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Top tips for startup entrepreneurs from “the sharks”

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Sunday programming has just been lit up a notch (or five). Enter Shark Tank SA: a reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs the platform to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of well-known South African business moguls – better known as the “sharks”. If the pitch perks their interests, the sharks then make their selection and will invest in the entrepreneurs they feel will deliver. This is where the magic starts.

The panel consists of Romeo Kumalo, Gil Oved, Dawn Nathan-Jones, Marnus Broodryk and Vinny Lingham. Despite coming from different sectors, these business people all have one thing in common: they all started small.

Former top Vodacom executive Kumalo (who plans to launch a mobile virtual network operator soon) says that the most effective way to solve the high level of unemployment in SA would be through entrepreneurship. “Everyone thinks that you have to go out there and get a degree, but then what? There are a lot of people out there with degrees and other qualifications, but no jobs. We have to create a culture of entrepreneurship and encourage young people to start their own businesses. The lifeline of our economy is going to be young people with a passion for entrepreneurship.”

READ MORE: Shark Tank SA – which business has the biggest bite?

Dawn Nathan Jones, CEO of Europcar, agrees that more support is needed for SMEs in SA. “The days of huge conglomerates controlling the economy are long gone,” says Jones. “It’s really about developing many small businesses. What makes China’s economy so successful is that it is stimulated by millions and millions of small businesses. The same in America.  Although we have a Ministry of Small Businesses in SA, I don’t believe that we’re doing enough to inspire people with ideas, whether it be in the formal or informal sector. People are scared and don’t know where to go for funding.”

Fancy yourself an entrepreneur? These useful tips as shared by the sharks will hopefully give you head start in entrepreneurship:

  • As much as we’re told to separate the emotions from the job, emotional intelligence plays a vital role in business. Jones says that often with women in the boardroom, they’re expected to hold back emotions because they’re told they are too emotional, while it’s assumed that men don’t show emotion at all. This needn’t be the case, because business, at the end of the day, involves people. “My key criteria were the people, because I believe that you must back the jockey, not the horse. Businesses change over time, but the right kind of individuals make things happen and see opportunities,” says Oved, who believes that in business, you deal with people, not with robots.
  • Be open to investors who approach you with an investment that’s unbeknown to you. Jones adds that the show has taught her to open up to new investment opportunities, considering deals she previously would not have. She’s also realised that business principles should act as guidelines, but should not be set in stone.

READ MORE: Technology can help women stop saying “sorry” so much

  • While passion for your craft is is important, it’s the execution of your idea and your passion that is going to sell your business. Build on your passion by researching and coming up with ways to get the execution and get the traction, says Broodryk.
  • Bad business decisions often happen to good business people. Although it’s costly to invest in a failed venture, it’s totally normal. How you get back up from the failure is what matters most. Conduct an analysis of why your venture did not work out and pick up the pieces to rebuild. If something hasn’t worked for you, it’s totally OK.

Shark Tank SA premieres on Sunday, 2 October on M-Net (DStv 101) at 6pm, and will also be available for Compact viewers.

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