He has established and managed a successful business, initiated a social media campaign which led to a large truck transporting much needed supplies to a fire ravaged Knysna, and been nominated for an award for young entrepreneurs. 

It’s hard to believe the young man who has achieved all this is only 17 years old. And, judging by all his successful endeavours, Tony McPherson’s future in business is bright.

The well-spoken Somerset West youth was recently nominated as one of the 16 young entrepreneurs in the province for the Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award of the Small and Medium Enterprise Association of South Africa’s (SMESA) annual awards. McPherson has been named as one of the top three finalists for the competition, with the winner set to be announced in early next month.

“I am ecstatic to be nominated and a finalist in the competition,” he says.

“When I received the call informing me of the nomination, and that I am a finalist, I was speechless for a few seconds and shocked that someone had nominated me, as my business is relatively small. I am, however, honoured and humbled to be recognised at this level.”

The Parel Vallei High School pupil established his business, McPherson Consultancy, just over 18 months ago. The core focus of the business is marketing and the idea was born when the then 15-year-old realised teenagers in today’s society have an advantage over the teens of a generation back, as a result of social media. “I saw a gap in the market as I realised teenagers have a different approach to the way things should be done,” he says. “They spend eight hours a day on social media, so who better to run social media marketing campaigns.

“I started small, focusing on managing businesses’ social media platforms, but the business soon grew as I started building websites and structuring marketing campaigns for businesses.”

McPherson believes the more traditional forms of marketing, such as radio and print advertising are outdated, while social media is the strongest marketing tool available. He says these platforms’ advantage is their controllability, in terms of the things being said of one’s business and its products and services. “Remove the negatives and keep the positives,” he says.

One of his biggest feats was the work he conducted along with ATS Transport in Paardevlei during the Knysna fires in June. Through social media and various other means, McPherson rallied the community to donate supplies – food, water, clothes, blankets and more – and within 24 hours a 26-link truck transported the much needed goods to the Southern Cape town.

Furthermore, he and his younger brother Keegan (12) have teamed up to supply homeless people in the Helderberg with Give Responsibly vouchers, which gives them access to accommodation at Somerset West Night Shelter, food, clean clothes, a hot shower and a social worker.

Keegan started using his pocket money to buy, make and distribute sandwiches to the homeless (“SW youngster displays selfless generosity”, DistrictMail, 9 June 2016). The siblings then joined forces with the voucher project. “Tony is more of a funder in his younger brother’s project,” mom Lynda says.

Of her son’s achievements thus far, the proud mother says: “We are very proud of him. We have always taught our children to be independent and to use the facilities available to them to better themselves. Tony has achieved a lot for his age, and I am certain he will continue to do better. His principles and morals form a base for him to be stronger in the future.”

While he continues to grow his business in leaps and bounds, the Grade 11 pupil still needs to give equal attention to his academics and other extramural activities, such as serving on his school’s ATKV Committee and participating in Redenaars. “It is all about balancing my time but it sometimes is a power struggle, as I want to be focusing all my attention on my business.”

Asked whether he uses social media to market his business, he promptly replies “no”. “I do not want my clients to compare the marketing I do for my business with the campaigns I structure for their companies. For my business, I generally use word of mouth.”

His advice to youths sitting on ideas that could become successful businesses is to take a leap of faith. “Step out there and take the chance; you will be surprised by the outcome,” he says. 

“If you do not try, you will never know. I was hesitant and thought people would laugh at me because I was only 15 years old, but I took the chance. Get involved, get out there and just try.”

Article by Tasmin Cupido , Helderberg Media