Yusuf Randera-Rees is not your typical Harvard and Oxford graduate. In fact, he has a story about his first interview at Oxford – which he ‘bombed’ rather spectacularly when the Philosophy Don asked him whether animals can think. After losing 10 precious minutes contemplating the question, he candidly conceded that he had no idea. To this day he’s still not sure. However, despite his initial unceremonious introduction to academia, Oxford and Harvard are regularly referenced in the same sentences as Randera-Rees and he finds it interesting that this reference implies great achievement – for him, his time at these two bastions of academic achievement was more about a process of struggle and failure – and the response to failure that led to his achievements.
Today Randera-Rees and his partner Ryan Pakter are the co-founders of one of the most innovative SMME investment companies in Africa, with over R450-million in investment funding. His company, Awethu, was born out of a belief that the traditional ways of identifying talented entrepreneurs had to be thrown out when it came to the informal sector.
Entrepreneurs become this amazing intersection of leadership and economics.
Never let a good crisis go to waste - the art of innovative entrepreneurial thinking
According to Randera-Rees, problem solving is the creative key to entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. He should know. Not only is this social entrepreneur’s goal to: ‘...build a global society where everyone is capable of reaching their full entrepreneurial potential’, but he’s also had his fair share of time spent on the failure/success/failure/success ferris wheel. The story of Awethu’s stop-start journey to finding funding is an exercise in endurance.
Business people who can influence the way they want the world to be
He maintains that the agile, quick thinking, problem solving micro-entrepreneur who has an informal business on his street, is as much a business leader in his community as a large business owner whose company is listed on the JSE. Just like the JSE-listed business, the small entrepreneurial venture has revenue and employs people, which translates into the economic levers needed to influence the world.