What we should know about you
Questions answered by James van der Walt, Founder, Director & CTO
1. What is your biggest learning as an entrepreneur so far?
Partnerships, networking, tools, and design thinking:
It is said that bad partnerships are among the top reasons for a business failing. Just as with a life partner these people will form a big part of your life. Yes, funds gathering and making an impact is tough, but with the right partner supporting you when you are down is what will push the business to success. Likewise, if you have a bad partnership you will lose focus and passion very quickly. The lesson here is don’t rush into a partnership. Do a project together to test your compatible and work ethics align.
Networking was something foreign to me at the start. I had no idea where to begin. So, here’s my tip: Go to as many conferences/events as you can that relate to what you are doing. If you are not a social butterfly, then just go stand close to a speaker you liked and listen. Sooner or later others will start the conversation you are interested in, then ask questions. At the end remember to thank them for their great talk and exchange cards. After doing a few of these your confidence will grow and it will get easier. Don’t forget to also send a follow-up email the next day and refer to the question you asked. This is how my networking started.
Design thinking was key to the current business model. Don’t wait too long to try something. Even if it’s not great it doesn’t matter. Part of this will teach you to learn from mistakes it will grab people’s interest. They will see what you are trying to do and will give valuable insights. This will help you evolve your designs quickly. Beware of analysis paralysis.
2. What is the best thing about being a member of empowering people. Network?
Friendships are more lasting with the epNetwork. Most of the social business support groups are well intended, but they don’t get together often enough. The first time you meet the group, they are all strangers, but as you see each other over the years, friendships start growing, you know their stories, and you find new ways to collaborate.
We also have immensely benefited and enjoyed the various workshops they have offered and appreciate their efforts to do more ongoing networking and workshop gathering than other networks we have been part of.
3. What drives you personally to keep your social business running?
Impact was why SolarTurtle was started. I knew that making a lasting impact was a tall order, so I had to find the positive in every situation. The pain and suffering will push you forward as long as you can keep learning and evolving. Even if you do not succeed, you might inspire someone who can. So the longer you go the more people you can inspire. Social change is a movement and not a person, so don’t try this alone. Others’ positive impact will count towards your own and helps get you up in the mornings.
- epAward Winner 2016
- SEED Award for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development – Winner 2016
- Africa Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering – Shortlisted 2017
- Africa Utility Week, Most Innovative Technology of the Year – Winner 2017
- SA Innovation Summit, Inventors Garage Award – Winner 2017
- Mergon Group, Nation Builder Award – Winner 2018