Modern technology has paved the way for multi-functional devices like the smartwatch and the smartphone. Computers are increasingly faster, more portable, and higher-powered than ever before. With all of these revolutions, technology has also made our lives easier, faster, better, and more fun.
Today on TEF Alumni Corner, we unveil one of our entrepreneurs in South Africa by the name Melishia Pillay, who is breaking grounds in the world of technology.
Q: Can you tell us about your business and when you received the grant?
A: Our business is called MELMARK PTY LTD. We are a business solutions company located in South Africa. We received our seed capital in December, 2021.
We offer a variety of business solutions, our most recent development is a business app to manage, monitor and develop your business online.
Melmark target customer is the entrepreneur and small business owner. We analyze where our client is in their journey and offer them a customized solution to get their business started or propel themselves digitally. I am full time in the business and the co founder as well. We have two part time employees.
A day at Melmark begins by carrying out administrative activities, responding to clients and booking meetings with new clients.
Asides the app, we have added Branding to our services so that we are able to render services walk-in clients too. We are currently working on securing better premises that will allow us to be more accessible to our consumers and increase our revenue.
As much as our goal is to be profitable, our mission is to create employment. So we are currently recruiting virtual agents to do sales on our business app.
Q: What inspired your business idea?
A: That would be the lack of employment opportunities for women and youths as well as the lack of access to information for small businesses and entrepreneurs on how to scale, manage, formalize and operate their businesses.
Q: How has receiving the seed capital, training, mentorship and networking support from the Tony Elumelu Foundation improved your business?
A: With the grant, we have been able to hire two part time employees and purchase much needed equipment. All we need to do now is secure our premises.The training has helped us develop our business perspective and insight. It is especially helpful as we are in the recruitment processes. But all the modules have helped us grow and develop to serve our clients better.
In terms of mentoring, our mentors have been amazing and supportive throughout the journey so far. The mentorship has helped us to analyze our pain points and develop a plan of action that we are working on. We are yet to be assigned our mentors for the rest of the alumni programme but interacting on the telegram group and private chat with mentors there, have been fruitful in terms of receiving information about queries, questions or concerns.
Q: After training and mentorship from the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, how has your operational model changed?
A: Our operational model has changed in the sense that our business model now aligns with our goals and mission. We now understand how to operate our business, though we are still on the path to learning, as we believe that there isn’t an end to learning.
Q: What would you define as your business’ most valuable proposition?
A: That would be the that we offer a variety of business solutions at your fingertips. Well, at least we endeavor to be a one stop point for an entrepreneur or small business owner to find all the solutions they need. However, our most unique area/product/service of note is our business app. Which is available to access free of charge and it is being developed as a product led growth model. We have already empowered ten businesses with complimentary access to a paid product. Giving away a value of just under 5000 dollars. We have done this to contribute our quota towards the sustainable development goals. Our app is still being modified to include all our products and services.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about starting your own business?
A: What I have enjoyed most about this is being able to meet new people and help others in any way that I am able to. But most of all, it is the potential to lift my family out of poverty.
Q: What do you find most challenging about being an entrepreneur?
A: Lack of funding, access to information and wider networks.
For example, I started my entrepreneur journey ten years ago and went into a local office to register my business. For the sake of ethics, I won’t mention the institution. I went in, paid the fee to register my business and was told to register on the central supplier data base and open a bank account. That was it. The particular institution is known to be an incubator/ business enterprise to help small businesses start-up and ought to have provided more information. But I was left in the dark and that particular business I started back then also got left to just sit. Then I began to hunt for a way to bridge this gap and be the difference, that is how Melmark was born. We help entrepreneurs and small businesses no matter their stages.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next five years?
A: I can give you a whole essay on this. But, ideally in five years time, we would have dived into the international markets, created more employment across Africa as we are digitally able to do so. I must reiterate that we know that any business has the goal to be profitable but our mission is to create employment as we have learned from our great Mr. Elumelu that we rise by lifting others.
Q: What has been your most significant lesson as an entrepreneur, and what did you learn from it?
A: That’s a tough one. Well, my personal motto is “Never a failure, always a lesson”.
One thing we’ve learnt is taking on clients without a formal contract/agreement of work to be done and payment terms. And with that, we learned how to implement contracts but then another lesson came along that we need a lawyer on our team as without one, it is a timely affair to go the state route for breach of contracts.
This has now been added to our plan of action on how to deal with this kind of situation and have legal help or team behind us.
Q: What is your single most important achievement so far as an entrepreneur?
A: That’s easy! It is my successful entry into the TEF programme, successfully completing the programme and becoming a part of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Alumni.
Q: How do you define success?
A: For me, success is the ability to achieve goals and meet targets in a timeous manner. I define success this way even in small daily goals and tasks as I believe success can’t be determined by a number or quantity, although this may be the manner of measurement in many other factors such as sales targets. For me personally, with life experience, I’ve come to realize that as much as figures are important it takes mini steps to get where you need to be and completing these steps leads to the ultimate goal of being successful. So one must be accountable for taking these steps.
For example I had to meet deadlines, learn and be present during the TEF programme in order to reach the end and succeed there too. This had to be done in a timeous manner.
Q: What advice would you give other African entrepreneurs, especially those just starting their entrepreneurial careers?
A: Dear young African entrepreneurs, start where you are, use what you have and always be thirsty to learn. Use the internet to research that which you don’t know or need more information on. Most of all apply for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, it will help a great deal.
~ Author: Chinenye Akandu