Ettiene Pretorius started his first small business at the age of six. Twenty-five years later he’s a real estate developer and social entrepreneur that’s set to shake up the local property industry.

As a young boy growing up in the small farming town of White River in Mpumalanga, Ettiene Pretorius (31) would watch hundreds of farm workers having to make the long 15km walk to town to buy their weekend alcohol beverages.

Feeling sorry for them, he asked his mother for a loan, which he used to buy a supply of beer that he later sold on to the workers. He made some pocket money while saving the workers a long walk.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t about logic, it’s about feeling and helping people. It’s about the urge and ability to want to create something new, simplify things and helping the masses solve a problem,” he says.

This is a philosophy Pretorius has applied in the string of entrepreneurial ventures he’s established over the years and it’s how he landed up in the real estate industry.

While studying at the University of Potchefstroom he identified the need for sectional title units for student housing. His property portfolio started with seven units. By his fourth year he had already made his first million and at the age of 27 his property portfolio was worth more than R35 million. In 2004 Pretorius won the Absa Top Entrepreneur award for a clothing shop he started at his varsity campus

He used the proceeds generated from the clothing store to fund his property portfolio and subsequently handed the profitable clothing business over to the university when he left.

Pretorius’ entrepreneurial influences have been largely inspired by Sir Richard Branson, his mentor and role model, from whom he has learned not to do something for the money, but to do things that will solve other people’s problems. “Richard Branson once told me that if you don’t understand what your own passion is and what your definition of success is, the legacy you leave behind will be the difference. It’s never about money,” he says.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about logic, it’s about feeling and helping people. It’s about the urge and ability to want to create something new, simplify things and helping the masses solve a problem

Pretorius was one of a handful of international guests invited and flown by Virgin Atlantic to attend a private think tank discussion held on Branson’s Necker Island earlier this year to discuss eco-friendly ways to save the world .

His most recent business venture is an innovative real estate brokerage business model that effectively allows entrepreneurs to build a real estate portfolio and sell property with a license as an independent broker without having to share a portion of their commission earned to franchise property agencies.

“We’re bringing an acquiring and selling kind of approach to real estate. It cuts out the franchising, middle-man aspect of real estate, which will allow a person to enter the real estate market without joining a franchise,” he says.

Pretorius attributes his successes to dedication, hard work and mentorship. He has spent a “considerable” amount of money on business coaches over the years, but every cent has been worth the return.

“Success is all about positioning yourself.

Throw away your TV. TVs and newspapers are perceptions of the masses that creates a reality, and that reality creates your new frame of reference and that’s how you will approach life.
Find your passion and figure out how you can help the masses. People with money aren’t always influential, but influential people always have money.
Lead conversations with strategic questions and leave a positive word of affirmation afterwards.

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