A PORT Elizabeth insurance guru, who owns a successful insurance firm in the Eastern Cape, attributes his accomplishments to his humble upbringing which motivated him to strive for greater things.
William Wildeman, who was born and raised in Arcadia, is the owner of Epitomy Financial Services, with offices in Port Elizabeth’s Central and East London.
He registered his company in 2008 and started trading in East London in February 2009, where his head office is based.
"By the grace of God I managed to build my business to a staff complement of 50 people running a reputable operation, and within four years I reached millionaire status.”
Wildeman said one of the only options after completing his matric was to apply for a bursary to pursue a career in either medicine or teaching, but realised they did not interest him at all. "After being exposed to the practical side of teaching, I realised I didn’t have a passion for it because when I was a young boy I always had this dream of becoming a businessman and I wanted to better my family’s lives.
"In my attempt to make my dream a reality I got a job at Ackermans, as a trainee manager where I learnt the basics of management and the importance of how to work with people.”
He quickly shot up the ranks after accepting a job as sales manager at an insurance brokerage in PE and was promoted to regional manager of the company’s East London office. He worked there for six years before deciding to branch out on his own. Currently he employs 50 people at his East London office and 20 in his PE operations.
It was not, however, always smooth sailing for Wildeman, who said he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2006.
"I got sick for six months and could not work. I was told I had a 10% chance of survival. But amazingly, I had the best financial year ever because I’ve been blessed with such good staff. I value my workers as assets.
"Another major challenge I experienced was in the first six months of starting my business. I had saved for two years to cover my rent and living expenses, but it was so tough that I nearly lost my car.
"I had to approach the bank to make an arrangement to split my payments. I persisted and managed to break through and I vowed never to allow myself to be in that situation again.”
Wildeman also sponsors impoverished schools in East London and PE.
"In partnership with Sanlam I’ve adopted Pefferville Primary School, in East London, as my first project, doing up their ablution facility and sponsoring their first prize-giving in 20 years due to their lack of funding.
"Last year I partnered again with Sanlam in identifying five needy schools. We’ve distributed R200 000 among the schools which included three PE schools – Helenvale Primary, Arcadia Secondary and Arcadia Primary – and two East London schools, Parkside and Pefferville Primary.
"Currently I’m working on a mentorship school programme which will be headed by Zane Meas, who plays Neville Meintjies on 7de Laan. He is also heading the Fatherhood Foundation South Africa, which will also be sponsored by Sanlam.”
Through his good track record in insurance and his partnerships with Sanlam, Wildeman was offered the opportunity to develop a franchise – Epitome Broker Management Consultants CC – which is focused on recruiting, developing and mentoring black brokers in the province.
"Through my journey as an entrepreneur I’ve come to learn that the greatest blessing is in giving and not receiving. The joy that it brings to one’s heart is indescribable.”