Winners’  Viewpoints and Debrief on #TalentUnleashed 

2Giraffe Amber

Winners’  Viewpoints and Debrief on #TalentUnleashed  – Grace Clapham, The Change School  

A week filled with early starts and never-ending experiences ended  with a trip to the Pilensburg Safari, only a short 3 hours away from Johannesburg. What a beautiful place it was and thankfully the weather was exceptionally warm. We were on the look out constantly for The Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino) and unfortunately didn’t get to see a Lion or a Leopard, but maybe that just means an opportunity to go back for another safari sometime in the coming year.

The overall safari experience however, did leave me with:

Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From a Safari Trip (you never know where ideas and lessons will crop up, learnings are all around our environment, we just need to stay aware.  It’s all about perspective).

– Grace Clapham


Winners’ Viewpoints and Debrief on #TalentUnleashed – Stephen Hillier, Little Lot 

Steve Photography

Stephen Hillier, co-founder, Little Lot

Wow, what an absolute roller coaster of a ride the past week has been! I represented my social enterprise Little Lot which won this incredible opportunity by taking out the Asia-Pacific People’s Choice Award. It was however an unexpected surprise for me as my brother and co-founder Dave was originally pegged to come on this trip! He unfortunately tore his Achilles tendon just three days before he was meant to fly out, with the result being surgery and full ankle cast. Heartbreakingly he received the word from the specialist that he simply wouldn’t be able to fly.

But we were delighted when Talent International were able to negotiate a transfer of the flights at the last minute across to me – it is a big opportunity for our social enterprise to get some international exposure, and one we definitely wouldn’t want to miss out on!

So early Sunday morning NZ time I embarked on a 20 hour flight with stopover in Sydney and arrived in Johannesburg, a city I’ve found to have a mix of incredible beauty and a diverse, passionate culture. And extremely jet lagged to say the least!

I checked into my accommodation for the week – the Winston Hotel, a luxury five star hotel (thanks Talent!) in the suburb of Rosebank. But I had little time to settle in before I was due to meet the crew for drinks.
We all settled into a few champagnes and wine at the bar before having dinner at the hotel restaurant. What an awesome bunch of people! It was great to meet everyone and each had an amazing story to tell about their businesses and visions for the future.

We spent the majority of our time in Johannesburg at the Branson Centre. The days have been split up between talks by industry figures and academics, presentations by the Talent winners, and networking workshops with some of the local entrepreneurs. There is an absolute buzz of creativity and passion in the centre. The local entrepreneurs are not afraid to pull you aside for a conversation and were keen for any advice or direction we were able to provide.

I was scheduled to speak on the first day. Luckily or unluckily I had been up since 2:30am in the morning with jetlag which gave me a chance to pull together my presentation. Come the afternoon I was exhausted to say the least, but managed to get through the 45 minutes and answer the questions that followed. Was happy to have it out of the way!

Each night Mark and Richard of Talent took us all out for dinner to some of the local restaurants. As Mark is from South Africa he knew his way around which made life a whole lot easier. We sampled some the local cuisine – springbok, crocodile, ostrich and lamb. No better way to get to know each other better than sharing conversation over dinner every night!

Meeting the other winners has definitely been highlight of the trip for me. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to spend the week with such inspirational individuals – each and every one has a passion for business and life they’re all top characters!

On Wednesday we were taken on a tour around the town of Soweto (‘town’ feels like an understatement when it hosts a population of over 2 million people). A truly eye-opening experience! The poverty and hardships of the area are unlike anything I’d ever seen before coming from New Zealand.  We were introduced to two local businesses – Shwe Shwe Poppis ( and local entrepreneur Aaron’s bamboo products. Both were inspiring small business operations run out of their houses. They created jobs for local people who might have otherwise found it very difficult to find employment, and were each creating very cool products.


Swee Swee EmployeeThe women at Shwe Shwe Poppis

For such a small business in the depths of Soweto, Shwe Shwe Poppis have gained international recognition – being featured in catwalks and top magazines. I was truly impressed. I asked whether their operations could be scaled up given the amount of demand there was for their product, and it was interesting to learn that they didn’t want to move out of Soweto because it would ultimately disadvantage the people they were currently employing and the community. It is great to see the difference these entrepreneurial activities are achieving for their people and community.

After a full-on week at the Branson Centre the team piled in the van and we headed up to Pilanesberg Game Reserve. This was the first safari I and many of the others had ever been on so we were all excited about the next two days.  After three hours driving north we arrived at the Ivory Tree Lodge. It was the warmest it had been so far on our trip and a good chance to finally relax – so we set up by the pool.

Our first safari was that evening, we jumped into the modified land rover and got on the road at 5pm.  With beer in hand we spotted the first wildlife – a wildebeest. Next a zebra, then antelope and then a giraffe. We laughed as our expectations climbed rapidly. After seeing rhinos, we were on the mission to find big cats – lions and leopards. Alas, we had no luck finding any that evening or on our morning safari, but we did have the unlikely experience of encountering buffalo, which we’re told is rare on this reserve and is one of the ‘big 5’.

On Saturday afternoon I began my long journey home, exhausted and highly satisfied after an exceptional week of activities, meeting fantastic people, and learning. My hat goes off to the team at Talent International for organising such a spectacular time for us all!

– Steve Hillier


Winners’ Viewpoints and Debrief on #TalentUnleashed – Paul Lee, Ace Hearing 

12 Paul Lee Final

And…our hard work here in Johannesburg is concluded… almost! Richard Earl (CEO of Talent), Mark Nielsen (CFO of Talent) and the winners sat down and had a great chat (which turned into Happy Hour, then dinner, then whiskey…) to recap the week, and how Talent International can carry on and grow the Talent Unleashed Awards. The awards are certainly helping Talent to build its brand, but more importantly it helps elevating entrepreneurship to more and more prominence, especially in the up-and-coming places (read: not Silicon Valley, or the US in general). It gives our regions credibility,and sometimes are just the right validation needed to push us to keep carrying the torch. I for one am deeply appreciative of the award and the trip. We were able to foster genuine friendship and I am going to count on my new comrades for help with my journey ahead, and I will be there for them as well. As I learned this trip: “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you wan to travel far, travel together.” This sounds much better than my motto: “If you are walking through hell, walk faster.” Speaking of which, I need to get back to work…

– Paul Lee



Day 5 – #TalentUnleashed – On Safari

After a highly successful and thought-provoking week at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Richard, the Unleashed winners embarked on an amazing safari experience at the Pilanesberg National Park two hours north of Johannesburg.
The team saw a lot of  zoom lens action as we team went in search of the Big 5 (the big five game animals are the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African Leopard and White/Black rhinoceros) and we weren’t disappointed.

11On Safari On the truck Landscape

Paul Lee and Jude Ower on the jeep.


11On Safari Water Buffalo Landscape

Water buffalo block the road.

21On Safari Sheldon Landscape

Our Safari driver – the intrepid Sheldon decides it’s best to back up….

11On Safari Zebras Landscape

Stunning zebras

The entire week in South Africa has been one filled with inspiration, education and fun with some great friendships and connections established. The safari brings to a close a highly-successful 2014 Talent Unleashed program.

– Richard Earl




Day 4 – #TalentUnleashed – More inspiration

Day4_Chris Hock

The Unleashed team were privileged to hear seasoned investment specialist Chris Hock talk about the importance of sound financial management for start-ups.  Chris has 25 years’ experience in investing in and building business. In the last 10 years at Pan African Capital Holdings, he has helped develop an innovative housing fund, developed a financial decision tool for entrepreneurs and was part of Pan African’s very successful private equity investment team.


Day4_Paul Lee
Hong Kong based Talent Unleashed winner Paul Lee demonstrates his groundbreaking Ace Hearing product to a curious audience.


Day4_Phillip Andrews

And Queensland Australia Unleashed winner Phillip Andrews gives a fascinating insight into his journey in the world of digital publishing.

It’s been a fantastic week – glad to have a bit of a break from all the activity this evening.  Tomorrow we’re off for a bit of team building on safari.  Stay tuned!

– Richard Earl




Day 3 – #TalentUnleashed – Incredible new experiences 

Great start to the day with Paul Smith who manages Ignitor, a business that helps entrepreneurs get started.  Paul is an author, an entrepreneur and a start-up scientist.  He is obsessed with cracking the ‘entrepreneurship code’ by using new research methods to turn innovation from art to science.  He even holds a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship!

1Richard and Paul Smith

Richard Earl and Paul Smith


We had lunch at Vuyo’s which is run by a plucky young local called Miles who basically created a real-life version of a fictitious restaurant chain from a TV advertising campaign.  Here are the Unleashed team with Miles.

1Team at Vuyos

The Unleashed team with Miles from Vuyo’s


After lunch we spent the afternoon visiting small businesses in Soweto.  We were captivated by Aaron and his wife who have created a fantastic home business from the most challenging of circumstances producing bags and baskets.  He is a ‘graduate’ of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

1Aaron and wife home business Soweto

Aaron and his wife – a Soweto start-up! 

Looking forward to a traditional South African Braai (barbecue) with the family of our CFO Mark Nielsen tonight!  More on that tomorrow….


– Richard Earl



Day 2 – #TalentUnleashed – In the Groove


What a day ! It was a great morning start with Charles Maisel who presented an innovation technique called ‘seeing the leaves’ on ways to help people generate ideas.  Charles is a unique individual who owns a company called Innovation Shack in South Africa that focuses on developing ‘anything innovative and entrepreneurial’. He has funded lots of start-ups and is really a serial entrepreneur with a fresh take and real alternative to traditional problem solving.



Richard Earl and South Africa’s Innovation Shack founder Charles Maisel


After lunch, Talent Unleashed Rising Star winner Amber Blumanis spoke about her amazing travel experiences – young as she is! – and her inspiration for her Stopover App which allows users to engage at any airport in the world with other travelers via business networking, education and even dating.  Impressive!











Amber Blumanis presents Stopover App


Jude Ower, from the United Kingdom, told the local audience of budding entrepreneurs about her life passion for gaming and how she’s applied that passion to many aspects of social change and community impact – from saving pandas to address cyber bullying.  The audience was enthralled.


Jude Ower, founder and CEO, Playmob


Following the Unleashed Winners’ presentations, high-profile South African businessman Given Mkhari presented to a packed audience of aspiring black entrepreneurs.  His story is an amazing and inspirational one of persistence and fortitude to build South Africa’s second largest national radio broadcaster.


Given Mkhari 


Later, the Talent Unleashed team take a break for coffee in the Virgin coffee shop.  We chatted about the inspiring stories and unique insights we heard – from each other and about the local start-up scene.


The Unleashed Team taking a break at the Branson Centre on day two.  


– Richard Earl




Day 1 – #TalentUnleashed Takes South Africa

Our first day started earlier than expected with many of us travelling from far away places and
adjusting to the time difference but excited to get the week started.

The actual programme began at 9am at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship with a brief
introduction to Global Entrepreneurship Week before rolling into a long workshop and talk on
Finding Your Passion lead by Professor Dawie Smith – a pioneer in the field of leadership
excellence. This session was more of a refresher course for myself as it touched on many of
the things we work with at The Change School, including Personality Discovery, Values and
Self-Awareness, however it was interesting to get the insights from a well established Professor
in South Africa, who wooed the audience with his wit and sense of humor! This first session
was a great lead in to my own talk which happened shortly after lunch.

A little nervous but honoured to be given this opportunity I was first up to give a presentation
and began with my personal journey and the pivotal moments in life that led me to follow a life of
purpose and passion for impact, now leading to profit as we focus on building The Change
School. My talk was followed by a great presentation by fellow winner of the People’s Choice
Award – Stephen Hillier who Co-Founded Little Lot. His presentation touched on the importance
of ‘Passion For Profit’ in a business, whilst also giving insights of reaching profit in order to
generate interest from investors and made a point that to me signified the importance of your
story behind the brand – “Balance sheets and dollar signs, don’t tell the whole story”. It was
awesome to hear what they have been doing and really hope they continue to grow from
strength to strength.

Following that we had a pitch session with two amazing South African entrepreneurs and our
fellow winners Jude Ower (PlayMob) and Philip Andrews (Liquid State) in front of a panel of
esteemed judges that included Richard Earl and various VC firms. Once the sessions were
finished we were able to mingle and connect with many local entrepreneurs before heading off
to dinner.

We ended up the night with a beautiful dinner with 20 others from the local entrepreneur scene
and a well known South African entrepreneur and investor who shared some wise tips and
insights from working with hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Overall – a great first start to the week and looking forward to the busy but insightful week

Grace Clapham(2nd from left)



Monday 17 November: Fantastic first day for the Talent Unleashed Winners #talentunleashed at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa.  The day started with a presentation from leadership expert and life and executive coach Professor Dawie Smith. Inspirational Leadership winner Grace Clapham and Stephen Hillier from Little Lot discuss how they turned their passion into profit #GEW2014

And together with two local entrepreneurs, Jude Ower and Philip Andrews deliver a seven-minute presentation on their business success.

The day wrapped up with ‘speed dating for entrepreneurs’ and a lively and fun dinner at Muyo’s in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. Exciting start to the week!





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Sunday evening 16 November:  The 2014 Talent Unleashed Award Winners arrived in South Africa and met up for a drink before dinner with Talent CFO Mark Nielsen.  An exciting week awaits!