Cape Town, Day 6

Tuesday, March 14

Our last official day of the program, which began with a visit with Gareth Duncan of GD Industries.  What did you learn from his presentation and what did it provide for you?  We then finished the program with our closing dinner at Sevruga. What were your take-aways from today?  And are there any final observations as well?

And a brief word of thanks to all of you for participating in this year’s Global South Africa. Cape Town is an impressive city, with a mix of development vs. underdevelopment, and an unique challenge to grow amid low GDP, high unemployment, and historical racial issues.  I appreciated the opportunity to experience South Africa with all of you and enjoyed the learning curve along the way.  Orlando




32 Responses to “Cape Town, Day 6”

  1. Phil Says:

    Gareth. What an interesting presentation. This visit further enforced some of the themes we received during the Delheim visit, although Gareth had a unique twist. He restated the lack of support from the government for entrepreneurs in South Africa, but instead of sitting back and giving up, he decided to put his fate in his own hands and do whatever it takes to succeed. Although his focus seemed primarily financial, his drive was promising to potentially begin a movement for entrepreneurs in South Africa.

    The closing dinner was bitter sweet. We all made new friends, enjoyed once in a lifetime experiences, and left with a new perspective on life. Unfortunately, the next thing ahead of us was the 25+ hour journey back to Texas.

  2. Samantha Frapart Says:

    GD industries is in store for a rude awakening in the next five years (not even a three-year plan? Oye vay), but I am glad to see that there is a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit in the SA youth community.

    This was also the day where some of us visited Robben Island, which felt like an important way to wrap up to our time in Cape Town. Robben Island was home to hundred of Black men fighting for their right to equality. Even while imprisoned, the greatest punishments seem come to those who sought freedom of speech and political expression while on the Island – both rights I believe Americans often take for granted. It was inspiring to see that, despite the extreme hardships they faced, these men continued their fight to end apartheid. Though we learned that the struggle between Whites and Blacks in Cape Town continues on, I’m more confident now that continued growth will come through the passion and will of the SA Black community.

  3. Eugene Shearer Says:

    Gareth was an interesting person. During our class presentations before we went to South Africa, I was a bit skeptical of Gareth’s businesses. It was hard to find information on him, but hearing his presentation, I realized that he was just a struggling entrepreneur learning to make his way. His business interests seemed very interesting and it highlighted that the US is a very business friendly environment while South Africa had a very difficult business environment, especially for entrepreneurs.

    The closing dinner was awesome. I really wished we had longer in the country together. We didn’t socialize as a class too much while in Austin, but I had a great time meeting a lot of other people in Cape Town, many of which I would’ve never talked to if it weren’t for this trip. It made me wish I had come earlier on the trip.

  4. Sam Says:

    Gareth was quite the character. While I was not convinced by some of his answers, I absolutely respect him for striking out on his own to pursue his passions. That level of fearlessness and self-belief, despite very little support from government or a local startup scene, was impressive. Do I understand how suits, brand creation, and media strategy will all blend together next year or in five years? No clue. But Gareth has created his own path and by his parameters for success, he is doing well.

    The final dinner was bittersweet, since I felt that our group grew much more close in the days after Lutzville/Doringbaai. Luckily, I’ll always think of our trip every time I hear “Africa” by Toto.

  5. John Says:

    Gareth and Gary: Dream Team.

    Without delving too deep into GD Industries’ business plan, I was intrigued by Gareth’s views on receiving social welfare for his business. As a ‘colored’ person in the eyes of society, he had access to resources that he wasn’t sure if he should take advantage of. It highlighted a major challenge of social programs, how sometimes the intended recipients are reluctant to be involved. Gareth didn’t want to feel like a charity case, but also recognized the purpose for these policies and in the end seemed convinced to utilize some of the assistance.

  6. John Says:

    Gareth and Gary: Dream Team.

    Without delving too deep into GD Industries’ business plan, I was intrigued by Gareth’s views on receiving social welfare for his business. As a ‘colored’ person in the eyes of society, he had access to resources that he wasn’t sure if he should take advantage of. It highlighted a major challenge of social programs, how sometimes the intended recipients are reluctant to be involved. Gareth didn’t want to feel like a charity case, but also recognized the purpose for these policies and in the end seemed convinced to utilize some of the assistance.

  7. Tyler Says:

    In addition to getting to know South Africa, I sincerely enjoyed building new friendships with everyone in our travel group. Given our busy schedules back home, it can be easy to fall into a trap of superficial interactions sometimes. I felt like I got to know several people very well, and that is an experience that will endure beyond this semester and this degree program. Thanks for everything, Orlando!

  8. Linda Says:

    Gareth struck me as young, hungry and foolish. But maybe some naivete is what it takes to be an entrepreneur in that business environment. I was turned off when he discounted friends and colleagues who weren’t “brave enough” to start their own businesses. But the talk at least provided some insight into what roadblocks an entrepreneur faces in Cape Town.

    I went to Robben Island that day which was very moving. I think it should be a part of the school itinerary because it is a monument to everything South Africa is trying to achieve post-Apartheid. Our tour guide was a former political prisoner there and showed us Mandela’s cell, among other sites. I was surprised to learn that he lives on the island today, along with many other former prisoners.

  9. Bill Quach Says:

    Gareth shared many personality traits with my last boss, a 2x successful entrepreneur who came to the USA as a teenaged refugee. His lack of experience was evident, but I believe his drive and willingness to take risks and learn from failure will take him far. GD’s style contrasted with the hyper intellectual, calculated, and largely risk averse style I often see in myself and some MBA peers. I believe the business world needs different kinds of people to thrive and that his input was valuable to me. The closing dinner at Sevruga was much appreciated and a wonderful and tasty way to end our time together in South Africa. The trip blew away my expectations, the country was amazing, the group was amazing, and it was difficult to bring such an amazing trip to an end. Thank you Orlando and Rebecca!

  10. Caley Says:

    The part of Gareth’s presentation that I thought was valuable was when he was discussing social issues and government policies South Africa. All the stuff “about him” (ie. 90%) I found to be very sales-y. I think he presented to us like we were potential investors instead of business students, which is understandable but not ideal. I had a wonderful time at the final group dinner. It was a perfect opportunity to reflect on our experience, strengthen new friendships and eat lots of sushi.

  11. Garry Ferguson Says:

    Tuesday, 14 March: What can I say about this day? I’ll start by saying GD Industries own, Gareth Duncan, eviscerated my notion of fashion. He proved in front of my peers that I was clueless and had no business wearing dress clothes that did not fit properly nor reflect contemporary styles. I was jacked up! I am thankful for the advice. Having no situational awareness regarding fashion has probably caused me to lose untold opportunities to make friends because I looked so ridiculous. Because of Gareth’s incisive fashion sense, I decided to get his contact information so he can continue to give me tips on how to look my best in today’s business world because when you look good, you feel good and you play good as I was oft reminded by my high school football coaches.

    As for Gareth himself, I admire his ambition, and though there is more substance to him than I initially thought before meeting him, I still think his endeavors lack in that department a bit.

  12. Parnali Says:

    Though our meeting with Gareth Duncan of GD Industries was certainly more light- hearted than the other visits on our trip, I did really admire his drive to succeed. While I may not agree with all of his business tactics (i.e. he candidly spoke of manipulating his taxes and not necessarily having a plan B in his marketing plans), I really respect his wanting to be an entrepreneur and wanting to think strategically regarding the business sector completely on his own. To be so driven in an environment where others are lazy is not easy. To be so driven, strong-willed and determined in a land where the majority is not is an extremely admirable trait that I think will certainly allow him to succeed and be respected in the community long term.

  13. Mansi Narula Says:

    After having spent some time researching Gareth and trying to understand what really made up GD industries it was a treat to meet the man behind all of the memes. He is exactly like how I imagined him and his talk was very similar to the local TED talk he did that can be found on youtube. He can clearly speak well in front of an audience, I just found the content to be a lot of observations without any support. I wish he explained his business lessons with specific experiences from running his businesses. Overall though, his ambition is clear and I am curious to see how his business does in the near future. Lastly, I’m glad that he was willing to share his story and openly discuss the lack of government support for non black people.

  14. Alana Says:

    Garreth’s energy and ambition was something I connected with during his talk. Although he did not have a formal business education, he was eager to learn and figure out how to be successful. Garreth also loves his suits! His passion was evident when he spoke about this business. Our discussion showed how valuable MBA programs are for leaders of companies. The conversation around brand, operations, supply chain and financials demonstrated our understanding of the importance of business drivers.

  15. Nick Eyer Says:

    I appreciated Gareth’s motivation and his desire to succeed in business. Just from hearing him speak and listening to his story, I can easily understand why he wants to run a business (or three!). While at times it did feel a bit too vague for my liking, I enjoyed observing his enthusiasm. However, the diversity in his businesses and the apparent absence of overall business plans may speak to difficulties for entrepreneurs in South Africa. If nothing else, I do hope he is able to continue to inspire youth and young professionals, and help businesses grow in South Africa.

    Our dinner that evening was the perfect way to cap off the roller coaster ride that was our Global Connections South Africa trip. The trip formally ended much like it started – with great food and even better company!

    The trip flew by way too fast. I am amazed with how much we packed into a week and a half, with great variety in our experiences as well. A big huge thank you to Orlando, Rebecca and Funda for everything!

  16. Micah Says:

    Hmmm, not my favorite presentation. I’ll chalk it up to being tired…?

    The closing dinner was great. It was clear by the seating arrangements how many new friendships were made on the trip. That is something I think we are all grateful for.

    While the dinner marked the end of our trip, I was excited to continue on to Kruger for safari the next day.

    Spoiler alert, safari was amazing.

  17. Caroline Says:

    I had THREE breakfast plates this morning before going to GD Industries. That was because I had just come back from the amazing, yet slightly treacherous sunrise hike up Lions Heads. What a way to great the day! I had the best time hiking up with Rebecca, Funda, her husband Erkut, and Micah. The views from the top were gorgeous and well worth the unexpected roping descent we had to do.

    GD industries was my least favorite. While I appreciate the fact that he is an entrepreneur in what seems to a very complicated and declining entrepreneurial environment, I did not feel he was of the caliber that we should have had.

    The closing dinner was very fun though and I can say that I have definitely made many new friends as a result of the trip!

  18. Preeta Maitra Says:

    Oof, this was a pretty disappointing morning. I dragged my husband to this session and at the end he said “I feel like you just made me sit through a time-share sales pitch.” I thought that was a pretty accurate description. Gareth sounded like a broken record, always giving the same non-answers to our probing questions. He chalked up his “success” to working harder and having better ideas (all of his ideas were based on being a lower cost option, not exactly ground breaking) than others. I’m curious to see how his business is doing in a few years time, and honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s still doing alright because, at the very least, he does have hustle.

    I also visited Robben Island on this day, and I’m so happy I made the time for it on our trip. A lot of the social issues we had discussed throughout our time in South Africa really came to a head on this tour. The political prisoners were fighting for some of the same rights and freedoms that we take for granted here in the United States. It was heart breaking to hear how these prisoners, and their families, were treated – all because they wanted to make life better for their fellow people. There is a lot of historical injustice that the people of South Africa are still unpacking and working through. The country seems to have such great potential to be a powerhouse economy, but I think it will take some time to overcome some of the intrinsic racial barriers and animosity that its people are facing.

  19. Samantha Toth Says:

    Gareth was interesting. He definitely fits what I would call the “American-style” of entrepreneurship, which is to say that he seems to be very creative and hard-working but also has the luxury of pursuing these ventures with a safety net (i.e. wealthy parents, a great education, etc.) in place. This is in contrast to the entrepreneurship we had seen the previous day in Heart Capital. In the afternoon we visited Robben Island, which was one of the most memorable experiences of the visit. The tours of the prison and conducted by ex-political prisoners, many of whom never left the island even after the prison closed in 1996. The opportunity to hear firsthand about our guide’s experience as a member of the ANC fighting Apartheid, and his thoughts on the current state of the country, were incredibly informative.

  20. Renee Weissend Says:

    Gareth sure does have a presence! When he walked in, it was like he owned the room. Perhaps it was his suit! In any event, it was wonderful to listen to him speak about his life, career and viewpoints. As a colored in South Africa, it was encouraging to see such a motivated person determined to make an impact. I particularly liked Gareth’s comments on entrepreneurship and venture capital funding in the country, or lack thereof. Hopefully, South Africa and its government will create a more “friendly” environment for entrepreneurs to take the leap, go out on their own, and create jobs in new unique ways.

  21. Rooma Chi Says:

    The visit with GD industries was frustrating because our class asked some great questions which were very direct and relevant to the GD industries business. However, Gareth managed to deflect all those questions. What was especially concerning to me is his inability to explain how his three businesses link together. It doesn’t seem clear to him that you don’t need to own a marketing company in order to market your line of suits. I think Gareth started his presentation well by acknowledging he is early in his career and I hope he has success with his suit business.

    At the closing dinner, I was appreciative of the new friends I made on the trip. While the Doringbaai and Lutzville experience did not quite go as planned, I think it was instrumental in bringing us all a little closer together. It was hard to say goodbye but I was also excited for the next adventure in the trip: a South African safari!

  22. Kristin Johnson Says:

    I admire Gareth for his tenacity and ambition–but I’m pretty sure that he is the definition of “fake it ’til you make it.” He dodged almost every question that was asked by our group, and his financials really didn’t add up. We are obviously super critical business students, but I wasn’t that impressed with his various businesses and shady answers.

  23. Adriana Penalba Says:

    Gareth definitely hustles, but I don’t know if he was the appropriate speaker for a group of MBA students. I could tell that he was very excited to speak to us, so hopefully some of our questions help him think about what questions potential investors or employees will ask as he grows his business. I enjoyed the closing dinner. It was very nice to relfect on the trip with new friends!

  24. Moni Says:

    I was excited to hear from Gareth, especially since he was one of the first non-white South African Entrepreneurs we heard from. I wish we could have heard more about his perspective on Apartheid and racial issues, than his diverting answers on the suit /media business. After GD Industries, a few of us took an uber to Woodstock. Our uber driver was quite quirky and animated and seemed to know everybody on the street. He said Woodstock was where the original gangsters were from. It’s clear there was a “gentrifying” transition feel to the neighborhood. There was clear poverty in the area but next to hipster shopping markets.

    The closing dinner was a nice way to end our trip. In contrast to our welcome dinner, we sat with a mix of new friends.

  25. Kavita Says:

    This visit to GD was interesting, because I almost left the presentation feeling like I knew less about the company than when I first got to the building. He didn’t start the conversation by introducing his company. Gareth didn’t really answer a single question that was asked by our class, and for the questions that were answered, he did come off a bit cocky at times with his responses. Lastly, I’m just a bit skeptical about his approach to run three unrelated businesses and claim that they are all related to one another because of “marketing.”

  26. Swati Seth Says:

    The last official day ended with meeting Gareth Duncan from GD Industries. His presentation clearly showed that there is a wave of entrepreneurship in South Africa. However, the government is not as supportive as could be to favor this trend. After the presentation we went to the Slavery Museum where it was good to read the history and stories of the pre and post apartheid era. The museum mentioned that a lot of slaves were brought in from Asia (South and South East) which made me understand why I saw so much of a South Asian cultural influence in the area – be it demographically or even food wise.

  27. Baoxin Says:

    It seemed that Gareth did not have a solid business plan to connect his three businesses together. To be honest, I don’t buy in what he said, although he is an enthusiastic presenter with passion. Swati, Alana and I went to the slave lodge right after the GD visit. It provided information on the South African slave trade and its role on the country’s development. After visiting the museum, Swati and I had a south Indian food as our meal. It’s interesting to have a native Indian introducing traditional Indian foods while eating.

    At last but not least, I want to say thank you to everyone for your patience and kindness to me. I am an extreme introvert and always find it hard to join a conversation, but I really enjoyed having such a great journey with you guys.

  28. Lauren Busch Says:

    Gareth had all the ego and not a lot of business plan to back it up. I did admire his optimism and general attitude towards being successful in the South African business environment. Ambition like he had seems to be rare in South Africa.
    It was interesting to hear how he handled Q&A. At times, it almost felt defensive – like he thought we were trying to attack him with our questions. I wish he would have been more open in some of his struggles and the fact he didn’t have it all figured out. The vulnerability would have added more value and authenticity to the session.
    I’m anxious to see where Gareth ends up in five years. He’s working on several businesses that don’t seem to be closely integrated with one another. But who knows, Gareth and his memes could be blowing up all our news feeds!

  29. Frank Jia Says:

    I admire this entrepreneur who steps out his comfort zone to pursuit what he passionate about, especially under the grim domestic business environment. However the room temperature was too low and the air conditioning was situated just above me making it hard to concentrate on the conversation. On that afternoon a couple of us went to Muizenberg beach for surfing, that was my first time surfing and I have learned that it is both an exciting sport and an excellent workout. I fall in love with this sport and will find opportunities to do more. The closing dinner at Sevruga was wonderful and tasty, overall I really enjoyed our time together in South Africa. I have built up friendships with my classmates, visited Africa for the first time and engaged with people from completely different culture and language background. Also, this trip reminds me that, as the world advances and as we lead and advance the world, we should be mindful of those who have been left behind.

  30. Brian Murphy Says:

    GD seemed to lack focus. Was he a designer, a suit-maker, a marketer? Who knows. He certainly had a lot of hustle, which I appreciated. If you have a lot of energy and a nice suit, you can probably make a lot of money.

    As a colored man, I think he felt the government wasn’t really looking out for him.

  31. Katie Thigpen Says:

    I don’t really think that Gareth was prepared for true business questions and answers–I think this is a testament to what Gareth said: that the SA government does not value or train entrepreneurs, which is terrible because entrepreneurs foster innovation! It is one of the reasons I am so proud of the business model in America–if you have a great idea, you have the ability to find funding and pursue your idea (not that many really work but you still have the opportunity). I hope SA changes it’s tune in terms of e-ship.

    I absolutely loved this trip. It was beautiful, it was eye-opening, it was a bonding experience (met some amazing second years and strengthened my relationship with a lot of first years as well!). I’ll be back to SA at some point because it has a little part of my heart!

  32. Natasha Mayekar Says:

    I did not get a clear understanding of how Gareth’s different businesses connect together, but I hope that he has the opportunity to do well for himself, given the social and political climate that his business operates in. I would say that our trip to Robben Island during the afternoon was one of the highlights – it gave a deeper perspective into the racial issues that divided the country. I hope that this trip is incorporated into the schedule for future trips.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this trip from all aspects – learning about a new country, gaining new experiences, and making new friends.

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