James Durrant

Ask James Durrant about the business achievement he's most proud of, and you'll get a rather unexpected answer.

The owner and director of Blue Sky Publications, the founder of Mamba Mentors and member of everything from the SA Business Club to the Starfish Greathearts Foundation is most proud of the job he did selling Christmas hats on the side of the road in Cape Town when he was thirteen. While his grandmother made them, Durrant would stand outside Cavendish Square, toting his product.

Durrant represents one of the crucial things needed to succeed in business: work ethic. Keeping it in the family, he started up web development company Bluegrass Digital with his cousin at age eighteen, and soon found that hard work was the key to leading a new company. "We took our small team at the time out for Christmas lunch," he remembers, "and in preparing a speech I looked for a quote to share with the team and found one I have lived by ever since: 'The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, nor a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.'

Durrant struggled academically - but despite doing badly in Matric, today he sits at the head of arguably the most important expat publishing company in the UK, Blue Sky Publications and is a Director and share holder of Mustard Foods, Bluegrass Digital, Reve Tourism Marketing, Revolution Wines and is on the Board of Mustard Catering.

Blue Sky Publications, publishes Gateway to Africa magazine, The South African and The Australian newspapers, and Durrant and his team have managed to pin down a particularly difficult market. "We knew nothing about newspapers," he says. "I'd hardly even read one! But we had a great team. Nine years later we've wiped out most of our competitors and navigated ourselves through the worst recession in any of our lifetimes."

Now, Durrant has brought his formidable work ethic to Mamba Mentors, the program he founded. He was approached by Duncan Hill of UK Trade and Investment to work with them on developing international investment with South Africa - and now, Mamba Mentors provides a great opportunity for investors to test out their ideas against some of the very best.

Quick Strikes

  • Born: May 1976
  • Scariest thing he's ever done: Watched my wife give birth to my two boys.
  • When he's off the job, what does he enjoy doing: Spending time with my little family.
  • What was his first day in the office on his first job like: I've only ever worked for myself so I'm sure it was fun. Our first formal-ish office was at my cousins house, they had a room above the garage which we took over, by the time we left we had about eight staff crammed in! I'm always amazed that my Aunt tolerated us...without that time, space, and support I wonder if we would ever have got going?
  • How he became involved with the SA Chamber of Commerce: When we launched The South African newspaper The SA Times were the sponsors of the SA Business Club. I made it my mission to be better than them and to at least share the SA Business Club (now SA Chamber) platform as sponsors and members which we were originally banned from doing. I was finally allowed onto the committee in 2005 and it was a matter of two years before The South African took over the role of sponsors and soon after SA Times ceased to exist.
  • Cliched question, but: what piece of advice would he give to prospective entrepreneurs in the program? Keep your pitch short and concise. The Mamba's want to get to know you, and this can only be done with questions and answers.