Cape Town – You cannot have political liberation without economic liberation.With this firm belief, entrepreneur Fred Robertson approached his friend Mustaq Brey in 1995 to start an investment holding company. Today Robertson is executive chairperson and co-founder of Brimstone Investment Corporation [JSE:BRT], which employs about 3 300 people in its subsidiaries and over 16 000 in its associates. Speaking on Thursday at the Cape Town launch of the 25th Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition, Robertson said being an entrepreneur is never easy, “but we have to live our dreams with passion and always believe that we can do it for ourselves and for the benefit of others”.Robertson told the entrepreneurs attending the launch to think about the successes of great South African entrepreneurs - among others Robbie Brozen (Nando’s), Paul Harris (FirstRand), Christo Wiese and Whitey Basson (Pep and Shoprite) and the Ruperts (Remgro) - and learn from them.“You can never do it alone. As a young insurance rep I regularly met with other independent brokers to share ideas, learn from them and just get motivated. “You have to keep good company and always play with a straight bat.“Integrity is the main ingredient... There is no right way for doing the wrong thing,” he said, referring to unscrupulous business people.Robertson reiterated the importance of entrepreneurship in job creation and fostering dignity in South Africa. He confirmed statistics presented by Christo Botes, the executive director of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneurs of the Year Competition. Up to 50% of South Africa’s gross domestic product is generated by small business.Botes said there are only 1.5 million small businesses in South Africa, and 1 million of these employ fewer than five people each.According to the national development plan, by 2030 some 90% of jobs will be created in small and expanding firms.“Entrepreneurship is therefore crucial in stimulating the country’s economy, as well as fostering critical skills development and job creation,” he said.Both Sanlam and Business Partners said it is therefore vital to celebrate and embrace entrepreneurship. “Just like our athletes are rewarded with medals in sport events, we have to recognise and reward our entrepreneurs, our economic heroes,” said Sanlam’s Kobus Engelbrecht.Botes said entrepreneurs are the major creators of wealth and employment as well as the developers of skills, but still often remain the unsung heroes.The competition offers entrepreneurs a free platform to share their achievements and elevate the profile of their businesses, as well as their profits.Total prize money up for grabs is R1.34m, which includes cash prizes to the value of R300 000.But there are other benefits for participating entrepreneurs besides the cash flow boost.One of last year’s category winners, Tabisa Nomnganga of Bravo Promotions, said winning the Emerging Entrepreneur Award has increased her confidence as an entrepreneur as well as her client base. “Since winning the award in September, I have signed up three lucrative business deals amounting to over R500 000.” Nomnganga also created more job opportunities within her community. For more on the competition and how to enter, visit www.eoy.co.za, or simply interact with fellow entrepreneurs on twitter #EOY2013 and Facebook.The closing date for the competition is June 16 2013. *Share your experience of setting up your own business, or simply ask a question. Our business panel can put you on the right path.