There is something magical that happens when a group of entrepreneurs get together — connections are made, ideas are generated and the future is created.
That is the essence of B-JEN — The Black-Jewish Entrepreneurs Network. The brainchild of the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF), B-JEN held its third and final event of 2014 at Investec on 27 November. This B-JEN, the sixth since beginning in March 2013, saw another inspirational event which brings together Black and Jewish entrepreneurs from all sectors and all backgrounds.
Eric Marx, the Chairman of the Cape Board, said that B-JEN “is aimed at promoting broader change within the South African community as a whole”. This sentiment was demonstrated on the night be the diversity of the people present — not only the difference of their cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, but also in the range of their businesses showing how transformation is happening in South Africa today. From tourism to technology, from educational coaching to health and wellness, the 30 participants in the room were given the opportunity to network and bond with each other. It was not only to further their own businesses, but also to create a more connected South African business community and unleash the potential that South Africa has.
After some poignant opening remarks from the Board, SABEF and Investec, Brian Singer, a long-time friend of B-JEN and head of the Singer Group, gave his thoughts on the past B-JEN events and reflected on its remarkable success and explained why he had remained involved since coming to the first B-JEN without even knowing what it was. Keynote speaker, Okendo Lewis-Gayle, founder of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, added to these thoughts. His idea, that of creating a network of African entrepreneurs through financial support and mentorship, rang true with many of the participants there. His advice, that “innovators must be bold and that it is such innovation which is the key to unlocking the potential of the African continent”, could not be more appropriate. He also said, tongue in cheek, that Africans and Jews have been creating incredible things for many years, one such example being Lennie Krawitz!
One of the unique parts of the evening, the ‘You-Pitch-It’ component, involved five participants pitching their businesses, and their future business plans, to a panel of judges. The judges: Roy Fine — Director of Afrifresh Group; David Chait — Director of Mr Delivery; Charmaine Groves — Founder and Managing Director of SA Business Resources Institute; Rick Lupini — Regional Head of Specialised Finances and Corporate Structured Solutions at Investec; and Marco van Embden — owner of Timeless African Safaris; gave valuable feedback to these impressive entrepreneurs. From Doryce Sher’s Aromatic Apothecary and Kgomotso Pooe’s Soweto Outdoor Adventures, to Bheki Kunene of Mind Trix Media, Alon Lichtenstein of Hangar49 and Bryan Opert from Quantum Growth, all were given sound mentoring advice.
It was not only an incredible networking event. There was, of course, food and drink, and generous prizes from the Singer Group, the Daddy Group, U-Start and Aromatic Apothecary. But the real message of the evening was that this was not just an event focused on networking. B-JEN is about creating real partnerships, real opportunity and real transformation. People left the event with either a new business possibility, a new business partner or just a new friend. Through this, B-JEN is leading the change towards a brighter South Africa.