“I grew up on a farm in Paarl South Africa, close to Franschhoek where my family ancestor Jacques Malan arrived from France and settled in 1680 to be a farmer. I matriculated at Paarl Boys High and studied economics before I (of course) continued the family legacy to grow food. Which makes me the 11th generation to “make a living from the land.” But a change to this model was inevitable after 300 years, and in 2000 we started to “corporatise” and integrate our farming operations when I co-founded a business called Fruits Unlimited
This later led to the formation of the Unlimited Group (www.unlimited-group.co.za) in 2006 which was the business that I devoted my time for the last 12 years. It grew from primarily being a fragile start-up in 2000 to a turnover of R1 Billion and employing more than 1000 people. It is now a group of 7 operating businesses in various food sectors. We did not acquire businesses – we started all of them. And we started and failed at far more than the 7 successful companies we have now- by my last count, more than 30. So roughly a 20% success rate – which I am told is not bad. I have experienced the “agony and the ecstasy” of starting and closing a business. And there is nothing like the feeling you have when you are starting one! Creating something from nothing, being excited about the potential, dreaming about the impact it will have, employing people who need jobs, building a team. These are the reasons that have always driven me to be an entrepreneur – not money.
In 2019 I started what I would like to see is the “second part of my entreprenuerial journey.” I exited the Unlimited Group as Managing Director in 2020, and joined EXEO Capital full time in July 2020. EXEO Capital is a private equity fund manager, that focusses on investing in high-impact entrepreneurs- and businesses in South- and Sub-Saharan Africa. In essence, I am now investing in businesses like the one that I founded and ran for the past 20 years. Life has a strange way of coming full circle.
Throughout the last 20 years, I have met wonderful people in business and learned most of what I know through watching them, talking to them and making many many mistakes purely on my own. I also joined the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) and got to meet even more amazing piers and mentors to benchmark myself against. The process continues, and I am constantly reminded about how much I still have to learn. Continuous learning remains one of the great joys of life…and something that is so much easier through technology. Podcasts are a great way of tapping the wisdom of successful and interesting people. And that is my hope for this podcast. My privilege is to have built a network of amazing people – and through this podcast, I hope to share that with you, and to dig even deeper into the makeup of people who makes a dent in their little part of the universe. These are the conversations that I want to share with the world.
Rene Descartes famously said: “Reading books is like having conversations with the finest minds of past centuries”. Podcasts are actually precisely that…actual conversations with the finest minds of our time.“