Trailblazers of Seychelles |11 December 2023
Celebrating the inspiring journeys of the 2023 Business Award winners
In an exclusive feature, Seychelles NATION had the privilege of speaking with the distinguished winners of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Awards 2023 held on Saturday, December 2, 2023.
This year's accolades were bestowed upon a trio of exceptional entrepreneurs: The Young Entrepreneur Winner, a trailblazer redefining innovation; the Woman Entrepreneur, a testament to resilience and ingenuity; and the Entrepreneur of the Year, a visionary leader setting new benchmarks in business excellence. Their inspiring stories offer a glimpse into the thriving entrepreneurial spirit that is driving Seychelles' economic and social landscape forward.
Entrepreneur of the Year, Robert Payet
Entrepreneur of the Year, Robert Payet, who owns Le Duc De Praslin that also won Best Large Tourism Establishment, stated he really appreciated the award as he feels the time has finally come for him to be recognised.
“People kept asking me why I have not won awards and I always told them that when the time comes the time will come,” he stated.
He conveyed that it was the right time for him to win.
“There are many businessmen in Seychelles but it has to be someone that has shown what they have done.”
He talked about the fact as an individual and as a sole owner, he has put his business at a very high level in the country.
“For someone to win Entrepreneur of the year and his business to win best establishment, I think it is a double achievement.”
Mr Payet has had over 30 years in the hotel industry and even stated that he was born in hotels, guest houses and in the hospitality business. He took over his parent’s business, which started off as a hotel with three rooms and he has grown it into what it is today. It is a world that requires a lot of discipline, perseverance and vision.
“I am not saying Le Duc de Praslin is the best hotel in Seychelles but I believe that it has achieved the most that a hotel can achieve from scratch. I also believe that Le Duc is the best Seychellois-owned hotel.”
Mr Payet added that he was proud that Le Duc de Praslin can reach a standard where it can be compared to any other international branches in Seychelles. According to him, even if the five-star international brands take only two years to build their hotels and it took him 30 years, if you have the energy and the passion to do something, it can be done.
The Praslinois started his hotel after taking a loan of ten million euros and it opened the same month that Covid-19 happened. Despite Covid, he continued to invest into it ensuring it reached the required standard for it to thrive. “I have a vision for the hotel to become the first five star in Seychelles.” Le Duc de Praslin is the first hotel to have achieved that five-star level on all online booking platforms such as Booking.com. He expects the government rating in February to be five-star as well.
“I believe that we won the prize because Le Duc is the hotel that has been on a better journey and has achieved more than what the others have.”
His advice towards those aspiring entrepreneurs is they should be willing to take the risk and need to know how to save money.
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Daniel Hugelmann
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, 42-year-old Daniel Hugelmann, stayed in Seychelles until he was 18 years old and left for Germany to study when he was 19. He returned to Seychelles five years ago and during lockdown he developed a hobby in software engineering and met with an American gentleman by the name of Brett Smith. Since they both had passion for the ocean, they set out on a path to connect the environment with technology, via OceanLabs. They designed and built sensor systems and work very closely with their clients. “We sit down with them and see what they need and design around their needs and support them the whole way,” he stated.
He noted that clients can get data around the clock without leaving their desks from the database of OceanLabs and they can see the data collected around the field. Mr Hugelmann stated they have a small workshop at North East Point and are planning to scale up. “We also do not need any foreign capital because we already have our own tools that we both needed.”
OceanLabs uses its revenue to fund the development of its own products and have applied for a SeyCCAT Grant. They are working with NGOs to develop items, built by recycling Fish Aggravating Devices Buoys (FADs).
His advice to those that are thinking about following in his footsteps and aspiring to be entrepreneurs is to minimise capital requirements. He cited the need for a software developing industry in the country that does not need any physical resources. “You need an old second hand laptop, and you can export your products.”
The young entrepreneur also warned that it is a very work intensive world and involves a lot of night shifts. His advice is to start out small. “Start with someone you trust and do something that you actually know and if you do not know it, learn it. Do something that you are comfortable with that is fun and you have a passion for. Be original.”
OceanLabs also won the Creative Establishment of the Year award.
Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Ingrid Saurer
Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Ingrid Saurer, stated that she felt “extremely grateful and humbled” that she was nominated and eventually won the award. She noted how Seychelles has so many women that really work hard while trying to juggle so many things at the same time.
The journey of Belliche started five years ago in 2018, where she stepped into the entrepreneurial world, which allowed her to design her own working hours. “Working for myself means that I can wake up super early and I can manage my own time,” she stated, adding that she is doing something that is close to her heart and running the business is where she is at her happiest.
Ms Saurer commended Seychelles for being one country where women have similar opportunities as men, citing key government positions where this is clearly visible. “Nothing stops Seychellois women to own our businesses and do our work. I do not think we are overshadowed but what I do think is we take on more roles so we have to balance our time more.”
Her message towards aspiring entrepreneurs is to do something that makes them happy and to find something that they are passionate about. “Never give up.”
She concluded by stating that it might not happen as quickly as you expect it to but to take it one day at a time. “Keep trying to do the very best you can.”