Technology featured high on the list of winners in the EnterPrize Business Plan competition. The competition is an annual event run by the National Business Initiative.
McKinsey & Co. in partnership with the National Business Initiative (NBI) introduced the competition in South Africa three years ago. "The programme was conceived to promote the creation of sustainable small and medium sized businesses, to create sustainable jobs, develop business skills and facilitate access to finance effectively and efficiently," said Andre Fourie, NBI CEO.
This year, the 5 winners selected from 15 finalists in 5 categories, each received R100 000 towards their business idea. The competition attracted approximately 500 entries nationally in 2002. Entrants were coached by some of the best business minds in the country. Speaking at the awards ceremony, Trade & Industry Minister, Alec Erwin, praised the finalists for their determination and being role players in the economy.
The top five ideas ranged from a patented one-drop vehicle cleaning system, a unique range of African Christmas baubles, to an architectural service using natural & recycled building material, to a traditional honey/mead and a popcorn vending machine.
The winner in the export category was Makana Meadery, for their product, iQhilika. Using patented and state of the art fermentation and filtration techniques, the empowerment driven company aims to place a 15,000 year old beverage on the world's shelves.
iQhilika is a clear, golden coloured beverage (13% alcohol) made from fermented honey, water, pollen and the roots of succulent herbs, which are found only in the Eastern Cape. The beverage has its origins in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where it, according to Bushman cave-paintings, could be at least 15,000 years old. The beverage is a traditional drink of Xhosa speaking people. Traditionally, mead is associated with fertility and virility. The product has massive export potential. See www.iqhilika.co.za.
Winning in the expansion category was Pop King, a patented automatic microwave popcorn vending machine. The machine is powered by 220V for the microwave oven and utilizes pneumatic cylinders for the mechanism drives and has four detachable magazines that are loaded with product that revolve on a carousel. Once the consumer selects the required flavour a sealed microwave pack which contains the flavoured popcorn, oil and salt, is automatically deposited in the microwave oven and cooked and dropped out in less than 80 seconds.
The microwave is the company's own unique design which incorporates a magnetron cooling system from the steam produced by the popcorn. The inner shape of the microwave oven negates having an air-stirrer or revolving bottom plate. It also cuts the cooking time by half in comparison to the most efficient commercial microwave ovens.
The benefit to users is that the machine is simple to operate, requires minimal maintenance and according to winner Mark Beagle, is more hygienic than the normal popcorn machine found in cinemas or semi automatic machines. But why stop at popcorn? The technology can be adapted for producing muffins, pies and pastry from the vending machine, while pizzas, burgers and fries are under development. More information: www.libertypopcorn.com