Shaw said that progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman) – the person who persists in shaping the world rather than letting it shape them.
This award is for an individual who has shown enormous tenacity and stubbornness in pursuing an idea, despite the difficulties encountered along the way.
Learn more about this year’s shortlisted candidates
Herman Mashaba is one of South Africa’s foremost entrepreneurs who built the iconic black hair brand Black Like Me during the restrictive days of apartheid.
Herman’s story is an astonishing rags-to-riches tale, beginning in the apartheid era and extending through to the South Africa of today. On his journey, Herman encountered the customary adversity and vicissitudes faced by entrepreneurs battling bureaucracy and market indifference, as well as the numerous challenges of a nation in tumult.
Following a short stint at university, Herman found his calling as a salesman, selling everything from insurance to crockery. He then discovered haircare products and, with the help of his wife Connie, went on to build a commercial empire.
Today, Black Like Me is a major brand in Africa, exporting to 10 countries across the continent, while it is building market share in Papua New Guinea and in the UK.
An entrepreneur turned politician, Herman is determined to improve the lives of marginalised South Africans, and, as current Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, he continues to challenge boundaries.
Follow Herman Mashaba on Twitter: @HermanMashaba
For wind turbines to work effectively, they need accurate wind measurement, collected and analysed in real time from remote locations. This is the huge technical challenge that ZephIR Lidar’s managing director, Ian Locker, has been working on for the last 15 years, a challenge that has required long-term thinking and enormous tenacity on his part.
Using the laser equivalent of radar to produce highly accurate wind data, ZephIR devices are used in the assessment of windfarm sites and to improve the efficiency of wind turbines. Looking like Star Wars’ droids, the technology is impressive, but proved to be the least of Ian’s problems. He needed real grit to encourage an entire industry to change its behaviour, to manage a technology spin-out from within science and engineering company, QinetiQ, while creating an entire supply chain. Creating a manufacturing facility, a global support network while growing an effective sustainable business culture completes the picture.
ZephIR Lidars have now been deployed on more than 3,000 measurement campaigns in more than 50 countries. As Ian notes, with characteristic understatement: “It’s been fun to quietly prove the naysayers wrong with a little perseverance”.
Follow ZephIR Lidar on Twitter: @Zephirlidar
Inspiration came to Martha Silcott one day when sitting on the toilet. She was faced with every woman's dilemma: should she flush her tampon, causing pollution, or have the unpleasant task of wrapping it in tissue and hoping for a bin? Her vision was an opaque, biodegradable disposal bag that could be opened one handed and sealed closed. The result was FabLittleBag.
Every manufacturer said that her invention was impossible to produce. Eventually, she commissioned a bespoke machine. Lawyers said her design couldn't be protected, but seven years later she emerged with the patent. She faced down the taboo around periods, often handing tampons to squeamish retailers and investors (nearly always men) to showcase the product. She challenged giant water companies to walk the talk, bringing five on board as major customers.
Now FabLittleBag is sold in Waitrose, Ocado and Amazon, revolutionising women’s experience of disposal in hugely positive ways.
Follow FabLittleBag on Twitter: @FabLittleBag
Mitsuru Izumo founded Japanese bio-venture firm euglena Co. in 2005, with the mission of ‘Saving the World with Euglena’. Stubbornness and a passion for his business have characterised how Mr Izumo has overcome the challenges he’s faced along the way.
His passion for business began when he visited Bangladesh nearly 20 years ago, and was confronted with a community facing chronic malnutrition. Moved by this experience, he began research on alternative nutrients that could address malnutrition problems, and he came across Euglena – a type of algae containing 59 key elements of nutrition necessary for the human body. In 2005, after years of experiments and, in his own words, thousands of failures, Mr Izumo and his colleague succeeded in establishing the world’s first mass outdoor cultivation of Euglena.
Mr Izumo’s been widely expanding Euglena’s uses, from beverage and healthy food to cosmetics and even bio-fuel for public transport including aircraft. His company, euglena Co., has been growing strongly, with a growth rate in excess of 40% and a market capitalisation of more than $US1billion.
Follow euglena on Twitter : @euglena_jp
Conventional wisdom says you can’t make money manufacturing steel in Europe these days, because of cheap imports from China. Faced with losses of almost £1m a day, Tata Steel, the UK’s largest manufacturer, announced plans in 2016 to sell or close its operations.
Into the breach stepped Sanjeev Gupta, a commodities trader turned entrepreneur, who had already made a name buying up unwanted industrial assets. “We have done over 30 now… every one of them was a basket case or in some trouble, and they’re all producing positive results.” Gupta offered to buy Tata’s UK steel businesses, building on an audacious “green steel” plan – dramatically reducing the costs of steel production by controlling the supply chain, recycling domestically-sourced scrap, and using renewable energy.
Gupta bought a big chunk of Tata Steel’s UK operations, as well as Rio Tinto’s Scottish aluminium smelter and several other plants. His company, Liberty House had revenues of $6.7b and there are ambitious plans for further growth.
Follow Liberty House on Twitter: @LibertyHouseGrp