University of Cape Town (UCT) alumnus Uzair Essack is one of the “revolutionary thinkers” and inspiring minds listed on the sixth annual Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list.
The 28-year-old founder and managing director of CapeCrops – a supplier of South African fruit and vegetables to roughly 25 countries around the world – was named one of the people who is “forging ahead with incredible, creative and profound strategies to shape our tomorrow”.
Essack, who described himself as a “born entrepreneur”, graduated with a BCom in Management Studies from UCT’s Faculty of Commerce in 2017.
UCT News spoke to him about his entrepreneurial journey and this notable achievement.
Niémah Davids (ND): When and how did your entrepreneurial journey start?
Uzair Essack (UE): I am a born entrepreneur. My father, his father and fathers before them were all entrepreneurs. I grew up spending most of my free time in their businesses, and that became my first school. I am the first one in my bloodline to obtain a degree.
“I am the first one in my bloodline to obtain a degree.”
ND: Why did you decide to start CapeCrops?
UE: I actually didn’t wake up one day and decide to start a fruit and vegetable export business. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was exporting pineapples to Saudi Arabia. I really liked the idea, saw the potential and decided to pursue it.
ND: Where did you clinch your first deal?
UE: In the [UCT] library. I spent a lot of time studying in the library between and after lectures, while at the same time trying to close deals and build my business. It became my first office because many of my first deals were made there.
ND: What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned since starting out?
UE: Always start small. By starting small, you have room to make mistakes and can learn from those mistakes in preparation for bigger deals.
Never give up. I thought about quitting hundreds of times because of the money I lost and because things were just not working out. However, if you have faith and perseverance, everything will fall into place.
“If you have faith and perseverance, everything will fall into place.”
ND: What, in your view, is the most important characteristic of a successful entrepreneur?
UE: You have to be realistic. You get those who are optimistic and you get those who are pessimistic – both come with pros and cons. But when you’re realistic, you see things for what they are and can act accordingly.
ND: How do you feel about being featured on the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list?
UE: This is by far my greatest achievement. To be recognised as one of the most influential business leaders in Africa under the age of 30 is something I thought could only happen in my dreams.
ND: As a UCT alumnus, how do you pay it forward?
UE: I mentor students and provide advice where needed, albeit not in a formal capacity. I’d love to be involved in a formal mentoring capacity.
Together with a few other UCT alumni, we also established a non-profit organisation called GetGiving. We work in under-resourced communities in Cape Town and host various initiatives, including food drives and career days.
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