The Mercury

KZN super entreprene­ur call-up

- Colleen Dardagan

HIGH-octane, hugely motivated and with business success on their minds, Durban’s super-entreprene­urs have launched one of the world’s most successful, yet elite, peer-to-peer organisati­on chapters here in KwaZulu-Natal.

As president elect and head of membership of the newly launched Durban Entreprene­urs’ Organisati­on chapter, the hugely successful Paul Jason is now calling on the province’s most successful business owners – or “super-interestin­g” entreprene­urs – to put their hands up.

Considered the most influentia­l community of entreprene­urs, the organisati­on demands a global initiation fee of $1 million (R12.5m), and internatio­nal annual membership of $1 900 (R23 000), a South African joining fee of R3 000 topped by an annual fee of R12 500.

It was first started in the US in 1987, and has a membership of 11 000 of the world’s most successful entreprene­urs, of which 13 are here in Durban.

Jason said that, contrary to common belief, this province had some of the highest-performing entreprene­urs in the country.

“They just don’t show it off like others do elsewhere,” he said.

The latest SA Wealth Report, released by global research consultanc­y New World Wealth, found that while most of the country’s dollar millionair­es lived in Johannesbu­rg, Durban was growing millionair­es at a faster rate than the rest of the country. The research suggests there are 2 700 dollar millionair­es in Durban.

Better known as EO, the peer-topeer network first saw the light of day as the Young Entreprene­urs’ Organisati­on in the US in the late 1980s. Urban legend has it that a group of young businessme­n and friends used to meet regularly, until one day one of the group failed to turn up.

“They used to meet once a month. One day one of the guys didn’t arrive. When they checked what had happened to him, they learnt he had committed suicide. Shocked that a friend with whom they met regularly had business and personal troubles they knew nothing of, they thought about starting a regular support group. That was how EO started,” said KZN chapter administra­tor Sandi Thorpe.

According to the EO website, it was first started by Verne Harnish and 22 members of the Associatio­n of Collegiate Entreprene­urs.

The organisati­on now has a global reach of 150 chapters in 48 countries. Only entreprene­urs can join, and members employ about 2.4 million workers worldwide.

In South Africa, Cape Town launched a chapter in 2010 that now has 80 members, while the 10-yearold Johannesbu­rg chapter has 120 members.

But not just anybody can become a member. In fact, according to Jason, few make the grade.

“The criteria are strict: R1 million-a-year in turnover, and you have to be the founder, co-founder or majority shareholde­r in your own business. Also, you have to be nominated or approached by a member to join. After that there is an interview and approval process. Membership is approved by existing members,” he said.

Jason added that the benefits were based on three pillars.

“The first is learning, the second forum, and the third networking.

“Each month we have an informal, round-the-table learning event where we invite leaders to talk to us. We have had environmen­tal activist Kumi Naidoo, Adriana Marais of the Mars One Project, and economist Kevin Lings. We have Mike Stopforth next, followed by Mike Sutcliffe and Robert Brozin, the founder of Nando’s. They do it on a voluntary basis,” he said.

Forum is a once-a-month meeting that is strictly confidenti­al, and only those who belong to the group (there are about seven members in the group) are privy to the discussion. But it was at these meetings, said Jason, that he believed his outlook on his business and personal life was affected the most.

“My sister is a psychologi­st. When I told her about the forum meetings, she said: ‘It’s like therapy for business people.’ And I guess that is exactly what it is. These meetings are structured and we get to share with a sense of safety and trust – and without judgement – our concerns and our worries. No one gives advice, we just tell our stories,” he said.

Rules are strict, and no solicitati­on for business is allowable between members.

“But if I know a member who sells something I need, then I will go to him first. Also, if I travel anywhere in the world, or need support of any kind, members are always available at a moment’s notice to help me or accommodat­e me, no matter where or when. The access to like-minded people is priceless,” he said.

The Global Leadership Convention, which is held annually, is where best practice is shared.

“Our members can also attend the internatio­nal university sessions, which are simply three days of intense learning that are held in places such as the London School of Business.”

For more informatio­n on the organisati­on, e-mail Sandi Thorpe at

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