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The annual Accountancy SA 35-under-35 competition aims to bring attention to the outstanding work of successful CAs (SA) all over the country, doing well not only in their careers but their personal lives and communities too through a mixture of leadership and dedication to improving their and others livelihoods. This week features founder and CEO of Super-Brands Holdings, Cuan Chelin.

Immediately after Cuan Chelin wrote his final board exams in 2004, he began working at Chemical Specialities (Pty) Ltd as an executive. He proved his mettle early on and within only a few short months of being with the company and at the tender age of 23, he had already identified and presented an opportunity to structure a management buyout of the company. The buyout took place and Cuan was promoted to CEO of the company’s retail division, the House of Paint.

However, Cuan is always on the look-out for new business opportunities and after a few years, he and a friend identified an opening to start an online sports betting business – it would be the first of its kind in South Africa, fully licensed and regulated.

He also had an opportunity to partner with another company to build a brand distribution business. All of his business interests grew rapidly until the Super-Brands Group was formed, comprising four businesses, including a sports brand distribution firm that owned the distribution rights to Canterbury, Dunlop, Slazenger, Mizuno and a number of other brands for Southern Africa. This was sold to a subsidiary of a JSE-listed group in 2014.

Cuan currently continues to build on his and his partner’s numerous businesses, which include Sportingbet - South Africa’s largest online sports betting website - as well as Toy Kingdom, a chain of toy retail stores that is expanding across Africa. He is further involved in a joint venture with the South Africa Golf Association, where they run golf handicaps in South Africa under a business called Handicaps Network Africa.

His inspiration comes from a variety of different business people. “I have looked up to Jack Welch’s management principles, President Barack Obama’s leadership and public speaking skills, Richard Branson’s attitude and public relations skills, and Steve Jobs for his perfectionism and what was an incredible ability to drive innovation,” he says.

Cuan is committed to helping improve the social and economic situations of others and is the driving force behind the CSI projects within his businesses. These vary from working with disadvantaged children in various sporting programmes by coaching and sponsoring equipment to a programme that provides holistic care for orphaned kids. 

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