July 16, 2024

KZN entrepreneurs secure cash prizes in business accelerator

3 min read

The Durban Chemicals Cluster (DCC) Business Accelerator held its annual Dragons’ Den event at The Pearls in Umhlanga Rocks on 28 November 2023.

Emulating the renowned Dragons’ Den format, 11 emerging black-owned enterprises passionately presented their ventures to a panel of influential ‘Dragons’ who are driving the meaningful transformation of the local chemicals sector: Bridget Bishenden from FFS Refiners, Rudi van Niekerk from H&R, Trevor I’Ons from NCS, and David Lombard from Sherwin-Williams.

Beyond the allure of instant cash prizes, the participating entrepreneurs vied for commercial partnerships with the Dragons’ companies, seed capital infusion and coveted mentorship opportunities from industry luminaries. Open to all black entrepreneurs in the chemical sector, from startups to established small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the DCC Business Accelerator attracted close to 100 entries this year. The selection process was rigorous, and narrowing the pool to the final 33 candidates was a challenging task.

The chosen qualifiers then underwent a comprehensive one-day capacity-building workshop in Durban on 25 October 2023. This interactive session facilitated networking with established business leaders, providing a platform for knowledge exchange and refining business pitches. They also received invaluable insights and expert advice on mastering the art of public speaking. The top 11 pitches then advanced to the Dragons’ Den stage and delivered impressive presentations.

Ravesha Govender, programme manager of the Economic Development Unit at eThekwini Municipality, said she was particularly impressed with the quality of the pitches this year, and emphasised the accelerator’s role in driving localisation and fostering meaningful transformation in the chemicals industry.

Pulse Control Systems claimed the top prize, securing the Best Overall Business Case award and a R35 000 cash prize. A delighted Nimelen Pillay, managing director, praised the DCC Accelerator and said, “The DCC has come up with a brilliant and efficient programme that has accelerated my plans for scaling the business through the formulation of a business case as well as exposure to key blue-chip clients.” He also thanked the eThekwini Municipality and the private sector lead firms for the invaluable guidance and support received.

The additional R25 000 cash prizes recognising outstanding achievements in specific categories were awarded to the following SMEs:

  • Most Relevant to the Chemical Industry: Spot on Fire Controls – Lungani Nene from Cato Manor
  • Best Environmental Sustainability Solution: Virenix – Viren Udith from Mount Edgecombe
  • Industry Gamechanger: AJ85 Distributors – Anderson Jacobs from Durban

Nevertheless, all 11 SMEs ultimately walked away with a reward. According to Kyle Ballard, head of the Accelerator, each of them has been granted annual membership to the DCC. This membership entails comprehensive diagnostic assessments and access to coaching by industry experts, essential for aligning with customer demands and effectively scaling their businesses. However, the greater reward is that each SME will also receive support to unlock coveted sales and commercial opportunities with the Dragons and potential customers, improving their growth prospects significantly.

He highlighted the accelerator’s proven track record in consistently delivering meaningful results and effecting sustainable transformation in the economic landscape. Ballard also expressed his gratification in being able to play a small part in empowering black-owned SMEs in the local chemicals sector.

If you are a black-owned SME seeking to propel your business to the next level, explore similar business accelerators across the following clusters: Durban Chemicals, KZN Clothing and Textiles, Cape Clothing and Textiles, eThekwini Furniture, and Durban Automotive. Visit the website for more information and apply here.

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