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Business aces to finals

Two Somerset West business owners are both finalists of the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam.

Phillipa Geard of Recruit My Mom and James Barrington-Brown of NewSpace Systems are two of five Western Cape finalists in the competition that seeks to acknowledge and honour the country’s best entrepreneurs.

When Phillipa Geard became a mother, she never imagined that the business of motherhood would be the brainchild behind her very own business. Recognising that South African moms comprise a valuable portion of the country’s skilled labour force, Geard’s online recruitment agency, RecruitMyMom.co.za, fills a unique gap in the market and provides moms all over the country with the opportunity to juggle both parenthood and a successful career.

Having enjoyed a successful corporate career in brand and media management for an international company, Geard is no stranger to hard work and perseverance. After having given up her career to be a full-time mom, Geard launched a marketing consultancy company after the birth of her second child, where she could work her own hours.

It was during interactions with the moms at her children’s school, however, that the idea for RecruitMyMom.co.za came about.

Geard realised that there were plenty of moms who had walked a similar journey to her own – having built successful corporate careers, but choosing instead to dedicate their time to their children and families.

“Many moms would tell me that they envied my ability to work flexibly but opportunities in the corporate space for part-time or flexible full-time positions simply didn’t exist,” says Geard.

RecruitMyMom.co.za was launched in 2012 to uniquely and successfully meet a specific need among professional, skilled women wanting to return to work in a flexible capacity.

The agency is easily accessible online which means it can cater to all of South Africa. RecruitMyMom.co.za offers a personalised service for permanent, temporary and contracting positions. Employers are simply required to offer some kind of flexibility within the required position. Since launching five years ago, the agency has acquired nearly 50 000 skilled moms and thousands of registered employers to their database which includes over 150 skills ranging from accountants, actuaries and lawyers to people with digital, human resources and office support skills. From an initial one-woman show, the business has grown to employ eight full time staff who all work remotely from their home offices.

Just four years after launching his business, Barrington-Brown has put South African space engineering on the global map – trading across five continents. NewSpace Systems designs and manufactures sensors and actuators for spacecraft - and the team are determined to continue growing the business and the local space industry in Africa.

After acquiring the assets and intellectual property (IP) of his previous company in the United Kingdom after it went into liquidation, Barrington-Brown shipped the assets down to Cape Town in a container and set up his business in Somerset West. Today, the business has grown to such an extent that it is seeking larger premises to accommodate its growing production demands.

“The space market is moving away from traditional government-funded programmes, financed by space agencies, to more commercial, private companies using space assets to deliver an application or service,” says Barrington-Brown.

“We have achieved our growth through providing quality products that are manufactured to the highest international standards, yet at considerably lower costs through being based in South Africa,” he added.

As testament to their success, the company has signed R60 million worth of contracts since inception, exporting to 16 countries across five continents. In addition to contributing to the continued growth of global economies through space and technology solutions, NewSpace is also committed to driving education in maths, science and engineering – to ensure that future generations remain inspired by the prospect of space exploration and have the skills required to get involved.

To this end, apart from ad hoc CSI projects aimed at introducing young students to space exploration, NewSpace Systems is a dedicated employer – currently employing 21 full-time staff and one Masters in Engineering student intern.

“It has been a privilege to see our artisans, who have been upskilled to the highest quality levels for manufacturing, increase their pay grade through training and taking on added responsibility. Our engineers have also been exposed to new challenges for space product development that are not currently taught in South African universities.”

Barrington-Brown says that on the current growth trajectory, NewSpace Systems should reach around 50 employees in the next three to five years, but hopes to create a further 100 jobs, allowing them to explore new markets.

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