5 minute read 3 Jul 2018
johann vorster

Do you have to start a business to be an entrepreneur?


EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

5 minute read 3 Jul 2018

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Entrepreneurs should not be defined by founding a business. The ability to lead and instigate change is a more defining characteristic.

Johann Vorster wasn’t sure he deserved his nomination for EY’s South African Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. The CEO of Clover had not started his company from scratch. It began over a hundred years ago as a collective of dairy farmers. But when Johann arrived in 2000 he set about transforming a business that was sinking in debt. “They called me the disruptor,” he remembers. In 2003, he converted the National Co-Operative Dairies into a public company and renamed it Clover Industries.

The definition of an entrepreneur

“When I won the South African Entrepreneur of the Year Award, I doubted a little bit the reason why I got it,” Johann says, “But when I got to Monaco, where we all competed against each other, I realised that there are so many definitions of an entrepreneur.”

He adds that you don’t have to start your own business to be an entrepreneur. “You can come from a company, you can come from a business that you've own-started as long as the definitions of why you're an entrepreneur are clear. Did you change the course of the business? This is an entrepreneur. It's somebody that changes the course of a whole generation.”

Entrepreneurial leadership: I or we?

Naturally a team player, being part of the EOY program encouraged Johann to think about his personal contribution to Clover in a way that he had not done before. He explains: “They force you to think about what have you done? And when I thought back about what I did, I thought to myself, there were a couple of really brave moves in here, and you didn't have the support of the team. You did this on your own."

Under Johann’s leadership, Clover has evolved into a dynamic brand of diverse consumer products. Today, over 40% of the company’s profits are from non-dairy products including ice tea, mineral water and fruit juices. Clover delivers to nearly 15,000 points in South Africa and has ambitious plans to expand exports across the rest of the continent.

Where do the inspired get inspiration?

Johann believes winning the South African Entrepreneur of the Year award reinvigorated his entrepreneurial spirit and reaffirmed his belief that a leader leads to change.

“I've done a couple of interesting things, and brave things, since my award, and I think it was purely because of the award,” he says.

The CEO of Clover found The EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Forum in Monaco an ideal place to build connections with people from different industries.

“I really felt inspired with the people that I met there. And I still have contact with many of those people. It just broadens your horizon and your viewpoint about business. To me, that was inspiring.”


An entrepreneur is not just someone who starts a business. It’s a leader who disrupts, innovates while balancing teamwork with individual determination and brave decision-making.

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EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization