year’s Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year® award was awarded to Damien Seid, co-founder of Company Wellness Solutions. His tech-based and people-centric business is one of the fastest-growing full-stack wellness companies in the country, specialising in employee assistance programmes, wellness days and programmes. Company Wellness Solutions also offers free health, engagement, lifestyle, and presenteeism assessments that can help leadership teams build healthier, happier workforces.

·       Sergio Luiz won the title of Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®, for his venture Pie in the Sky – a Cape Town-based bakery that has been in operation for 56 years. Lockdown regulations brought operations to a standstill, but contracts with two of the country’s largest retailers helped Luiz and his team to weather the storm. Today, the bakery has expanded its offering to the quick-service restaurant industry and is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.

·       The award for Emerging Business Entrepreneur of the Year® went to Tinny Nkuna, for her business, Lindiwe Sanitary Pads. The company manufactures and distributes high-quality and affordable sanitary pads that meet the needs and budgets of women living in Africa. Nkuna is also a member of the International Trade Centre’s prestigious SheTrades Initiative.

·       Monageng Legae of Bontle Ke Botho Consulting was named this year’s Resilient Entrepreneur of the Year®. The firm provides, among other services, a funeral service offering that is aimed at making dignified burial rites more accessible to those with limited affordability. The company is currently based in Soweto and services the township and surrounding areas.

·       This year’s Lifetime Achiever award was awarded to Shona McDonald for her venture, Shonaquip, which was founded in 1992 as a Hybrid Social Enterprise committed to designing and manufacturing wheelchairs and posture support devices appropriate for rural environments. Through the enterprise, McDonald has over the last 31 years improved the quality of life for hundreds of people and children living with disabilities in remote and rural regions.

“It is vital for small businesses to be given platforms like these to showcase their entrepreneurial prowess – not only for the benefit of their own entrepreneurial journeys but because SMEs remain the backbone of economic growth and must be encouraged and celebrated,” explains Morobe. When local entrepreneurs succeed, it impacts their lives, the lives of their families, their employees and ultimately, their communities. Our 2023 winners are prime examples of the power of entrepreneurship in action.”

Congratulating this year’s winners, Morobe expressed his pride at being able to recognise and honour the accomplishments of this group of exemplary businesspeople. “Each one of these business leaders play a crucial role in social upliftment, they serve as role models for aspiring entrepreneurs and continue to demonstrate that South Africa is indeed open for business notwithstanding its challenges.”

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