Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Every year i teach a course at the Raymond Ackerman Academy for entrepreneurs at the University of Cape Town. My course is strictly innovation but i follow the same process as always. Ideation technique through Seeing the leaves workshops and the newspapers, Testing ideas and finally pitch. The pitch session is happening on the 19th Nov and i would like to share with you some of the ideas that have been tested and will be presented as they epitomise innovation the way I see it.

There is Aidan who with some help has designed a web site that will enable thousands of small businesses to have a one day sale once a month.

There is Lundchen who has designed a barrier for accident and murder victims in the public domain to be used by police and emergency services so children and others don't need to see this traumatic incident.

There is Nurishaam who has designed and made a personalised car alarm so you never get confused again whose alarm is that?

There is Donovon who has designed and built a smelly water pistol device to be used as a deterrent against criminals. It smells like vomit....literally.

There is Mel who has started recycling make-up and created het own range from it.

There is Shihaam who has taken an Israeli concept using motorbikes to get to motor accident victims to stabilise them and thus save lives.

And the list goes on...

It will be a tense and wonderfull morning of pitches but it will be the highlight of my year.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Bakery Business and Mama Mimi's

So the biggest and most exciting thing in my life right now is Mama Mimi's. Mama Mimi's is a bakery business with a twist and it really works.
Most Bakeries (especially as developmental projects) fail for the following reasons....
1. They use equipment that is too expensive
2. The equipment needs electricity that is too expensive
3. There are too many bakers leading to low profit margins
4. With the bakers ownership is always an issue and leads to conflict
5. They use containers that are uncomfortable or community centres that are not good venues for bakeries
6. The product is not consistent as they need to mix all ingredients themselves
7. They are not a properly functioning business, and are not managed and run as businesses with proper records etc

Enter Mama Mimi's. Now I am the most sceptical person the planet when it comes to bakeries but this model rocks and I came on board asap. So why does Mama Mimi's work:

1. The equipment is a single wood fired oven
2. The oven is very affordable even for poor women in communities
3. The single women baker makes a great profit that she can control and she doesn't need to share it
4. Mama mimi's can set up 1000's of bakers all over the country even in rural areas
5. The bakeries are at women's homes
6. The product is very consistent as they use a premix sold to them by Mama mimi's ( this is their core business)
7. The businesses function well and are easily managed based on premix sales.

So watch this space as Mama Mimi's is going to literally take over the baking world....and its not going to be bread alone as there is already pizza and cupcakes on the menu.

How can you get involved?

You can fund a oven for R5500 ( $550) to give a woman a great start in a great business. If you need the $550 back the women entrepreneur will make enough money within the first 5 months to do so.

The story of the boiled frog

There once was a frog and he was really comfortable in his cool pond. But then the pond started to warm up just a little, and although he was aware of the water temperature rising he decided to stay. As the water became a little hotter and hotter he realised that it was too late to move and he was boiled.
This is a very famous fable for entrepreneurs and businesses, especially small businesses who often only have one large client. When that client pulls out the entrepreneur is boiled and goes under. Liquidated!
The way to avoid being a boiled frog are:
1. Generate a funnel of potential new business. This funnel should be documented onto paper and new leads followed up all the time. Some of the new leads will become real and sometimes it just doesn't work out. However without the funnel new business will never be created.
2. Strategise about new ways of doing things all the time. A good strategy will translate into new business and new leads, and often a strategy needs to be revised every 6 months.
3. My general rule is that for every 10 new leads 1 will be a success. So to have 10 new clients will mean I need to approach 100. This seems like a lot but the formula does seem to work.
4. If over time new leads don't translate into business then move on. My general rule is a maximum time limit of 6 months.
5. Keep focused on what your business does and don't stray too far from that focus. Many small businesses take on work that is too difficult because it is not part of the core business.
6. You should have many smaller clients as well as a large client. If one small client is lost then its not a train smash.

So the lesson here is important. When you are in a good place, and the water is cool and good you need to work very hard to keep it that way. The only way to do that is to generate a funnel of new business and keep working at it so you don't become a boiled frog one day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Understanding Megatrends means you never snooze

When a corporate looks to innovate it is important to look at the bigger picture. This is called a megatrend and thanks to my buddy Klaus I believe that megatrends are important to be aware of. Things like technology or nanotechnology or health and obesity as well as ageing are all megatrends. So when you look for new ideas it is vital you look at megatrends as well to guide a possible new idea.
So one of these trends is people are getting older and older. This means that logically all investment products should be sold at birth. Thus an insurance policy or a retirement fund should be sold at birth. Once a baby is born a parent should be purchasing all these products so when a kid reaches university age they can afford it. And when people reach other milestones in their life they can afford that too. Too often people struggle when they get old but if they use the system such as compound interest or long term investment then they should be very wealthy.
The same applies to banks. Most banks and the systems they follow are geared towards" Older" persons but when will someone start a bank "only" for people between the ages of 5-16. Something unique and creative that caters for their needs in every way not just an after-thought from a large institution.
In South African culture most black men need to pay a dowry called a LOBOLA. This dowry can be as high as R100,000 or more. However no financial institution has instituted a system of savings for this niche group of "men" who if they dont have the lobola they cannot marry, often living and having children but not being able to marry even if they wish.
The lesson here is that entrepreneurs can find niche products and services either within corporates or they can develop products and services that they can later sell to larger corporates, as corporates are often quite slow to innovate. This provides some great opportunities.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The true power of Innovation is it uplifts the spirit

Today a young man walked into my office and was so depressed. He bemoaned the fact that politics and the next election was just so depressing. He told me a terrible story about people in the rural areas having to eat cow dung because they had no food but they still have to take their HIV medication. He was depressed about crime and about everything else. So we started chatting about possible new ideas and changing negative stories into positive stories. He bemoaned the fact that he had no money for Lobola. For those who don't know what lobola is it is a fee paid by the wanna be husband to the family's father. The amount will differ and its often a secret. So I asked him if there was a savings program run by men for men who needed to save for Lobola. Not that he knew, he said. So I said start the movement and see what happens. His face lit up and I could see that he could see that he thought how this could be turned into a great business opportunity with a great social purpose. He even mentioned how he could purchase a farm and start savings of cows for lobola as the Zimbabwean banks have done quite successfully.
As his mood softened he showed me a picture in the newspaper of 4 black workers with masks on their faces of monkeys and baboons superimposed by a computer. Look he said. This is what truly depresses me...the racism. I said...Yes it is racist but lets turn it around and create a business out of it that could be fun and positive. So he did. He superimposed crazy funny faces on some corporate employees that were not intrusive at all...just fun. And everyone loved it. He came to me and thanked me about uplifting his spirit when all around him things seemed negative.
I know that innovation has the power to make life better in its own crazy way. This makes my life very enriching and this is the comment I most hear. Wouldn't everyone love to get this feedback while they work all the time.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Diamonds are a girls best friend. But what about the mining process as a whole. When a client asked me to take a look at some creative opportunities for workers I didn't quite fathom how deep ( excuse the pun) the mining industry actually is. South Africa has lost out to Botswana as a major processor of diamonds and thus new ways of thinking are needed. So I looked at the first stage of mining...prospecting. Now this doesn't sound that interesting but it conjures up images of men with long beards walking in mountains and streams or riding their ponies seeking gold and diamonds over months or years. I thought why not allow us city dwellers to become prospectors as a tourism thing and hide real gems ( off cuts of course) as a real incentive to explore. Quite exciting. But we are also inundated with TV programs showing survival skills. And the prospector had to learn to survive in tough conditions. I can also see Kids panning and sifting in makeshift zones linked to gem makers where one could manufacture and sell all the equipment for kids and plant some real gems to make it really exciting. But why stop there. What about an idea in this blog where a clothing brand called "African Cowboy" could be sold. Today metal detectors are used and I love the idea of ordinary people using a simple metal detector to find and explore but this could also be an empowerment project where hundreds of people could seek scrap metal with the metal detectors and sell it, making a living. The prospector also needed to understand mapping. I believe communities should map every aspect of their lives so we can all understand better what solutions are needed to make the world a better place. This includes geological mapping especially re: water sources. Other opportunities looking at the diamond mining industry included alternative uses for beeswax, often used to sort the diamonds from the soil, amazing security solutions such as helium filled balloons ( which could prevent cattle theft), and my personal favourite cutting stone tools to make alternative cutlery. This could become an amazing job creator as stone age tools can be cut to make knives, spoons, bowls, mortar and pestles etc. I can already see them at fancy steakhouses as a really quirky addition to the business. So the more I looked at creating fun and creative alternatives for the diamond industry the more I found.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

SMIPES charity serviettes

We hope our food brings a smile to your
face ... so
that we
can bring one to others!
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Every time you use a 100% bio-degradable SMIPES serviette, we will donate a portion of the cost of that serviette to Early Childhood Development projects, so that we can play a small role in contributing to the education
and care of vulnerable children in South Africa.
We thank the Bay Harbour Market food traders for joining the SMIPES movement!
For more information, contact Anthony Stroebel at 0832755586 or email anthony@smipes.co.za.

Join the SMIPES movement today! www.facebook.co.za/smipesZA www.twitter.com/smipesZA
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Viva Republica!