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BOARDROOM TITANS: The top eight Eastern Cape entrepreneurs for 2014

BOARDROOM TITANS: The top eight Eastern Cape entrepreneurs for 2014

Not only do entrepreneurs identify and fill gaps in the market, but they are some of the brightest problem-solvers and most courageous individuals in any society. In the process of launching a new business venture or turning around a failing one, entrepreneurs often have to overcome many obstacles in sourcing and organising resources for an idea to see the light of day.

It is a tough calling with high risks and tremendous rewards for those that succeed. This is why Business Link congratulates the entrepreneurs below on their successes.

1 Kevin Kelly


Coming from a modest background in Swartkops, Port Elizabeth, Kelly worked in the automotive industry for 14 years before venturing out on his own in 2004. He had just reached the age of 40 when he did what many would view as unthinkable by quitting his job and setting up a small, 24-hour emergency spill response operation that he called Xtreme Projects. It all began with nothing more than R800 (which he borrowed), a bakkie and an assistant.

“I really wanted to go in to environmental cleaning, which is a big passion. I was more passion-driven than anything else,” said Kelly.

Xtreme Projects started to take shape by virtue of a hands-on, professional approach to each project and expanded through word-of-mouth advertising.

“In the beginning it was very difficult as I had no money. We built Xtreme Projects on reputation and good relationships and we kept our word to the people who helped us. I preserved, I don’t believe in the word ‘cant’, anything is possible,” said Kelly.

Today, Xtreme Projects has offices in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Walvis Bay in Namibia – and are not stopping there.

Entrepreneurial Activity

The steady success of Xtreme Projects led Kelly to expand into the specialised service of clearing up oil and hazmat spillages in 2006. This switch would prove to be significant six years later when the highly-publicised Italian cruise liner, the Costa Concordia, ran aground off the Italian island of Isola del Giglio.

Having witnessed the inability of traditional containment booms in preventing oil from spreading, and having already developed a more effective boom, the Xtreme Containment Boom, that is resistant to salt water, oils and fuel and that is unaffected by gusty conditions, Kelly jetted off to Italy to present his invention to the Concordia salvage team.

Just 11 days before the sinking of the Costa Concordia, Kelly had used his Xtreme Containment Booms in the salvage of Chinese dredger, Jin Tai, at the Port of Ngqura, adjacent the Coega IDZ.

Kelly’s Xtreme Containment Boom was well-received in Italy and he returned to Port Elizabeth with a multi-million Rand order. The first batch of booms was delivered in January 2013.

The success of his Xtreme Containment Boom on the Concordia salvage led to another deal to supply 150 kilometres of his booms to Italy. TITAN Salvage, an American-based salvage company, has now also ordered booms from Kelly.

As the booms are manufactured in Port Elizabeth, Kelly’s invention and his self-belief have created a number of jobs and contributed significantly to the region’s economy. Kelly is the Business Link Entrepreneur of 2014!


2 Sisa Ngebulana


Ngebulana believes that entrepreneurship is in his blood - his grandfather started a successful business in Mthatha during the troubled times of the 1950’s. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of Fort Hare, it was only time before his teenage passion for property was reignited.

In 1999, Ngebulana established the Billion Group and followed it up with another property firm, Rebosis Property Fund, in 2010. Rebosis subsequently listed on the JSE as the first black-managed and substantially black-owned property fund. Under his lead, the Billion Group built the Hemingways and Mdantsane City shopping malls (currently the biggest and second biggest centres in Eastern Cape) in East London, in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Entrepreneurial Activity

During 2013, the Billion Group was selected as developers for the R1.3 billion BT Ngebs Mall in Mthatha as well as a major partner in the construction and development of the R2 billion Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth - which is touted to be the province’s biggest mall on completion in early 2015.


3 Brian van Niekerk


Starting out his career as an industrial electrician, Van Niekerk, whose family has owned Rhino Plastics since 1978, developed a blow moulding plant for the family business in the 1980’s. Van Niekerk’s in depth involvement in Rhino Plastics led to him taking over the company 30 years ago.

During his tenure as Managing Director, van Niekerk established various specialised divisions within the company to cater for various niche markets - most recently, the green energy revolution.

Entrepreneurial Activity

On March 27, 2014 House Rhino was officially opened at Crossways Country Village, 40 km outside of Port Elizabeth by van Niekerk. What makes this house special is that it is the world’s first truly sustainable, environmentally-friendly home. Van Kierkerk, with his wealth of knowledge in green energy and pioneering spirit, has set the benchmark for this industry.

“Green building is a future that all governments worldwide are starting to implement and with costs of water and energy increasing worldwide due to shortages, it is becoming a norm for the man in the street to want to become more self-sufficient,” he explained.

As a marketing tool, House Rhino is invaluable and Rhino Plastics can expect a full order book for the future.

 4 Lize Fouche


What started off as a simple ‘use what you have scenario’, quickly turned into an untapped gold mine for our next entrepreneur. In 2006, Lize developed her own muesli for use in the family-owned and run guest house, Manor 38in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth – a few years later, it is now found on the shelves of major local retailers.

“I wanted to create a healthy breakfast, something I could even feed to my picky children, something that competed in taste with the sweet, sugar loaded commercial cereals,” she recalled.

As the muesli proved a hit with guests at Manor 38 Lize decided to start selling the muesli through other outlets and named the product Number 1 Chunky Muesli. Now, you can buy her muesli at local Spars or enjoy at various hotels and guest houses.

Entrepreneurial Activity

“Our range will be available in all Pick and Pays nationally from mid-August. We are also busy with other listings and export products that will take off in the next three months,” Lize said.

She also said they will be launching two new brands, Nutristart and Hemel and Hawer, this August. Lize has created 100 new jobs through her entrepreneurial activity and expects this to increase to 180 by the end of 2014. Her entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring.


5 Ken Clark


After struggling to raise enough funds to expand his 80 hectare farm in Queenstown in 1984, Clark established a small yogurt business. Today, it is a multi-million Rand dairy behemoth known as Crickley Dairy. 

Clark stumbled upon his next venture when he spotted some antiquated soft drink manufacturing equipment in 2003. The result was a new line of affordable carbonated soft drinks called Twizza. With his flair for technology, he later invested in high-tech equipment and transformed the Twizza brand of products.

Entrepreneurial Activity

While Twizza is very affordable to consumers, Clark has ensured that there is no compromise on quality. He has invested in continual research, development and testing in order to get the best possible Twizza flavours for the best possible cost.

Needless to say, Twizza’s runaway popularity saw the company opening a new, state-of-the-art plant near Middleburg, in Mpumalanga, in 2012, and expanding its footprint across South Africa and in neighbouring countries. Thanks to Clark, an Eastern Cape brand is achieving tremendous success.



6 Edward Gutsche


Never one to shy away from an opportunity to introduce something new to the market, Gutsche founded Edge Financial Group in 2001 after 10 years serving in various positions at Coca Cola Sabco in the 1990’s.

Entrepreneurial activity

Last year, Gutsche launched not one, but two successful new ventures. The first has been the launching of the Nelson Mandela Bay Investor Seminar that grew from 100 attendees in 2013 to over 1000 this year. The event saw some of the region’s top businessmen in attendance and the various speakers and presenters elicited some lively response from the audience. This year’s event also included the East Cape Small Business Network Expo.

“I got tired of being invited to events around the country, when I know the world is in PE. All we needed was just a spark,” Gutsche explained.

Gutsche’s second successful venture was opening of an office in New Brighton – becoming the first independent financial advisory company to open an office in the heart of a township.  Ed crunched his numbers, did his research and realised that there is a huge, untapped market just waiting for his arrival.

“Once you’ve looked at the numbers, it becomes obvious that a huge opportunity awaits,” said Gutsche. No doubt, others will soon follow where Gutsche has led the way.


7 & 8 Stephen Dondolo and Clive Berlyn


Steven Dondolo

The change in the South African business sector after the thawing of Apartheid saw a rapid rise of black-owned businesses in the early 90’s. It was an opportunity that Uitenhage-based businessman, Stephen Dondolo, grabbed and established African Pioneer Limited (APL) in 1990.

As one of the province’s most respected businessmen, Dondolo also serves as a director at Coca-Cola Fortune, is Chairman of Pioneer Fishing, and shareholder as well as CEO and director of Humansdorp-based Woodlands Dairy.

Clive Berlyn

Along with his late friend and fellow Caltex petrol station owner, Richard Ndungane, Berlyn struck a deal with the firm’s parent company, Chevron Energy, in 2005 to take over the transportation and distribution rights, thus leading to the creation of East London-based firm, Caltex Eastern Cape Marketer (CECM), which also became the biggest distributor of Chevron petroleum in the Africa-Middle East region.

Entrepreneurial Activity

Following an investment of R120 million, in 2012, for the acquisition of a further 41 petrol stations from Chevron, Berlyn signed a R15 million deal with Dondolo’s APL in February 2014 giving it a 22% stake in CECM. The deals are a major financial boost for CECM which is aiming to establish 100 Caltex petrol stations across the Eastern Cape by 2015.