Lowveld Big Change: Here are the top 10 finalists

Irma Green, Helen Thrush, Ettiene Pretorius, Lisa Sheard and Oupa Pilane.

MBOMBELA – The Lowveld Big Change mentee is only two weeks away from being announced.

The 109 entrants for the programme, which aims to put small and upcoming entrepreneurs in contact with business successes to help them change their game, were narrowed down to 25 last week.

One mentee will be selected and get the opportunity to be mentored by 26 local successful business people in a variety of fields.

He or she will also share their new knowledge with the broader society in Lowvelder, on radio and online blogs for everyone to benefit.

The panel sifting through the entries indicated that they were surprised at the number and quality thereof. Initially the top 25 were to win a business-development programme as presented by the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut and sponsored by the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT).

But Ms Linda Grimbeek, chief operating officer at the chamber says the quality was of such high standard that they decided to add an additional five.

The 30 winners, who will start the course in die middle of January are: Nicolette van Gelder, Morné Green, Lizelle Grobler, Warwick Barltrop, Bheki Ngema, Mfundo Nyambi, Adrie Reinecke, Janel Coetzee, Phephsile Maseko, Nita-Louise Bester, Liselle Bouwer, Johan Patterson, Mary-Ann Marais, Johan Cronjé, Llewellyn Barton, Manda Gomez, Patric Mashego, Samkela Stamper, Roelof du Plooy, Bouwer van Aardt, Jennifer Schormann, Ettienne Roux, Thulani Freeman, Lindi Schutte, Keith Deyer, Daleen Mulder, Gillian Lombard, Stanley Mashaba, Yolanda Welthagen and Blake Beilings.

This past week, the five-man panel interviewed the top-10 finalists.

Lowveld Big Change founder Ettiene Pretorius was joined by Irma Green from Lowveld Media, auditor Helen Thrush, Lisa Sheard, executive director of tourism at the KLCBT and Oupa Pilane of the Guma Group.
Adrie Reinecke Lowveld Big ChangeAdrie Reinecke (43) is a property developer for national government. She found the concept of Lowveld Big Change so positive that she had to take a chance on pitching her idea to establish a one-stop property shop with consultants, real-estate agents, conveyers and lawyers to solve problems for anyone looking to buy, build or develop property in the area.






Bouwer van Aardt Lowveld Big ChangeBouwer van Aardt (28) is the general manager of his parents’ Megapaints store in Lydenburg. He entered because he wanted to learn from the best. His idea is to set up a shopping centre for small local retailers and experts in do-it-yourself and maintenance areas. This will give the small businessmen a market in making it convenient for prospective clients.


Janel Coetzee Lowveld Big ChangeJanel Coetzee (25) is currently a pharmaceuticals rep. She has big dreams to change the way Lowvelders recycle waste. She says when she recently attended a performance-booster programme, it forced her to re-evaluate her goals. “It forced me to think what I really want to do, what my dreams are. I want to be an entrepreneur and do my own thing.”






Jennifer Schormann Lowveld Big ChangeJennifer Schormann (47) thinks Lowveld Big Change is a fantastic initiative. Her proposal is a community art project, whereby the community will create inspirational public art together. Not only will it beautify the city, but also “elevate and change perspectives and give hope and for the whole city to take ownership and pride in the city”. She also wants to create iconic images, from which to make souvenirs to represent the future world-class city.


Johan Cronje Lowveld Big ChangeJohan Cronjé (44) used to oversee the provincial department of agriculture’s farmer-development programme. He recently started farming with baby marrows. He has managed to give 80 people work on a 7,5-hectare farming project in Tonga, and he wants to expand it. “I wanted to get involved in the community. How many people have no income, and are hungry? When you start working in a community you feel it. The most important thing is to create jobs.”
Liselle Bouwer Lowveld Big ChangeLiselle Bouwer (46) wants to utilise shipping containers in residential development. It is green and can be incorporated into a bigger house, create apartment buildings, used for low-cost housing, classrooms and shops. “The dynamics of entrepreneurs working together is phenomenal. Everyone has the ability to succeed, if they have the right mentor.”


Nita-Louise Bester Lowveld Big ChangeNita-Louise Bester (38) is the co-owner of Nkomazi Chicken Retailers. They own three Chicken Licken outlets in Mbombela, and one in Malalane. She wants to expand. “As an entrepreneur you do many different things. You have to make your own mistakes, but it good to be able to avoid something other people have already learnt. I want to approach new shops as new businesses. It is a 24-hour job, and the responsibility for your employees and their families are huge.”


Phephsile Maseko Lowveld Big ChangePhephsile Maseko (41) runs a rural development organisation in Nkomazi. She has the noble and innovative business ideas to help women use their indigenous knowledge and understanding of a certain plant to manufacture unique skincare products. She won’t say which plant, as it is in the process of being trademarked.


Roelof du Plooy Lowveld Big ChangeRoelof du Plooy (25) is the co-owner of Roelof’s Fresh Fish. His dream is to expand the current sushi corner to a sushi and oyster bar, and franchise the high-end restaurant. So far, the town has responded very positively to this fresh-fish store, allowing him to move to a larger premises at Crossing centre soon.


Thulani Freeman Lowveld Big Change


Thulani Freeman (33) runs a small business-management training hub in Barberton, where he helps entrepreneurs learn the additional skills they need to succeed in business. “I wanted the exposure and mentoring to help me expand.” He knows having a mentor is valuable. “There are so many things young entrepreneurs don’t know.” In this way he is giving back to his community.


• Once the panel have deliberated, three will be invited to the KLCBT Awards where the ultimate candidate for Lowveld Big Change will be announced on October 30.

Mireille de Villiers

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