Truth be told, I think entrepreneurs are the key to solving many of South Africa’s issues. But starting your own business isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially with the lack of angel investors, complicated infrastructure, and difficult access to start-up capital.

Every Thursday evening on 702 and Cape Talk, Pavlo Phitidis, CEO of Aurik Business Accelerator, talks small business and entrepreneurship with Bruce Whitfield. These two extraordinary minds discuss all issues pertaining to business owners and give unique insight into how to run a successful and sustainable business. As much as I despise the way the word ‘guru’ is thrown around, there’s no doubt that Pavlo holds this title with conviction.

So, about 6 weeks ago, Bruce decided to see if Pavlo could practise what he preached. He put a challenge forward to Pavlo and four other contestants (Warren Ingram, Paul Theron, Tsego Modisane, and Valerie Pole) to see if they could start a business with a mere R1,000 start-up capital, and make a profit over just 5 weeks. All profits would be donated to The Starfish Foundation.

As you can imagine, Pavlo is a very busy man. He needed help. What do you do when one of the greatest business minds in the country calls you up to assist with this? Well, firstly, you shit yourself, secondly, you pull yourself towards yourself, and thirdly, you agree! Having worked for Pavlo before, I knew my learning would go into overdrive.

Knowing where our strengths lay, we decided to start a social media business. It was affordable, accessible and, most importantly, would fulfill a need, ensuring that we had guaranteed clients.

Seven kick ass brands came on board – Doppio Zero, Great Lengths Hair Extensions, Scully Scooters, Cold Play Caramel Vodka, Studio 05 House Of Fashion, Valuation UP, and an individual, Andrew Ross. Our promise to them was to build their Twitter following by 1,000 additional followers, and they would pay us accordingly.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any start-up business has taken up seven brand new clients within two days. With cases of Red Bull in tow and our pride and reputation on the line, we worked tirelessly to push out exciting, informative, and relevant content and keep the communities engaged.

Two weeks in, we realised how severely we had under-priced our clients. Anyone who has worked in social media before will know how resource intensive it is. We soldiered on and, as every business should, we evolved. We introduced social media seminars, whereby I rambled on empowered people with social media know-how and cracked a few lame jokes. Note to self: Can definitely rule out stand-up comedy as a backup. To top it off, we offered a one-on-one consulting service to entrepreneurs requiring further assistance with their online presence.

The 5-week period flew by, and it all came down to the wire last week Monday on Bruce Whitfield’s show, in front of a live studio audience. The experiences of all the contestants were shared, the businesses were evaluated, and many lessons learned by all in attendance.

Pavlo, being the fantastic showman that he is, entered the room surrounded by very large G4S guards as well as a money counting machine.

We were thrilled to finally announce that we had raised a phenomenal R67,000 for The Starfish Foundation, and crowned the winners of The R1,000 Challenge!

To top it all off, I purchased this business from Pavlo for a staggering R1 and I am very excited to take STIR forward and rock the web for our brands.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to Mr. Whitfield – I hope this becomes an annual challenge.

You can watch the highlights reel below:

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