MEDO entrepreneurs reap rewards in the UK!

The fourth International Trade Programme made possible by MEDO and the DTI to the United Kingdom has seen the triumphant return of 13 local entrepreneurs, most with new business and all with new ideas and great contacts.

Khaya Cokoto & Sapho Maqhwazima from Umoyair Communication

The ITP – made possible by MEDO – connects large companies with emerging and smaller enterprises to encourage trade between the UK and South Africa. Judi Sandrock, Co-Founder and Joint CEO of MEDO, explains that the Programme was initiated following the visit of Prime Minster David Cameron to South Africa in 2010 and the announcement that the two countries were aiming to double trade between the two by 2015.

“We realised that while the larger companies collaborate and import and export between the two countries, our entrepreneurs and smaller businesses do not, and that we needed to change this, so in 2012 we introduced the first Programme,” she explains. Sandrock adds that she is very happy with this particular intake of entrepreneurs, which saw over 100 applications. Of these, 34 businesses were invited for an interview with 13 finally being selected to go on the tour. “Every year the calibre of applicants improves. We like to believe that this is not only because our entrepreneurs are getting more sophisticated, but because word is out that the Programme is valuable and worthwhile applying for.

The UK trip comprises of eight-days filled with events organised by MEDO and meetings set up by the entrepreneurs themselves. While exciting, the trip can be quite daunting, so before setting off to the UK, the selected businesses attend a boot camp in Cape Town to help them to prepare. This preparation includes the setting up of meetings with relevant UK contacts prior to leaving South Africa,” adds Sandrock. This trip included meetings with three incubators in London as well as a visit to the Accelerator, a large, well known business incubator based in Shoreditch, London. “The group learnt how the Accelerator works, what it offers businesses and how entrepreneurs across the globe can collaborate. As it is part of London Metropolitan University, the UK team were also able to share insights from its start-up programmes for both its students and alumni,” explains Noluthando Tutani, Project Director of MEDO.

This kind of exposure to international incubators allows the entrepreneurs to interact with entrepreneurs from across the globe and to share experiences and even business ideas. The group attended the Women 2.0 City Meetup Event – where entrepreneurs discuss their businesses and share advice and tips. The trip included a visit to Coventry University (the Programme’s third visit) and a visit to Disruptive Media as well as a tour of the BBC in London. “We also went to South Africa House and met the Trade Commissioner. Our Programme was presented at South Africa House earlier in the year as an example of a programme that achieves transformation using the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Codes successfully. It was personally very rewarding to bring our entrepreneurs back to showcase what smaller SA businesses are doing and what they are capable of” Nolu Tutani adds. Apart from the deals the entrepreneurs are able to secure for their businesses, the trip often leads to them undergoing a mind shift that allows them to broaden their horizons, equipping the entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level. “Too often as South Africans we do not view ourselves as world class. When the entrepreneurs interact with their UK equivalents, they realise that they are good enough – and in many cases better – and therefore they can operate on a global scale. This insight leads to an increase in their confidence and the realisation that they should stop confining themselves and start reaching out for more opportunities,” Judi explains.

Dale website

Dale Simons, MiDO Technologies

Dale Simons, Owner of MiDO Technologies, adds to this, saying: “Travelling to the UK with MEDO has given me a 3D perspective of my business which is not always possible when you are caught up in the day-to-day running of an organisation.” He says that the trip has confirmed that his business is relevant to the international market. “I believe that MiDO Technologies is aligned to global trends and, therefore, is well-positioned for future growth.” Based in Stellenbosch MiDO technologies is a community-focused IT consultancy. “Our business was well-received in the UK and we have formed new relationships and the promise of future strategic support.”

Helen copy

Helen Bain, Banda Business Solutions

Helen Banda Bain, Owner of Banda Business Services, says the UK amazed her. Her business is female-owned and managed, based in Durban, focusing on quality business services, including the design, hosting and managing of websites. She speaks with excitement about the trip. “I took a new business venture to the UK and presented it to Jennifer Garret, one of the UK’s most sought after business coach and speaker. My venture is a social enterprise focusing on young women and we will be combining programmes and adding value to each other’s projects going forward,” she says. She also presented her venture to the PA of Diane Abbott, a MP in the House of Commons who supports numerous projects for black women in business – they will be sharing contacts and collaborating in the future.

Josias Motsoeneng, AC Electromech

AC Electromech Maintenance Services provides predictive and preventative machine health monitoring technology to the mining and agricultural sectors. Co-owner, Josias Motsoeneng enjoyed a particularly successful trip, signing amongst others, a non-disclosure agreement with Tandem Asset Finance. Motsoeneng also met with Energy Loss Surveys and Oil Analysis. Both of these companies’ products will add value to their business. He is also in the process of drafting a service level agreement with Monition Limited following fruitful discussions in the UK. Motsoeneng says the trip was invaluable in assisting his company’s growth. “The fostering of business relationships in the UK will confirm our status on the global business map and it will allow us to pursue technological advancement in our sector locally.”

Umoyair Co-owner Khaya Cokoto is also pleased with the results of the trip. “We had a productive meeting with Orange Mobile which has led to a follow-up meeting with the head of Orange Africa on our return to South Africa.”

Sibongiseni & Unathi Tunzelana, Flavalite Innovations

Sibongiseni Tunzelana, Co-owner of FlavaLite Innovations found the trip fast paced, but a great opportunity. “A highlight for us was the visit to Coventry University where we formed partnerships with some of the entrepreneurs based there.” The business, which pioneers innovative products for IT service delivery and has already developed convenient and secure e-ticketing services, aims to return to the UK soon in order to follow up on further appointments. “We have a number of leads that require discussion documents and service level agreements that we are in the process of completing.”

Innocentia Masimene, Blue Lenz Pictures

For Innocentia Masimene, the Owner of Blue Lenz Pictures, a motion picture company, her business has returned home evolved. “This trip has been such a success and while there is a lot of work that needs to be done now, I am so excited,” she says. She made contact with four businesses, forming relationships with all of them, from providing content, to assisting her with her own programme, to the donation of equipment. Following a four hour long meeting with an Irish-based software development company, James Coetzee, co-owner of Quick Connect Wireless, says they will be using the Irish company’s systems in South Africa, while the Irish company will be assisting them to market their Bluetooth technology in the UK. “We are also doing a due diligence but I am not at liberty to give out any details on the deal quite yet.”

Yolandi & Natasha van Niekerk, PCD Assessments

Yolandi & Natasha van Niekerk, PCD Assessments

PCD Assessments met with three suppliers who specialise in the development of psychometric tools. Co-owner Yolandi Van Niekerk, says they are in talks with one of the companies regarding the opportunity to introduce a special product to the local market. “The other companies we met with are keen to establish partnerships in order to distribute their products here.”

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