The Mail & Guardian recognises iloveza.com's Co-Founder as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans
In a virtual reveal on social media on the evening of 24th June 2021, the Mail & Guardian newspaper announced their prestigious list of the Top 200 Young South Africans, and iloveza.com's Co-Founder, Ziyaad Plaatjes was among the list of young incredible innovators and trailblazers in South Africa.
Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans - Ziyaad Plaatjes, Co-Founder: iloveza.com
Image Courtesy Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans
The theme for this year was Resilience and Innovation for Excellence. The Mail & Guardian together with their partner, the National Lotteries Commission aim was to "celebrate excellence, inspire others and also take stock of how young people of this country responded to the new and unique challenges of the past year."
Ziyaad has constantly exhibited resilience and innovation, more especially during the past year, some of which can be seen with the After Fajr Grind Awards for SMMEs that he hosted in 2020.
Partners for this year's Top 200 include: National Lotteries Commission, Takealot, City of Johannesburg, Gauteng Provincial Legislature, Afrocentric Group, University of Johannesburg, University of Free State, University of Pretoria, Kaya FM, eNCA, Durban University of Technology, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship.
Part of the interview between Ziyaad and Mail & Guardian can be found below:
Tell us a little about your education background
I completed Matric in 2003 at Durban High School. After my mom passed away in the middle of my Matric year I decided to stay with my family in Durban, even though I was accepted and set to study at the University of Cape Town.
I initially started my Bachelor of Commerce in 2004 with majors in Finance and Management and completed two full years. At the beginning of my third year I switched my major from Finance to Industrial Psychology. I convinced the lecturers and the Dean of Humanities that I was capable of doing the Industrial Psychology courses concurrently in order to complete in the quickest time. I managed to complete all three years of Industrial Psychology in two years and at the end of 2007 I had completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
In 2012 while working for the Midrand Graduate Institute, I decided to study further. I completed my Bachelor of Commerce Honours in Business Management Degree within the same year.
I also completed the First Level Regulatory Examination for Representatives (RE1) in 2014, as I worked in the Financial Services Industry for a few years.
Tell us a bit about your work
I spread love and positivity through iloveza.com with the digital content that I create, by highlighting the good that South Africans are doing with the photos that I capture, videos that I record and articles that I write.
I find innovative ways to assist local entrepreneurs, start-ups, and any SMME to get more exposure in South Africa and Internationally. I use tools (and give them the iloveza.com spin) like interviews, articles, marketing strategies, advertising, mentorships, and competitions aimed at SMMEs, to help develop and create more awareness for these individuals and businesses.
My aim is to create sustainable employment for them, and those whom they employ which will hopefully lead to growth, and the possibility of job creation.
I also review everything from cars, accommodation, eateries, to tech products, movies, and events. This is to help South Africans make informed decisions before purchasing products or using a service, but it also assists visitors to the country to know where to go and what to do.
What’s been your proudest moment and the biggest mistake from which you’ve learnt a great deal?
Each new day becomes my proudest moment because with every new day I'm achieving new things, learning new things, and assisting new people.
If I had to pick one moment, it would have to be today when I opened up my mail to read that I had been nominated and shortlisted for such a prestigious award, the Mail and Guardian 200 Young South Africans. To know that I am making a difference in what I have been doing over the past 6 years, and to be recognised for it, is such an honour. Thank You.
My biggest mistake was listening to other people when it came to my career moves. I had been running a successful greeting card and graphic design business from the age of 13, for about 10 years. Instead of friends and family encouraging me to use the knowledge that I gained from my degree to further my business, I was persuaded to rather pursue a career at a large global firm "where my degree would be put to much better use". I listened to them thinking that they knew better than me, and ended up almost wasting away my twenties and probably the rest of my life from that one decision.
I am grateful for the experience that I gained working in those corporate companies as it has helped me with growing iloveza.com. I am also thankful that I took a stand and blew the whistle on the poor treatment (understatement) of graduates on corporate Graduate Programmes, because many companies have since changed the way that they run these programmes.
Besides not listening to others about my career decisions, what I've learnt a great deal about, is standing up for your rights and the rights of others. Doing this is very difficult, especially if you are going up against big corporates who have a lot of resources at their disposal. BUT if you know that it's right and it's going to make a difference in someone's life for the better, then there's nothing to fear because The Almighty is always on your side.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career?
The biggest surprise of my career is where I am today. If someone told me 10 years ago that this is what I would be doing, and how I would be impacting people's lives, I would not have believed them.
When I started iloveza.com it was at a time when not many people were very happy with South Africa because of the way the government was running the country. Online Stores were also a fairly new concept to South Africa. Now for me to start a company to promote the good about South Africa, why we love this country, and an online store that will help people sell products in South Africa and around the world, well the whole idea sounded ridiculous to everyone that I spoke to about it, but I went ahead and did it anyway.
The response has been phenomenal (All Praise to The Almighty), and every day people contact us to assist them, and I find new, innovative ways to help them. I'm surprised that something so small that was laughed at initially, turned into something so big.
What advice would you give to yourself ten years ago? (Or what advice would you give to someone ten years younger than you who would like to follow in your footsteps?)
It might sound cliché, but follow your passion. If you have a passion for something it makes it easier to do it, there are no boundaries. When I started this business I honestly didn't have a cent to my name but with hard work, my knowledge, experience, and most importantly my passion to assist others, there are now over 500 local and international businesses (and growing every day) who trust iloveza.com with their brand.
What is the one thing that drives you every morning to excel?
My family is the reason I get up each day, and do what I do.
My wife and my son have made it so easy for me to continue pursuing my goal, that my dream which is now a reality has become our life. They are definitely the driving force behind me andiloveza.com, and they help me to keep focussed and excel.
What is the impact you want to see in South Africa's future through your work?
The impact I want to see is a considerable reduction in unemployment (or even eradicated completely), and that graduates or anyone else don't have to stand on the side of the road with a board looking for a job.
I am trying to create sustainable employment for the individuals and businesses we assist at iloveza.com. This will filter down to those who they employ. The retention of staff saves companies a lot of money and helps the company and the people who work for them to develop and grow. With the growth there are possibilities of job creation. Hopefully this will help alleviate the unemployment crisis our country faces, which has a ripple effect on poverty and crime.
On top of that, I'm building iloveza.com for future generations, for my son's generation and for those who come after him. I have designed our business model in such a way that once we have enough funding, there are positions already setup for people to easily just fill and for them to grow in those positions.
I call iloveza.com "South Africa's Information Highway", but I'm still busy building the road to the highway. I feel that there is so much more that we can do with the right collaborations, investors, and resources.
She is an Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Change Agent, Published Contributing Author, Journalist, Marketing and Social Media Specialist, a Bachelor of Arts graduate, and has been writing since the age of 9.
Nabihah is passionate about Brand Awareness and Brand Loyalty and uses her knowledge in these fields together with her copywriting, editing and proof-reading skills to bring brands to life.
iloveza.com is a primary example of how she can build your brand.