Two years ago Johan Eksteen, an agripreneur won the entrepreneur of the year award in the small business category in the Sanlam and Business Partners’ annual entrepreneurship competition.
This year Eksteen took the ultimate prize, walking away with the overall winner prize – 2016’s entrepreneur of the year. He was awarded along with other entrepreneurs at a ceremony held in Johannesburg, yesterday.
Eksteen is the founder of Agricon, a company that designs and manufactures cost-effective and eco-friendly pellets for animal feed, fertilizer and bio mass used by the farming industry. It is based in Bloemfontein, Free State.
The annual Sanlam and Business Partners Awards, recognise and reward entrepreneurial excellence among South Africa’s small and medium enterprises, and have been doing so for the past 28 years.
Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson and programme director said Eksteen’s strong entrepreneurial attitude and the remarkable growth Agricon has shown in the past two years were just some of the factors behind his win.
“Since being named a finalist in the 2014 competition, Agricon has not only expanded and experienced rapid growth in turnover, but has also made improvements in its business processes which have contributed to its growth,” says Mjadu.
Agricon was initially established together with his brother in 1993, Eksteen in 2006 became the sole owner and Agricon has grown into a global specialist in producing agricultural pelleting equipment.
In a previous interview with SME South Africa, Eksteen said, “Agricon is an international business, not local. I intend it to be in the forefront of the pelleting industry. We want to innovate, we don’t compete.”
SME South Africa spoke to Eksteen following his recent win to find out more about what makes this agripreneur tick.
The most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur – The fact that you can make a difference and create your own boundaries.
The most challenging aspect is – Money is always the challenge, but if money is your main objective you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.
The entrepreneurial mantra I live by – I always say if you’re looking for a helping hand look at the end of your own arm.
On intuition or data – I’m very well balanced. I’ve got a strong internal locus of control and I love to work hard. I also love to dream but I take those dreams and see if it works out on paper.
The biggest achievement since starting my business – Starting my business and getting to a point where I get recognition.
The worst mistake I’ve made – I didn’t believe in myself or my business.
What I would do differently if I could start over – I would have started and believed in myself much earlier in life.
The toughest decision I’ve had to make – Firing people when they’re not performing.
Advice for entrepreneurs that are just starting out – Forget about the money and start looking at yourself to grow [organically] out of what you can. If no one is buying your product, no one is going to finance your product.