Mary-Ann Mandishona was announced as the overall winner of the inaugural Redefine Properties "Innovation Challenge" in Johannesburg. Picture: Siphelele Dludla/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Johannesburg-based entrepreneur Mary-Ann Mandishona on Tuesday became an instant millionaire when she won R1 million in prize money through her "Cash4Trash" sustainability business idea in the first-ever Redefine Properties "Innovation Challenge".

The Redefine Properties "Innovation Challenge" is a national competition inviting the general public to submit ideas on how the JSE-listed diversified real estate investment trust company can better engage with and meet stakeholders' expectations and integrate communities. 

The "Innovation Challenge" looked for ideas relevant to the property industry that had the potential to revolutionise either retail, commercial, or industrial space by enhancing business opportunities and customer experiences.

Selected from a group of five finalists after the challenge attracted at least 1 250 entries from across the country, Mandishona said that her idea would see communities bringing recyclable products like cans and bottles to vending machines placed at shopping malls owned by Redefine in exchange for shopping vouchers. 

Mandishona thanked her mentors, who made her better understand the challenges and solutions of her concept.

"We were able to access a lot of resources on this journey from the proof of concept to the prize and I am looking forward to working with Redefine and the mentors I met through the competition to help further develop my idea," Mandishona said.

Mandishona will now negotiate start-up support with Redefine to the value of R9 million in the form of either monetary support, education, commercial space or concept acquisition .

Mary-Ann Mandishona was announced as the overall winner of the inaugural Redefine Properties "Innovation Challenge" in Johannesburg, pocketing a cool R1m prize money. Video: Siphelele Dludla/African News Agency(ANA)

Andrew Konig, Redefine chief executive, said that the competition lived up to its intent of being an informed, targeted initiative.

"We aim to create a movement and understanding that innovation and entrepreneurship can be manufactured in our communities all over the country with the right mentors and support," Konig said. 
Mandishona - who was born in Westbury Township in Johannesburg - credited her inspiration and innovation to being raised in various countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, as well as her bioengineer father who worked for the United Nations. 

African News Agency/ANA