The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2018

How many of us would even contemplate starting our first business with no formal experience, partners or credit record, and only R10 to our name? After leaving home at 17, being retrenched and homeless for a time, Courtney Bentley founded an Apple support business at 19. Today, he heads a flagship start-up that is transforming the finance sector. “Few know that I walked to work for 18 months, had pneumonia twice, and was the youngest person Wesbank ever financed a vehicle for without surety,” says Bentley. “Most people think I have been funded, which is not true. I have supported myself and my family from the beginning.” When he started his first business in 2009, he launched the company with R10. Says Bentley: “I had no business experience, mentors, or capital. This situation helped to shape me into who I am today, able to succeed in adverse conditions.” Bentley left home at the age of 17, and was without a home of his own for a while. Unable to afford university, he secured a job at a retail store, and walked 15km to and from work every day. He was retrenched in 2009, and forced to start his own business, ZA Support for Apple. After nine years, the company is an established Apple support company with a client base of more than 5 000 corporate, parastatal, public, and private customers. In 2016, Bentley started Vizibiliti Insight Africa, an artificial intelligence fintech company. One of the reasons for starting the business was the first-hand frustration he had experienced in getting credit to start and grow a business. “Vizibiliti Insight Africa focuses on alternative credit scoring techniques which enable lenders to analyse consumers and businesses that would otherwise not be considered for any form of credit,” he says. “Our flagship alternative credit scoring platform is capable of blending traditional credit scorecards with alternative data inputs. This increases sales, helps retain existing customers, and cross-sell products and services to customers. “Our goal is to become a one-stop-shop financial service marketplace, which connects disparate buyers and sellers with automated product and service recommendations.” In 2017, the company was selected as the overall winner of the Attacq Commercial Real Estate Innovation Award for a start-up disrupting the commercial real estate market. It was chosen from more than 100 applications from around South Africa. Bentley says that through years of trial and failure, as well as divorce, he has learnt what is and isn’t important. He maintains that the key to success is the ability to forgo your ego, and listen. “Listen far harder than you talk, be humble at all times, and strive for the impossible. Set unrealistic deadlines and goals. Aim for the stars, because if you fall, you will land on a cloud. “The fact that my community has nominated me for this award is a sign that there is belief in my ability to achieve great things. It supports my positive validation and mindset that people recognise what I am doing, and share my values and beliefs, which is encouraging.” 48 Want it as bad as you want to breathe Jade Factor is passionate about her dogs, and because she wants them to be healthy and happy, she founded a company, Mimi & Munch, that would look after them – and every other pet. “Dogs deserve wholesome and safe food just like we do,” says Factor. “They are an integral part of the family, and should be celebrated and taken care of. When you love something unconditionally, you want to give them the very best.” Mimi & Munch is an all-natural, premium dog-treat business which includes a dog “barkery”. The all-natural dog treats are handmade in small batches using only the best quality ingredients thoroughly researched for their canine health properties. Every treat is not only pressed out by hand, but is also wheat, preservative, and additive free. The company also produces dog-friendly cakes, pupcakes, pawty platters, and personalised treats such as doggie donuts, pooch pretzels, and pupcorn. It also creates pawty packs for dog birthdays, adoption dates, or as a gift for a friend’s dog. Says Factor: “The business aims at celebrating man’s best friend. Pets are part of the family, so why not spoil them like you would your own child?” The idea for the company was born out of her inability to find suitable treats for her dogs, Mia and Bambi. So, she researched the best human-grade food sources that were the most nourishing for dogs. “Finding a treat for them was difficult,” she says, “as most dog treats are made with wheat flours and contain preservatives, additives, and by-products which are hard even to pronounce.” A business management and brand building professional by training, Factor founded the company in April 2017. She oversees the management of baking, administration, marketing, sales, and production. Her management team consists of her immediate family, who help with baking and deliveries. “Every person in my family has as much love, passion, and dedication for the business as I do, and this is what makes it a winning team. Of course, there is also Mimi, who is the chief taste tester and Munch, who is on quality control,” she says. With unique flavours with functional benefits, like a Golden Latte Treat which contains turmeric that has powerful benefits for dog joint health, Mimi & Munch has a unique place in the market. Its Paw it Forward campaign donates a percentage of the proceeds from every bag purchased to different animal shelters, chosen every month. Factor says that she dreams of being able to hire underprivileged people, and train them in baking, administration, marketing, and production systems. “There is so much to teach and inspire in the pet-health industry. The more we can educate and show how easy it is to take care of our pets, and promote the adoption of pets, the better for the industry.” Courtney Bentley Vizibiliti Insight Africa If you can be anything, be kind ENTREPRENEUR AWARD Jade Factor Mimi & Munch