These inspiring young South Africans have shown that, with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.
Adii Pienaar, WooThemes
Capetonian entrepreneur, Adii Pienaar, is the co-founder of one of the world’s leading WordPress theme sites, called WooThemes.
Adii got his start in computer programming as a teenager, when he assisted in his father’s computer shop and taught himself how to code HTML. Soon he was using his skills to build websites for family and friends.
While studying accounting and business at Stellenbosch University, Adii started marketing himself as a WordPress developer and consultant in order to pay his student fees.
After graduating, Adii took a corporate job but continued to dabble in web development. He created his first WordPress theme, called Premium News, which he sold to WordPress users for US$99. Within the first week, Premium News had generated enough revenue to allow Adii to quit his existing job and focus on web development full time.
In 2008, Adii met his future business partners, Magnus Jepson and Mark Forrester. Over the next year, the trio built up WooThemes. The business reached US$1 million in revenue within its first 13 months of operation. In 2009, the company also launched WooCommerce, a pioneering WordPress plug-in that transforms a website into an online store.
In 2013, Adii stepped down as the CEO of WooThemes. Striving to help others succeed in business, he created Public Beta, an online platform where entrepreneurs can access advice from business leaders. Public Beta was another highly successful project, making US$4000,00 in revenue in its first week.
Henri Otou, Oembutu Travel
Oembotu Travel is an award-winning concierge, transfer and tour service company, based in Johannesburg. Over a period of 14 years, the company’s owner, Henri Otou, built the business up from humble beginnings.
Henri started in the tourism and transport industries as a driver and tour guide. In 2002, the French embassy enlisted his services to transport French VIPs during the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. This marked the beginning of his successful entrepreneurial venture.
Six years after The World Summit, and despite not owning a single vehicle, Henri was able to secure a major contract with a hotel in the Johannesburg CBD, and Oembutu Travel was born.
The company has since been involved in a number of major projects and local events, including the CAF Women Championships (2005), South African Sickle cell disease campaign (2006), FIFA World Cup (2010) and the ABSA Johannesburg City Festival (2014).
The business has gone from strength to strength, and in 2015, won the National Travel and Tourism Award at the NSBC National Small Business Awards. It was also second runner-up in the category of National Small Business Champion of the Year.
Doug Hoernle, Rethink Education
Doug Hoernle is the founder of Rethink Education, an online platform that provides high school students with educational support in math, science and K53 learner’s licence education. The acclaimed chat-based interface allows learners to access and exchange information quickly and easily, on any web-enabled device.
As a student at UCT, Doug started a tutoring business, coaching matric pupils in math. He came up with the idea for the Rethink platform when he saw his fellow students sharing notes and information via social media.
Today a number of leading schools in the Western Cape, including Bishops College, Cedar House and St Andrew’s School for Girls, use Rethink Education. The platform has spread math and science content to over 200 000 South Africans, including a large number of Mxit users who aren’t enrolled in school.
The platform is due to be launched in Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
In 2014, Doug created another successful app called Juggl. The app allows students, teachers and parents to interact via their cellphones.
The success of Rethink Education and Juggl earned Doug a place on the Forbes Africa list of the “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2015”.
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