Roger Boniface (29) is one of South Africa’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The founder of EDISIM, a training provider that uses simulation to bring real-world learning experiences to the classroom, convinced Africa’s business schools to include his service into their curriculum. Club Africa discussed ‘entrepreneurship’ with Boniface, one of 30 young African business people featured on Forbes’ Africa ‘Under 30 Business’ list.
At 29, one could already call Boniface a ‘serial entrepreneur’. The South African started EDISIM, but did not leave it at that. He also founded Artson, an events company that hosts art and wine tasting experiences. And JCB, a small textile wholesaler concentrating on the promotional market.
EDISIM is about business simulations. What did you see that no one else saw?
“Business simulations transform the way students learn by giving then the opportunity to run a real-world business without any of the real-world risks. They give students the opportunity get hands on experience in a competitive, engaging and realistic environment. Imagine a flight simulator for business people.”
“From my experiences in the US, I had some theoretical knowledge but had no experience on how to put it into action. I started contacting Universities to see how many of them used simulations in their courses. And when contacting them many of them had no idea what I was talking about or what a simulation was. I started to realise I was an early mover in this space and wanted to get verification that people in SA would be interested and benefit from a simulation. I piloted a simulation to a small, diverse group and they loved it. We ended up staying for an extra 3 hours as the group wanted to play the simulations longer and after the pilot I knew I had to take on this opportunity.”
How did you turn this into a real business?
“My first big client was a top Business School in South Africa and they included it in an executive programme which I ran. The simulation received excellent feedback and the delegates loved it. It was a risk for the Business School to try something so new with someone so young, younger than all the delegates, but the risk paid off. The following programme doubled in numbers and the simulation became the core of the programme.”
At 29, is there a millennial-way-of-doing-business that works for you?
“There is when it comes to marketing emails, SEO, social media and being in someone’s digital space. I believe the power of design is underestimated and things need to look good, first impressions are everything. With this said you often get one chance so make sure you are ready for what may come as word of mouth, for me, is still the most powerful marketing tool.”
What makes entrepreneurship worthwhile & fun to you?
“Being an entrepreneur allows me to bring ideas to life and have no two days are alike. The ability to be dynamic and get up and go no matter the circumstances makes me feel alive and I would no have it any other way.”
What about the other business, the art & wine tasting? How does that fit in your entrepreneurship profile?
“Entrepreneurship for me is the ability to see an opportunity and capitalize on it. Artson, apart from painting and wine tasting is actually an experience, people buy the experience. We believe that by creating the right environment people will to reignite their creativity and make new friends, something they are searching for. Our events are Saturday evenings which does not distract me from my other businesses.”
And the textile wholesale business?
“If you can compete in the textile trade you can compete in any business, as I believe this is one of the most competitive industries to be involved in. Running a textile wholesaler will teach anyone very quickly about the complexities of business. JCB Wholesale allows me the flexibility I need to run all three businesses and hopefully a fourth by the end of the year.”
“I can't say much yet as certain things need to be finalised but it is helping solve the energy crisis in Africa.”