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E07: Inter-Africa trade and the ICT Industry, with Sindi Mqutheni of Cugy Consulting

Sindi Mqutheni (MBA), CEO of Cugy Consulting, joins us for the seventh episode of the TBE podcast. In this episode, Sindi focuses on the topic of inter-Africa trade. In doing so, the conversation covers entrepreneurs in the ICT industry learning more and venturing into business in Africa, how original equipment manufacturers in the ICT industry create trade opportunities for SME’s in Africa, barriers to doing business in Africa and the role of the AFCFTA in this regard, and much more on the topic of inter-Africa trade.

E06: Leading an organization in the ICT Industry with Sindi Mqutheni of Cugy Consulting

Sindi Mqutheni (MBA), CEO of Cugy Consulting, joins us for the sixth episode of the TBE podcast. In this episode, Sindi talks about her experience as an entrepreneur in the ICT industry and where it all started, how the past year and a half accelerated the readiness and adoption of technology, the importance of the King IV report for both small and large businesses, as well as being a female CEO in the ICT industry and the challenges she has had to overcome in a largely dominated male industry. 

Financial Planning & Long-Term Investing with Yoss Reddy of GCI Wealth

In episode 5 of the TBE Podcast, we were joined by Yoss Reddy of GCI Wealth, a financial planning and investment group dedicated to ensuring the financial future of its clients.

GCI is a fully-fledged financial services provider founded over 20 years ago with a national presence of 15 offices around the country. They provide tailored individual wealth planning that provides a holistic view of one’s financial needs – looking at every cent you earn and asset you own and how to tailor these to meet your life’s objectives. Their comprehensive solutions range from investment planning, retirement planning, estate planning, asset management, risk cover, and group solutions for corporate clients. 

Advice for securing a financial plan

When asked if everyone needs a financial plan and what steps are involved in setting up a sound financial plan, Yoss provided an in-depth answer that took him back to the teachings of financial literacy during his school years. He raised the commonly asked question “Why didn’t they teach us this at school?” He acknowledged schools nowadays for teaching the power of savings and the impact of compound interest. However, highlighted that these lessons lack the basic tenants of financial literacy, and that everyone deserves the opportunity to learn how to manage their finances. 

Yoss went on to mention that once you have a foundation of financial literacy, you need a tool to put this into practice so that you can manage your money. Unfortunately, millennials are the poorest generation yet, and the concept of intergenerational wealth preserved and passed on for generations is not taken seriously enough. Therefore, understanding finances and having a holistic financial plan with a strategy that enables people to track and manage their goals is of utmost importance. Yoss went on to list the 6-step financial planning process:

  1. Establish a relationship with a financial planner. 
  2. Gather information from a financial planner and share your goals with them.
  3. The financial planner will analyse all data and advise on current status in relation to objectives.
  4. The financial planner will develop a financial plan for achieving goals.
  5. Implement the plan.
  6. Monitor the plan and set a predefined period of how often to review the plan to ensure you are on track to achieving your goals.

Wealthbit – GCI’s Market Leading FinTech tool 

Yoss further emphasised that “everyone deserves an opportunity to learn to manage their finances and to enjoy a healthy financial future.” In GCI’s attempt to democratise this, they have created a market-leading FinTech tool called WealthBit, free for anyone who wants to use it.

Essentially, it allows users to create a profile, insert their budget, appetite for risk, assets and liabilities, as well as the opportunity to make adjustments as time goes on. All this information is confidential, and the platform is independent, meaning users have the option to use a financial planner that is independent of GCI. The planner will simply pay a nominal fee for using the platform to conduct their financial plans for their clients.  

Yoss comments on the success of the tool thus far, stating that “Wealthbit has roughly 6000 users at present who make use of the platform, including some industry giants that have seen the beauty and potential of this fintech tool.”

Investment Advice: Immediate gratification vs long-term investing among younger generations

When it comes to investment advice, GCI advocates for investing over the long-term rather than chasing short-term gains. Yoss advises, “investing is a long-term game, following the philosophy of regularly putting a little bit away, which will give you net real returns that will get you to your goal. You will need a financial planner/a trusted partner in this field to provide you with the long-term advice that will get you to your goals.”

When asked if he thinks there is a correlation between immediate gratification and a lack of long-term investing among the newer generation of young professionals, Yoss expressed that everything becomes about instant gratification, and the culture now is ‘get rich quick’, but for most of us, these tips and tricks don’t work. Key advice Yoss was given during his youth, is that “building wealth is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about making responsible decisions over the long-term that will firstly allow you to build wealth and secondly protect wealth for generations to come.”

Values, attitudes and behaviours drive different generations. If people understand the behavioural dynamics between generations, then we have a chance of solving this culture of immediate gratification when it comes to wealth and finances. “This is why having an online tool like Wealthbit and a financial partner is valuable, as it helps you keep track of your plans and where you are heading”, Yoss emphasises.

Flexible Office Space in Sandton

GCI has enjoyed an established relationship with TBE for approximately five years. Yoss highlighted the pandemic’s effect on commercial office space and how industry leaders with massive offices have realised that the remote working/hybrid work model that TBE offers is the way to go. He highlights the advantages of TBE’s office space as follows:

  • Fully serviced office space that allows them to do what they do best without worrying about the operations, infrastructure and daily maintenance.
  • Variety of prominent and beautiful locations to call home.
  • Prime locations around the country to suit every type of budget.
  • A workspace for staff to collaborate and innovate.
  • Flexibility that enables them to scale up or scale down. 

Yoss ended off by saying GCI has substantially grown over the past few years and will be looking to grow further with TBE.  

For more information, Yoss encourages all listeners to visit wealthbit.co, followed by www.gci.co.za

Purpose-Driven Marketing with Michael Baretta of DotGood

In episode four of the TBE Podcast, we were joined by Michael Baretta of DotGood, South Africa’s leading cause marketing agency, specialising in socially responsible strategies that bridge the gap between the greater good and the bottom line. They work with brands that want to make a difference and large, non-profit organisations to create solutions that do more than simply meet objectives.

Uniquely geared towards finding big-picture solutions, they see opportunities where others cannot and care about the positive impact that good business can have on the bottom line and, more importantly, on society.

Michael started DotGood roughly a decade ago, with his marketing career spanning nearly 20 years, working for the largest brand activation agency in Africa. During this time, he realised how self-serving marketing could be and wanted more purpose in his career. After being headhunted, he moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, where he immediately noticed how much litter was lying in the streets, and actively decided to do something about it.

Through his job position at the time, he met David Grier, who was running a marathon a day across the coastline of South Africa to raise money for his NGO ‘Miles For Smiles’. Over an agency lunch, David shared the incredible work he was doing, leaving Michael feeling truly emotive and realising the power of harnessing emotive communication in marketing.

He then decided to combine an emotive way to change behaviour with a desire to clean up the country, thus helping to resolve the litter issue. This endeavour led to Trekking for Trash, an objective centred around a 3600 km walk collecting litter every day over seven months and, along the way, engaging with schools and community groups to teach them the importance of a clean environment and recycling.

He realised that it is possible to build brands that drive sales and do good simultaneously through this journey. This realisation led to the pillars upon which DotGood has been created.

Purpose-led marketing explained

When asked what purpose-led marketing means, Michael highlighted that this form of marketing has become very topical, especially since Covid, as marketing and brand directors have felt greater empathy for what it feels like to be in need, hence creating a groundswell for purpose-led marketing. As a result, purpose-led marketing has moved away from the traditional way of marketing and graduated towards a mutually beneficial form of marketing that fosters longer-lasting and deeper relationships with all stakeholders.

Advice for setting up marketing campaigns

When asked for advice in setting up marketing campaigns, DotGood has a set process when working with clients. Their first step, and very importantly, is to help a company define their brand purpose and why they exist. Once the brand purpose has been determined, they can develop campaigns that deliver the plan in action. Campaigns generally roll out across various marketing channels, such as face-to-face, digital, outdoor media, and the like, to deliver that plan in action.

DotGood almost always help brands shape their purpose without charging for this. They feel it is their social responsibility to create a network of organisations that want to change the world. It needs to come from the organisation. However, they will assist them with cues to shape it and partner with other organisations to create projects that help them communicate it more impactfully. These projects include feeding, health, HIV/AIDS, recycling, nutrition, education, and more.

Purpose-led Projects

When asked about DotGood’s involvement in doing good related to the world we live in due to the pandemic, Michael firstly touched on their task to work with Higher Health, the organisation looking after students’ health in higher education. They concentration on digital engagement and PR messaging to communicate the misconceptions around Covid and how it is transmitted. As face-to-face interaction was limited due to social distancing, digital was the way they used to reach the consumer directly and safely. Secondly, he elaborated on the increased need for feeding programmes, resulting in them running big feeding projects across the country. This has a double purpose for brands because not only are they helping take care of and improve people’s lives, but consumers also remember the brands that are there for them in their time of need and will most likely develop brand loyalty.

When asked if DotGood is doing purpose-led work independently, Michael responded, “Our purpose has always been recycling, as this is how the agency was born through Trekking for Trash. However, we give back by giving so much more to our projects – staying up late, waking up early, making sure everything is running smoothly to ensure valuable projects are created that benefit all stakeholders”.

Michael highlighted DotGood’s role in often advising clients against their preferred way of marketing and proposing a more purpose-led way of marketing. For this reason, they are quite selective with their clients to ensure they share the same sentiment for wanting to make a difference. Of course, helping clients deliver their objectives is important. However, DotGood will always provide suggestions to make projects more sustainable, e.g. employ a minority group to work an activation, use wood instead of plastic, make a container long-lasting instead of a disposable container, create an infrastructure that will last years rather than build one for a single event.

Shared Office Space in Rosebank

Over the 10 years that DotGood has been in operation for, 6 of those years have been spent in TBE’s fully serviced flexible offices in Rosebank. Michael shared that TBE staff members have become like family and team members. He loves the flexibility that allows them to upscale and downscale according to the number of people they need at any given time, depending on the number of projects they have running at a time. The team also love the coffee made by the professional onsite barista. Furthermore, he commended the office location in a very central part of Rosebank, close to his home and other attractions.

For more information contact michael@dotgood.co.za or visit their www.dotgood.co.za.

Crafting Online Conversations with Nomndeni Mdaki of Agenda Women

In the third episode of the TBE Podcast, we were joined by Nomndeni Mdakhi, a South African entrepreneur who started her business journey by launching a deejaying school for girls called FUSE ACADEMY in 2009.

In 2011, she launched her second business, Edits Communications, an agency that helps brands like Unilever, Brand South Africa, Castle Lager, Jameson, Ogilvy and Oros to connect with celebrities and influencers.

In 2017 she launched a conversation platform called Edits Talks which later evolved into Agenda Women. Agenda Women is an online platform curated for a tribe of modern working women looking for a community to help them navigate the evolving dynamics of being a woman.

What Inspired Nomndeni to Succeed?

For Nomndeni, it was never about the label “entrepreneur”, but rather about trying to find solutions to problems she encountered and wanting to bring along as many women as possible. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, she wasn’t initially conscious of this since her main focus at the time was going to school. However, looking back now, Nomndeni realises that the entrepreneurial connections were always around her in her community.

Once she started working, she realised that being an “employee” was not for her. She had always been intrigued by the broader business vision of what is needed to propel a company forward, how big a company could grow, what drives overarching decisions etc. She recalls a programme at the company she worked at before becoming an entrepreneur, where the executive team was experiencing ground-level issues and wanted to meet with key employees on the ground to discuss the challenges at work.

About 3000 people were working at the company, but only 18 were to be chosen for the programme. Nomndeni was motivated to participate but recalled her Manager at the time, doubting her abilities, saying that there were better people to put forward. Nomndeni submitted her resignation the following day, as she realised the space she found herself in was not working for her. Soon after that, she founded her deejaying school and enjoyed the satisfaction of her own business.

She loves creating processes, solving problems, seeing things grow and ultimately, the challenge of entrepreneurship. She says that this is what energises and drives her.

Marketing Channels and Strategies for Entrepreneurs

When it comes to marketing, Nomndeni believes that one needs to start with the basics. In other words, first identify the objectives, the audience, how many people need to be reached or converted to sell a product or service.

She says that it is vital to understand one’s customer – their location, interests, problems they want solving, daily routine, how often they will engage with one’s brand, etc. Agenda Women’s primary channel is Instagram. This is the platform that receives the strongest engagement. So instead of marketing on channels for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends, Nomndeni believes in focusing time and energy on the platform/s that actually work best for one’s brand and audience.

The podcast host, Cameron Bruce, then weighed in with some valuable insights saying, “Companies feel like they have to be on platforms like social media because most people are. However, if they aren’t putting in the right amounts of money and energy, and if their consumer/market isn’t on these platforms, it can be demoralising for a company when they don’t receive the desired activity. It can also break consumer trust when potential consumers view the company website and see such little activity.” Cameron continued along this line, saying that using just one online marketing channel properly is probably more effective than utilising a variety that consumers do not use. Nomndeni agrees with this.

Entrepreneurship is a Journey of Highs and Lows

Nomndeni says that the highs and lows of an entrepreneurial journey are essential for entrepreneurs to experience. She compares starting a business to a relationship where there are always mistakes initially as people get to know one another.

Being an entrepreneur for 11 years, Nomndeni is comfortable facing failures as these are what gives her backbone and the opportunity to grow.

Advice for Female Entrepreneurs

Nomndeni is confident that there are many opportunities for female entrepreneurs at the moment, which provide women with the freedom to create a life for themselves and their family.

She advises that entrepreneurs remain authentic and keep in mind what problem needs to be solved. They should also always strive to retain their passion for what they do.

Shared Office Space in Sandton

As with so many entrepreneurs, Nomndeni started out working from home but found that she missed being around other entrepreneurs and the creativity and excitement of talking to new people, which gave her inspiration. As a result, she recently moved into one of The Business Exchange’s prestigious office locations. She expressed how impressed she is with the beautiful and aesthetically pleasing office, meeting and events space, which resonates with her and the Agenda Women brand.

Nomndeni shared that she needs to be in beautiful spaces for her to be inspired, which was the initial factor that drove her to be in the TBE environment. She added that the professionalism and care of TBE’s staff also made her feel right at home. In addition, the constant updates that she receives from them makes her feel like part of a community – and community is at the forefront of Agenda Women’s mission.

For more information, you can visit www.agendawomen.com or visit Agenda Women on their Instagram page.

Advice For Aspiring Property Entrepreneurs From Veza Properties

In episode two of the TBE Podcast, Neil Eliason, Founder of Veza Properties, discusses his background in property, entrepreneurship, and the convenient buying and selling process offered by Veza Properties. He also provides some insight into the property market during COVID-19 and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business.

From a young age, Neil always knew that he wanted to be in property. He would draw floor plans and reconfigure the furniture in his bedroom. He chose a degree called VSC Property Studies at UCT, which he enjoyed so much that he followed it with an Honours degree.

Each Saturday, Neil would scan the property sections of the newspaper with his father to see what was happening in the market and identify both good and poor deals. This Saturday morning ritual eventually lead them to purchase a small run-down property in Seapoint, Cape Town.

Neil then found himself renovating this property during his Honours year at UCT. It was so successful that it encouraged him to conduct similar successful property flips. Eventually, Neil decided that he should start looking for a job in the industry. After some investigation and speaking to various people, he decided to make a move to Johannesburg.

Neil was attracted to the fast-paced energy of the city and the plethora of networking opportunities, so he booked a one-way ticket to the city of gold. During his time in Johannesburg, he handed out his CV to everyone he met from the property industry, which was how he connected with Mafadi Property Management at the young age of 23.

As a determined young man, his CV reached Mafadi’s desk no less than four times. It was here that he got his first taste in the property management side of the business – and where he felt very out of his depth! However, he was also excited by the industry. Initially, Neil was primarily involved in the development of the Maboneng Precinct and two other property funds. The Asset Manager of one of these funds started his own business covering property acquisition, development and management, and Neil was invited to join the company.

While Neil appreciated the experience, he is an entrepreneur at heart and eventually decided to make his way using the knowledge and experience that he had gained. At first, he met with anyone who would meet with him. These meetings eventually opened up consulting opportunities, one of them being in Denmark.

On his return to South Africa, Neil then re-established contact with Mafadi that had now become one of the biggest affordable property management companies in the country. Neil saw a gap in the market for Mafadi to specialise in the sub-R1 million market in South Africa – although not one of the sexiest of spaces, it was affordable for many people and reflective of the South African market.

In 2020, Neil took up co-working office space with TBE at 150 Rivonia Road, Morningside; where he quickly progressed from a one-man desk to a six-seater and later a 10-seater office for Veza Properties. Mafadi soon followed suit by taking up office space at TBE due to the benefits that Neil had experienced.

Neil explains, “The benefits to taking up office space at TBE appealed to me. There were no setup costs. They provided a professional receptionist to answer all calls, the lease included up-market furniture and Wi-Fi access with conveniently fixed utilities, so it was easy to budget. In addition, there was also secure parking added into the monthly package.” Neil explained that the ability to quickly up or down-scale his business, depending on economic conditions, was also a highlight for him at TBE, especially during Covid times.

Veza Properties has a fundamental understanding of what sellers need to get the right buyers and vice versa. They invest a lot of time with sellers to give extensive advice on what buyers are looking for. Neil compared Veza’s system to the innovative SA banking system in that it is one of the most advanced in the world. Veza learnt a lot from top estate agencies who have been doing this for a very long time. However, because Veza is a young, new and innovative company, they adapted faster to the latest technologies, such as setting up advanced CRM systems for agents to track leads and better analyse data, giving them an edge over their competitors.

Neil also compliments his Sales Agents, whom he says are highly knowledgeable and well-versed in this specific market area. “They constantly strive to fully understand the needs of both buyers and sellers for the best outcome for both parties.”

When asked about his outlook for the residential property market in South Africa, given Covid, Neil responded, “Unfortunately, along with the rest of the economy, a lot of it is struggling, particularly the upper end of the market from R3 million and up. That being said, your sub-R1 million market is thriving at the moment as people are getting the bonds they need, and governments are offering submissions for bonds. Many current buyers are first-time homeowners looking at affordable space, and this sector accounts for about 70% of the market. Furthermore, with interest rates being where they are, a lot of people are looking to buy rather than rent at the moment, which is great for our sector of the market.”

In terms of advice for young individuals looking to start a property business, Neil offers the same given to him by a previous CEO of Redefine Properties when he moved to Johannesburg. “I told him that I wanted to be in property development, to which he replied that if I wanted to be a good property developer, I would need to start with property management.” Neil added, “This stuck with me and is the advice I give to everyone. If you want to be good at anything, you have to start with the basics, and in property, you get the basics from management. This foundation will also help you start a business or buy your first property.”

Listen to the podcast on the links below:

A Current Perspective On Commercial Office Space In South Africa

TBE launched their first podcast, where CEO David Seinker elaborated on entrepreneurship and commercial property.

David’s property career began in the inner city, where he was involved in renovating old buildings into residential space. From there, he moved into the family business, which focused on student housing. However, his passion for connecting entrepreneurs and investors soon led him to Johannesburg, where he could follow through on this dream.

While renting office space at a business centre, David realised that there was a gap in the market during his networking with entrepreneurs and investors. This gap proved to be an opportunity for David to create a business that created annuity revenue and didn’t rely solely on brokerage fees.

He realised that he could combine his passion for property, people and entrepreneurship with a unique workspace offering to entrepreneurs and bigger businesses. This workspace would provide, amongst other things, business networking and events to tenants, as well as an opportunity for them to connect with private equity clients and grow their businesses in the process. David then approached Raizcorp with this concept, and as it fitted in well with their overall strategy, The Business Exchange was created. This successful business has now been in operation for seven years.

However, the path of an entrepreneur is never smooth, as David well knows, and even more so with the current COVID uncertainties. David’s advice to young entrepreneurs is always to retain their passion and energy. “The business you start today will continuously change, so you need to be passionate about what you do, and recognise when you need to adjust your strategy,” he says.

In the same breath, he believes that if they don’t have the energy, then they will struggle – regardless of how big or small their business is. Each entrepreneur needs to discover what energises them. “Exercise is key for me.” Says David. “I wake up every day around 4.30 am and head to the gym at 5 am for a workout. After that, I have a healthy breakfast of oats and a shake and head off to work. A balanced diet is also vital for an energised mind. I am always online and constantly engaging with my staff, partners and clients.”

As business owners and entrepreneurs constantly learn and interact with people, David suggests that they find and build up a high-performance team that can be trusted from the start. When choosing business partners, values must be aligned; otherwise, the culture and vision of the business will never truly emerge. David adds that perseverance is another important trait for entrepreneurs to cope with the many highs and lows along the way.

When asked about his local and global perspective on commercial property, David responded that office space is currently under a lot of strain. However, the global economy was under pressure for many years before Covid. With his usual inimitable positivity, David believes that these conditions are great opportunities for a company like TBE to engage and partner with landlords.

“These conditions also allow us to grow and expand our portfolio,” he says. “Traditional offices adapted to a more hybrid way of working during the pandemic, with many corporations and smaller businesses allowing their employees to work from home and the office. It’s good to have a hybrid mix so that people can separate their private and work lives to have a better lifestyle balance.”

The Business Exchange has experienced a surge of enquiries from large corporate companies who do not want to renew their traditional office leases with the landlords in conventional spaces. One of the main reasons is that these corporates no longer require as many seats for their employees as they did in the past.

With hybridised office space comes the flexibility to quickly up or down-scale office space as business needs change. These are challenging but exciting times for commercial office space, and hopefully, by the end of this year, more companies will be making the change.

Listen to the full podcast here on:

How COVID-19 is changing the office as we knew it: Podcast

Is COVID-19 Impacting Office Space Requirements For Companies?

” People are starting to miss the office – the human interaction and collaboration at the office, even the commute to the office. “

Listen to a podcast from Roddy Allan, COVID-19 in which he discusses how companies are rethinking space requirements, but not the need for the office.

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