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Tuesday, 28 February 2017 14:53

Employee Profile: Deanne Friis-Smith | ESG Director

Deanne Friis-SmithEndeavor South Africa (Endeavor SA) is pleased to announce that Deanne Friis-Smith, our Entrepreneur Services Portfolio Manager has been promoted to Portfolio Director. In her five years with Endeavor SA, Deanne has been at the heart of the Endeavor community in the Western Cape.

Deanne has spear-headed Endeavor's network in the Western Cape, building an active community of highly successful entrepreneurs, mentors and partners. She has successfully piloted multiple new initiatives that have become signature events today across our local offices.

We asked Deanne about her Endeavor experience over the last five years:

1. How long have you worked at Endeavor?

My career at Endeavor started off as a part-time resource in 2011 then moved into a full-time role later that year.

2. What is the best thing about working at Endeavor?

Meeting the entrepreneurs who [have] such passion and belief in what they are doing.

3. How many companies have you screened since you started working at Endeavor?

Oh my word! I am not sure, however, I did an analysis a few years ago (before the FNB Business Innovation Awards which has literally doubled our screening) and it was close to 100 per year multiplied by 5 odd years = roughly over 500 companies. Wow! That amazes me too!

4. What is the biggest entrepreneurial success story during your time at Endeavor?

This is a tough one – you are basically asking me to choose between my children as they have all done really well even if it has taken some of them longer than others to achieve their growth trajectories. They may have been derailed by challenges they didn’t anticipate or even had to revise their business models.

In saying that, I think for me personally, it is the story of Kirsty Chadwick from The Training Room Online (TTRO). Her Endeavor journey and how she has experienced Endeavor and what we do has really stuck with me. Whilst reading through the newspaper one weekend, I came across an article on TTRO and thought they looked interesting. eLearning being a hot topic at the time. So I reached out to Kirsty and persuaded her to consider joining the Endeavor network as it was clear she has some serious ambitions to become a real global player.


Endeavor South Africa teamed up with entrepreneurs Capsicum Culinary Studio and BrandsEye to make an important impact on #MandelaDay, making soup which was then distributed to the Cape Town Society for the Blind in Cape Town.

This is not too dissimilar from other SA entrepreneurs but I think what sticks with me is her transformation during the interviews then at the International Selection Panel (ISP). I literally saw her blossom and grow during the process and I think all it really took was for someone to endorse what she was doing. As you know quite a number of entrepreneurs walk a lonely path trying to build a business. With just a little bit more encouragement that she was onto something really great and her confidence grew tenfold. Since then she has been unstoppable, she took on investors and managed to multiply her business and expand into two new territories. And I have a feeling this is only the beginning.

5. Given your extensive experience, the networking opportunities you have savoured, and the various entrepreneurs you have encountered, why is the Endeavor network an important consideration for entrepreneurs who want to scale?

That is easy if you are an entrepreneur who wants to scale and has a high impact/scalable business looking to grow exponentially, Endeavor is the best organisation to partner with. With offices in over 25 countries around the world, best in class mentors and partnerships with numerous international/multination businesses and world class universities, we can help entrepreneurs achieve their growth ambitions.

6. What is the benefit of being an Endeavor mentor in your view? What is the nicest comment that Endeavor SA ever received from one of the mentors you worked with?

Endeavor is all about giving back. So while our mentors give back to Endeavor and the entrepreneurial communities in which they operate, they will also have access to an amazing group of entrepreneurs who are leading the frontier in whatever industry or sector they play in. Our mentors get access to the global Endeavor network, best in class entrepreneurs, technologies, etc.

7. Why is mentorship important for entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs tend to walk a lonely path and it is critical that they have a safe sounding board to bounce ideas off and someone to help guide them through the numerous decisions they have to make on a daily basis. Making the wrong decision can be costly, so speaking to someone who has “been there done that” can be incredibly valuable.

8. Do you think entrepreneurship is the solution to our unemployment problem in South Africa?

Definitely part of the solution, yes.

9. How many countries have you visited since starting work at Endeavor and which country has been your favourite?

I have visited about 8 countries whilst at Endeavor. I think my favourite one was Jordan, having never before travelled to the Middle East, it was amazing to immerse myself in the rich culture and heritage of the country and its amazing people. I definitely broke down some stereo-types during that trip.

10. What are you most passionate about?

Making a difference and adding value.


Endeavor SA with Capsicum one of its first Endeavor Entrepreneurs in South Africa, accepting a donation.

11. What is the most rewarding thing about working with high-impact entrepreneurs?

The steep learning curve. I am constantly being exposed to entrepreneurs doing the most amazing things, whether it is developing new software, a new methodology or even a new product, you never ever stop learning. Constantly makes me wake up and think that with all the amazing things entrepreneurs are doing; “what have I done today?”

12. Share one piece of advice an entrepreneur, mentor or partner has shared with you that has stuck with you on your Endeavor journey.

Keep at it. You can do it. Self-belief is definitely the key, especially when you are having a bad day/week/month.

13. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

In the words of Nike; ‘Just do it!’

14. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to do what you do at Endeavor?

If you are the type of person who thrives in a high energy environment and wants to make a difference and constantly learn and be inspired then Endeavor is the place for you.

Deanne’s passion for our Endeavor founders' and their success is obvious in all that she commits to. We wish her well in her new role at Endeavor SA as she leads the growing South African portfolio and delivers bespoke services to our high impact entrepreneurs.