When a new business meets a pressing need in society, makes money and simultaneously improves the lives of others, you know you have a winning recipe. Iyeza Health, owned by entrepreneurial duo Sizwe Nzima and Siraaj Adams, has achieved just that and won the pair the title of Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners, for 2017.
Iyeza (which means both ‘medicine’ and ‘it is coming’) Health has its roots in Iyeza Express, a bicycle courier business started by Sizwe when he was just 21 years old. Sizwe grew up with his grandparents in Khayelitsha and one of his responsibilities was to fetch their chronic medication at the local clinic. “Looking around me, I saw people who were old, people who were working or had children, and all of them were struggling to get to the clinic. I realised there was a problem and I thought, let me come up with a solution – and that’s Iyeza Express,” says Sizwe.
Since then, Iyeza Express has grown to become Iyeza Health, an umbrella business for Iyeza Express, as well as a range of digital healthcare software solutions and the provision of self-testing diagnostic devices. Iyeza Health’s web-based platform, which allows customers to order HIV self-testing kits online, is now the leading e-commerce platform for HIV self-testing in South Africa and distributes over 3 000 kits nationwide every month.
Soon after Iyeza Express was founded in 2013, Sizwe approached Siraaj Adams to act as a mentor and to assist with the technical and compliance aspects of the business. Since then, their team has grown to a total of 10 members. “We have a logistics team of riders, and a back-end team that looks after IT, business development and quality assurance,” says Sizwe.
The Iyeza Express business model is simple, but very effective. “Every morning, we pick up prescribed medication at the clinic on the client’s specific day and then we deliver it to their doorstep for a low minimal fee of R20,” explains Sizwe. Medication which needs to remain cool is packed in a cooler box with an ice pack and a digital thermometer.
“This is not only my job, it’s my life,” adds Sizwe. “It makes me happy every day, because people smile and they really appreciate it when you deliver medication to them.” In future, the delivery service will also offer an automated, fully-tracked, logistics service which will allow clients to monitor the delivery of their medicines from the clinic to their door, similar to an Uber model for medicine.
Although Iyeza Health is now firmly established, the duo has encountered their fair share of challenges along the way. “We soon learnt that cash flow is very important and that it’s essential to obtain paying clients. We are also constantly having to prove that a small business from Khayelitsha is able to service clients all over South Africa,” says Sizwe.
The business model of Iyeza Health is certainly sound. According to Sizwe, 79% of South Africans make use of public healthcare facilities, which puts tremendous strain on the public health clinics. “The problem at the clinics is not the staff, it’s the sheer number of people who use the services. We’re helping to alleviate that pressure by providing a service that takes the medication directly to the people, without them having to visit the clinic or hospital,” he says. The result is happy clients and happy healthcare staff. “It’s also really good to know that we’re helping people to remain compliant with their chronic medication schedules,” adds Siraaj.
The business philosophy of Iyeza Health is ‘Doing good is good business’. “If you’re doing something good for the people and the community that is good business, because you’re adding value to people’s lives,” says Sizwe.
However, it’s more than just about providing an essential service to the community. Iyeza Health also runs a corporate social investment project whereby they donate sanitary products to underprivileged girls in matric. By keeping girls in school in matric for as many days as possible, they hope to do their bit to increase the pass rate.
The entrepreneurs also have a very important message for the youth and those starting out in business. “As young people, we need to start moving into a mindset where we don’t only focus on money, but we also focus on the life challenges that we experience. We need to think of how we can solve these challenges and problems through business,” says Sizwe.