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EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ recognises unstoppable entrepreneurial achievements among individuals and companies that demonstrate vision, leadership and success.
Andre Zietsman, CEO and Founder of Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd
Andre Zietsman has been involved in the construction industry for over 25 years. From a workshop manager in the 90’s, Andre moved into bulk bitumen transport followed by cross-border passenger transport and after that, armoured cash-in-transit transport. The sky was the limit for Andre when in 2012 he embarked on his biggest project yet when he opened the doors to Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd. Although blacktop surfacing was the company’s specialty, Andre’s vision was far greater and over the years he has developed the company into one of the country’s leading civil engineering contractors. This, coupled with a drive to obtain various ISO certifications, has developed Bitumen World into a world-class organisation.
Bitumen World is a civil engineering contractor organisation specialising in road construction and infrastructural development in Zimbabwe. The organisation has grown from an initial workforce of just 10 to more than 80 employees and a workforce of more than 500. The plant base has increased from seven items in 2012 to more than 300 by 2020. Although a relatively new company Bitumen World has earned an enviable reputation in the market for producing quality work, completed safely, on time and within budget.
With the guiding principles of teamwork, innovation, professionalism, efficiency and customer focus, Andre’s vision has become a true reality.
Antonio Iozzo, CEO and Founder, Insurance Underwriting Managers (Pty) Ltd (IUM)
Antonio Iozzo’s rise from humble beginnings to the heights of commercial success has earned him recognition by his peers, competitors, industry leaders and the media. As an independent thinker, instinctual business leader and sound strategist, his journey to success has been underpinned by his resolute commitment to provide protection and reduce risk for those times when life happens. He has a strong value system which is rooted in his profound sense of community.
IUM is the largest independently owned underwriting manager in Africa, offering brokers and their clients cost-effective insurance solutions, including assets all risks, commercial, personal and lifestyle and specialist marine liability cover. IUM provides innovative insurance solutions that result in tangible benefits to clients, brokers, suppliers and employees, while upholding good corporate governance. IUM’s solid financial backing, years of experience and advanced integrated software systems puts it at the forefront of this competitive industry, providing cover to multinational corporations and individuals alike.
Antonio sets extremely high standards for himself and as a result, has an impeccable reputation, both privately and professionally. As the CEO and Founder of IUM, he leads by example, actively working to inspire his staff to give their very best.
Stuart Knight, CEO, Halsted Builders Express
Born and bred in Zimbabwe, Stuart Knight’s definition of success is how many people succeed because he has lived. This philosophy is a driving force that sees him approach each day to help people realise their potential and succeed for their families. Stuart trained as an article clerk at PWC before he started as a management trainee at Halsted's 25 years ago. The company was then a supplier to the construction and industry and a wholesaler with four stores around the country and 250 employees.
Halsted Builders Express is a retail hardware and building materials supplier in Zimbabwe. They business has nine stores across the country serving around 80,000 customers a month with 20,000 product lines. The business aims to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all building materials handling any size order. We are about our values of enthusiasm, excellence, courage, reliability, integrity and loyalty. Halsted is the first organisation in Zimbabwe in its industry to have a fully functional online offering and will be working towards offering deliveries on the platform too. Halsted has a distribution centre in Harare and are using 1st world technology to support its critical supply chain and logistics operations. Under Stuart’s leadership, Halsted has expanded to nine stores with 800 employees as well as a supply chain facility in country.
Stuart’s vision is to bring excellence to their industry and service the makes the organisation top of mind in any home-owner’s mind. He aims want to ‘wow’ customers with great service and product knowledge that ensures customers spend wisely.
Abubaker (Abu) Varachhia, Chairman and Founder, Spear Reit Limited
Abubaker Varachhia’s determination to success developed early on his life when, at the age of five, he had to leave home to attend boarding school due to the apartheid regime disallowing non-whites from schooling in his hometown. The youngest of eight siblings, he is the only one of his siblings to complete formal schooling and obtain a university degree. In 1990, a time of great unrest and uncertainty in South Africa, Abu established the first black-owned and managed quantity surveying practice in the country. Armed with a small office, an answering and sheer will, he grew the business into one of the largest privately held professional services organisations in its industry. Through Abu's high levels of integrity, work ethic and professionalism, he became recognised as a trusted business partner and enterprising entrepreneur. Spear REIT Limited, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), invests in high-quality income generating assets across all sectors within Western Cape. The company conducts its business directly and through a number of subsidiaries collectively referred to as the ‘Group’. The company's property and asset management functions are internally and directly managed by its executive team. Its investment portfolio is made up properties which includes industrial, commercial, retail, hospitality and some development stock. They are a specialised Western Cape Reit which gives Spear Reit the opportunity to focus on ‘hands-on asset, tenant and portfolio management’. This business has maintained an envious position within the property industry with a high-quality asset portfolio and superior returns when compared to peers. Abu’s latest achievement includes co-founding Spear REIT Limited in 2011 and growing the business to listing in 2016. He is the Non-executive Chairman of Spear REIT Limited and despite aging closer towards retirement continues to be nimble on his feet and seek opportunities through tough trading conditions.
Imraan Soomra, CEO, Oceana Group Limited
Imraan Soomra believes that we all have a responsibility to address the socio-economic, religious, gender and race-based imbalances in our society. He actively seeks out others committed to this cause, from staying active in community events growing up, including heading up an anti-drug campaign to running a business that positively impacts lives globally. He served on the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup Bid Committee, unsalaried for the first three months, where he was instrumental in securing this global event for South Africa. Since joining Oceana, he has successfully driven structural change and continues to drive positive cultural shifts.
Global fishing company, The Oceana Group, is Africa’s largest diversified black-owned and controlled fishing group and home to the iconic Lucky Star brand. The group employs over 5,000 people and operates 55 vessels. Incorporated in 1918 and listed on the Johannesburg (JSE) and Namibian (NSX) stock exchanges. The company is ranked as one of the top 20 seafood companies in the world by market capitalisation. Its primary operations involve harvesting, processing and marketing a range of seafood products including canned fish, fishmeal, fish oil, horse mackerel, hake, lobster and squid.
Before taking over as CEO of Oceana, Imraan served as the CFO and was instrumental in managing the game-changing R4.6 billion acquisition of the US-based Daybrook Fisheries, helping it become the world's sixth-biggest fishing company and Africa's largest. He was awarded the CFO South Africa's Transformation and Empowerment Award in 2015 for his role as a change agent at Oceana - which positioned the group for growth in a tough global business environment. In 2020, Imraan was the youngest executive of arguably the most diverse fishing business, to make the global ‘Seafood's 100 Most Powerful Executives’.
Mteto Nyati, Group Chief Executive, Altron
Author and award-winning business leader, Mteto Nyati is the Group Chief Executive of Altron. Mteto joined the organisation in April 2017 and is responsible for transforming the company into a world-class information and communications technology organisation that does good business while doing good. Mteto is credited for returning MTN SA back to growth as the then CEO due to his strategic leadership of both the employee and customer experience. Prior to this he held various leadership positions at IBM and was the MD of Microsoft SA for some six years. In 2020, Mteto was recognised by the South African Professional Services Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Management. In 2019, he won the Business Leader of the Year award at the All African Business Leaders Awards and the IPM CEO Special Award. Mteto was the joint winner of South Africa’s 2013 IT Personality of the Year and in 2004 named one of Yale University’s World Fellows on Global Leadership.
Founded in 1965, Altron is a South Africa-based ICT company and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). The group’s primary focus is in providing innovative solutions and services in the following technology segments managed services, digital transformation and own platforms, that have meaningful impact for society by addressing challenges facing communities in South Africa, the continent, and beyond, while delivering shared value for all its stakeholders.
Mteto is author of the number one bestseller, Betting on a Darkie, a book about his life as a shopkeeper’s son, family man and business leader at local and multinational corporates.
Pierre Spies, CEO, Alviva Holdings Limited
Pierre Spies’ determination to succeed stems from his relentless pursuit to ‘make a difference’. Despite suffering from dyslexia, which affected his ability to read and write growing up, he successfully completed a BCom Accounting degree, which allowed him to pursue a career as an accountant, chief operating officer, CEO and eventually Group CEO. Pierre led the move away from traditional methods of technology distribution by digitising business processes in order to cater for technology delivery through digital platforms. At the same time, he recognised the need to diversify into IP based technology and services.
Alviva, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), is one of Africa’s largest providers of information and communication technology products and services. The Group comprises specialised operating subsidiaries in three distinct business segments namely ICT distribution, systems integration and ICT solutions, including cybersecurity, application development, artificial intelligence solutions and renewable energy projects; and financial services to business entities in the SMME and commercial sector. Alviva has significant proprietary brands and agency agreements with prominent suppliers. It sources branded products from a well-established vendor network, both locally and internationally. Besides its own brands, Alviva represents Cisco, DellEMC, HP, IBM and Microsoft.
Pierre is an independent thinker and strategic risk taker. These two qualities have ensured his ability to build continued sustainable growth throughout the Group; demonstrated by his drive to acquire the largest competitor in the distribution and cloud distribution sector, pending regulatory approval.
Isaac Ike Chalumbira, CEO and Founder, Lionshare Holdings
Isaac Chalumbira, known as Ike, comes from humble township beginnings to the high streets of Sandton, and has established a reputation as a focused, highly principled and value adding entrepreneur and leader. He spent 11 years in corporate with the objective of learning from the best in class before starting Lionshare. Starting the the business with a severance package and pension, he grew this into a diversified investment private equity organisation, owned by a family trust.
Lionshare is an investment holding company born out of an entrepreneurial journey. Over 15 years, led by Ike Lionshare has invested in real estate, energy, hospitality, transport/logistics and service companies mostly as a venture capitalist enterprise. It has interests in real estate, energy, FMCG, hospitality, transport/logistics and related service sectors. Lionshare’s venture into real estate started in 2005 and now has a residential cumulative portfolio of 1,000+ units. The Fuel Company (TFC) employs 1,350 people with sales of 300mil+ litres and R2,5 billion in revenue.
His investment ethos is as a self-proclaimed ‘contrarian’ and his vision is to drive five to ten years of ‘Africa centric’ forward-looking investments.
Lester Jones, Group CEO, AMP Group
Lester Jones is self-driven and continuously striving for excellence. His over-arching philosophy in life is a strong purpose driven value system which are health, family, achievement and success. Throughout his life, Lester has been in leadership roles – from high school head boy, to captain of teams and houses, senior management positions through to his role as Group CEO of AMP.
Associated Meat Packers’ (AMP) main operating activities are cattle procurement, abattoir, meat cutting and processing, wholesaling and retailing of predominately mass market fresh and frozen meat products. AMP is predominately a beef wholesale and retail business that is vertically integrated in the beef sector spanning the majority of the value chain. The business then sells through its own wholesale or retail divisions. AMP has built and controls its own retail network of 35 stores comprising of Texas Meats and Texas Chicken shops nationwide. AMP Meats e-commerce business ‘ButcherBox’ offers an online meat delivery service.
Lester has the vision and focuses on making ‘big action’ decisions which he drives through to finality. Whatever the challenges are, Lester has a relentless self-motivation to overcome obstacles. "Fall down seven times and stand up eight" is a motto by which he lives.
Lynnette Magasa, CEO and Founder, Boniswa Corporate Solutions
Lynnette Magasa is one of the most respected and influential women in the South African telecommunication SME space. Lynnette is an entrepreneurial businesswoman who exudes passion for her business and the industry who works with integrity and humility. Her belief in her entrepreneurship abilities, coupled with her ongoing commitment to education and her determination to succeed, drove her to start her own company – Boniswa Corporate Solutions.
Founded in 2004, Boniswa has spent over 10 years building its reputation on the foundation of commitment, integrity, and solidarity. Today, Boniswa Group is a turnkey telecommunications provider providing telecommunication services, equipment manufacturing, and tower collocation. Unprecedented growth in the global demand in these sectors has presented Boniswa with the opportunity to transform itself into a leading regional force. The Group strongly believes in serving the needs of its clients through excellent performance based on ethical practices and a dedicated workforce.
Lynnette’s stewardship has taken the company from a start-up to an internationally recognised organisation with a staff complement of 200. Lynnette is passionate about motivating other women to believe in themselves, and she is always available to lend a helping hand.
Nick Bell, CEO, Decision Inc.
Nick Bell formed Decision Inc. in 2013 by merging two other businesses along with his original technology company as an exciting venture, started from the proverbial ‘parent’s garage’. Nick is ambitious, with an exceptional work ethic and commitment to the company’s success. His passion for the business, its people and clients has been a cornerstone that has enabled the business to scale quickly.
Decision Inc. is a global digital services and technology business helps clients to become digital and use technology to Innovate and Compete. It operates on three continents with offices in Johannesburg, London, Sydney and Cape Town and develops solutions for clients alongside global partners such as Microsoft, SAP, Workday and Qlik, to name a few. The company helps clients across industries to transform to a Digital Operating Model by connecting their technology platforms, modernizing their operations, and transforming their people to become Digital Workers. With a strong emphasis on Data Driven Transformation Decision Inc. enables organisations to use their technology assets to compete and win.
His entrepreneurial spirit and love of learning has enabled Decision Inc. to accelerate faster than its peers as it continuously seeks to evolve and to adapt to new market opportunities. These opportunities give rise to Nick’s passion to create new work experiences for his staff and equip people across their markets with the tools to thrive in a Digital World.