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Starting a Business

How can I find a mentor?

Finding a mentor can be easier than you might think, you just need to know where to look.

Sean Krige

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I am starting up a business and would like to get the assistance of a mentor. However, it seems that every programme I investigate simply costs a fortune. While I understand the need to charge for services (since this is the business I am in) it becomes very difficult to fund a start-up AND pay a mentorship fee. Please assist?

Good question and a real conundrum. In South Africa in particular, great strides have been made in start-up and small business support – at least from an activity perspective.

There are a wide range of service providers currently offering a variety of support services to start-up and existing small enterprises. One proviso in this regard however, is that given South Africa’s apartheid legacy, the majority of this support is geared toward black-owned enterprises.

Given your expressed frustration, though, I can only assume that this is not the case for you and your business.

In this instance, I would instead advise you to take a careful look around your social and business networks, where you are sure to know someone who runs their own business. One thing I do know about small business owners, having been one myself, is that they love to share from their experiences, and tell their stories. In fact, most of the time small business owners don’t even need an invitation to do so. Ask anyone married to one!

My advice would be to plug your own networks in search of a mentor or free ‘over a cup of coffee’ advice on a monthly basis.

Mentorship providers

In case you’re still stuck, consider the following four service providers for mentorship support to business owners.

Business Partners.

Business finance, property finance & mentorship, tel +27 11 713 6600 or email enquiries@businesspartners.co.za. For more information visit Business Partners.

Raizcorp.

Incubator, mentorship, financing and investment, business support, tel+27 11 5 662 000 or email enquiries-kv@raizcorp.com. For more information visit Raizcorp.

Aurik.

Incubator, business enterprise support (mentorship), tel +27 (0)11 447 5575 or email enquiries@aurik.co.za or pavlo@aurik.co.za. Visit Aurik for more information.

The Hope Factory.

Mentorship and training of potential black entrepreneurs, tel +27 (0)11 479 0608 or email chenaik@saica.co.za or visit The Hope Factory.

Sean Krige - Johannesburg programme manager for The Hope Factory. Sean’s priorities include overseeing the mentorship and associated support services available to the Jhb entrepreneurs, including measuring and reporting on the impact on the entrepreneurs. His responsibility, together with that of the executive mentor, also includes the ongoing training, development and performance management of all the business mentors. Krige has five years of experience running his own enterprise development business, which had as its focus the development of formal businesses in townships. His academic qualifications include a Bcom and honours in economics. He is passionate about seeing South Africa transformed through the growth and strategic development of local businesses and their owners.

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Starting a Business

What are the do’s and don’ts of securing an online domain name?

We asked Domains.co.za founder, Wayne Diamond, what the do’s and don’ts are when it comes to entrepreneurs registering domain names for their start-ups…

Wayne Diamond

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There’s that L-word again:

“Location, location, location”. It’s the make or break decision. Every estate agent and business owner cannot overemphasise the importance of this Critical Business Decision Number 2 (Number 1, of course, has to do with what you’re going to sell!).

Related: As a start-up, what are the most important areas I should be looking at?

 

Whatever business you’re in, being close to customers and convenient to business partners and suppliers is essential. That bricks-and-mortar wisdom is equally true in the world of online commerce. Having the right domain name and the right support for your online presence has emerged as a real driver of success.

Some figures put the scale of the opportunity into perspective: US e-commerce is predicted to reach $440 billion by 2017, showing a compound annual growth of 13.8%[1]. While the Internet economy is in its infancy in South Africa and Africa, it is growing strongly: research by World Wide Worx showed that consumers, small and medium businesses and government were already purchasing products and services worth R59 billion on the web three years ago.[2]

So how to secure the best and most profitable Internet real estate to make sure your business can ride the e-commerce wave?

It’s all in the name:

The first decision is what domain to use. One of the exciting developments is the launch of new Internet domain names, so it’s definitely no longer a choice of .com or .co.za. The proposed dotAfrica (.africa) geoTLD (geographic Top Level Domain) is one option that’s set to come online around the first quarter of next year, but what about the ZAdotCities domains of .joburg, .capetown or .durban? Domain names within these additional geoTLDs will be able to be snapped up by the public around November this year.

While .com remains a good choice for truly international businesses, choosing a domain name with some local flavour is probably going to work well for many companies.

The greater range of domain names also makes it more possible that you will be able to choose the right name for your business. When it comes to the more established domains, like .com or .co.za, chances are higher that the name you want has already been taken.

When it comes to that all-important name, received wisdom used to be that short was best, but the trend nowadays seems to have reversed—even phrases are now used. The key is to choose a name that is easily recognisable, that will stick in peoples’ minds and that describes the business well.

Perhaps a good example is the domain used by the writer of this article: www.domains.co.za is both a brand name and a name that perfectly describes the nature of the business. At just seven characters in length, “domains” is also an easy to spell, easy to remember word – keeping names under ten characters is guaranteed to help audience recall.

Something people will remember easily is absolutely vital.

Some companies use specific names for individual campaigns, but always make sure the business as a whole has its own web address.

Experience has shown that it’s probably worthwhile to register similar domain names to the one you choose, just to keep competitors from taking them in an effort to sow confusion.

My final advice: it’s always a good idea to use an ISPA (Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA) member to help you register the chosen address of your start-up. That way you’ll be sure that all the formalities are correct, and that the company you’re dealing with abides by ISPA’s code of conduct.

Finally, as there are already almost 950 000 .co.za domains registered, it’s a good idea to surf to www.domains.co.za and perform searches to see if the domain you would like is indeed available.

Related: Does the South African government award grants to franchisees?


[1] Chuck Jones, “Ecommerce is growing nicely while mcommerce is on a tear”, Forbes, 2 October 2013, available at http://mashable.com/2013/02/05/ecommerce-sales-top-1-trillion-worldwide/.

[2] “Internet 2% of SA economy”, 29 May 2012, available at http://www.worldwideworx.com/internet-2-of-sa-economy/.

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Starting a Business

How to protect your business idea when sending them to financial instituitons?

Signing an NDA, is it necessary?

Anton Ressel

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How can I protect my business idea before I submit my business plan to financial institutions and other agencies for help?

You have a few options:

Firstly, you can include a disclaimer as an introductory clause, saying that any and all information contained in the business plan and related documents remain the Intellectual Property of xxx (your name) and may not be reproduced, copied or used in any manner without express written consent. This is not legally binding, but usually enough.

Secondly, you could ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which is more binding from a legal perspective. The downside of this is that it can come across as arrogant, especially from someone who is approaching us for help. Personally I refuse to sign any NDA from clients who approach me for help, it just smacks of mistrust and arrogance.

On a final note, good ideas always get copied. If you are that worried that your idea will be stolen, you may need to re-look at it and find ways to make it difficult to replicate, or better yet, make sure you are first to market.

Related: As a start-up, what are the most important areas I should be looking at?

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Starting a Business

Does the South African government award grants to franchisees?

In my experience, unless you as the entrepreneur have some ‘skin in the game’ and a reason to get up and make the business work every morning, it seldom will.

Anton Ressel

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I am considering purchasing a children’s education franchise and wanted to know if the government offers grants. The cost of the franchise is R 86 000. If so what are the criteria to qualify and how does one go about it?

Accessing grant funding for a franchise may prove challenging, unless that franchise is registered and accredited, in which case there is a fund that may consider it – see CNBC for more info.

Otherwise, you could look at www.investmentincentives.co.za and see if any of those sources of financing are of interest. It naturally depends on your own PDI (previously disadvantaged individual) status as many of these funds are focused on youth, women and PDI’s.

Finally, on an emotional level I would caution against going all out for grant funding and not loan finance. In my experience, unless you as the entrepreneur have some ‘skin in the game’ and a reason to get up and make the business work every morning, it seldom will.

 

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