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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Female Business Owners Need to Overcome Challenges

The number of women entrepreneurs in South Africa continues to grow, but the increase is not at a level it should be due to the higher number of challenges they face in comparison to male entrepreneurs.

Chana Boucher

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Female entrepreneur amongst male entrepreneurs

This is the outcome of a number of studies done on the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. While many of the findings are inconsistent, the feeling that women have the potential to play an increasingly important role in the country’s economy is evident. The South African Women Entrepreneur’s Network’s (SAWEN) study ‘Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa’ claims: “Women entrepreneurs are expected to increase rapidly in the next decade and they are expected to make an important contribution to their national economies.”

The South African female entrepreneur

According to the FNB and Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Wits Business School White Paper on Female Entrepreneurship, up to 38% of all established businesses in South Africa are owned by women. Of these more than 25% are making in excess of R750 000 a year. The research found that the general age of female business owners was 35 and above, while start-ups were mostly under 35. Women entrepreneurs were as likely to be married as unmarried and one one-third have children. A further finding by the research was that most women entrepreneurs have at least a Grade 12 certificate, and many a national diploma or bachelor’s degree. Most of the start-up business women were black.

The ‘Survey of Women Entrepreneurs’ by the SAWEN states: “Women business owners do contribute positively to our economy, with most employing between five and ten people. Both formal and informal businesses contribute significantly towards employment with the slight dominance of formal business.” It also claims that women-owned registered businesses generally dominate over informal businesses in the finance and investment, ICT, minerals and energy, construction, services and transport sectors. Informal or unregistered businesses are more common in the agriculture, arts and crafts, manufacturing, retail, textile and clothing, and tourism sectors.

Starting a business

According to the Survey of Women Entrepreneurs, most women started their businesses for financial reasons. The White Paper said that it is untrue that women were not natural entrepreneurs and only started a business because they had to or to do good. The research showed that most women are choosing to start a business even though they have other options. Some of the most common motives included wanting to be their own bosses, wanting to develop a product idea or wanting to gain recognition. The paper showed that women had the same motivations for starting a business as male entrepreneurs. Many wanted to start their own companies because of the lack of career opportunities in their previous jobs, but also wanted to keep learning and growing, have greater flexibility, build on past experiences and training and increase their income.

The ‘Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa’ study found the reasons women had for becoming entrepreneurs included the challenges/attractions of entrepreneurship, self-determination/autonomy, balancing career and family, lack of career advancement and organisational dynamics. Another strong motivating factor for women entrepreneurs was helping others. “Research suggested that this caring attitude manifests in women’s leadership styles and that goals other than economic growth guide a woman’s business.”

The majority of respondents surveyed for the White Paper, almost 80%, used their savings to start their businesses rather than obtaining external funding. Many also use their personal credit cards or overdraft facility, or they continue being employed part-time and use their salaries to maintain their company. This sentiment was shared by the Survey of Women Entrepreneurs. It said: “The major obstacle to starting up was of a financial nature. The source of start-capital has been mainly the women’s own personal savings or investments. Those women operating in the mining, energy, transport, and retails sectors also used bank loans.”

Major challenges

According to the White Paper, women feel their families are supportive of them in their business endeavours, but their communities value women being employed far more than them having their own businesses. They believe there are greater barriers for women entrepreneurs than men.

The Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa study found that women generally lack the necessary resources for starting and developing their own businesses. It said women had less human capital for the management and development of their businesses. Some of the major obstacles women face include finance, a lack of sales and marketing skills, educational and work background, motivation, comparative earning levels and external networking. For some family responsibility was another challenge. “Pressure to run a home, look after children and care for a husband and family limit women.”

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding For Women Entrepreneurs – A Collective Effort

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Jenny Retief

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women-entrepreneur

It is well recognised that women are powerful drivers of economic growth in South Africa, and are vital to the country reaching its full economic potential. Yet women account for only 18% percent of business owners in South Africa, according to the second Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), released earlier this year.

The reasons are many, including lack of financial literacy, but one of the biggest constraints facing women entrepreneurs is access to finance. As most women entrepreneurs are concentrated in the informal sector, the majority of them access financing through micro-lending institutions, which offer only limited support. When they are ready to grow into SMMEs, they again face difficulties in obtaining loans from commercial banks.

According to the ‘Inaugural South African SMME Access to Finance Report’, published last year by the online access to finance portal Finfind, the SMME sector provides a “compelling, largely untapped market opportunity for innovative funders”, estimating the SMME credit gap at between R86bn and R346bn.

Finfind’s research showed that many SMMEs that are eligible for funding are still unable to secure it due to their lack of finance readiness, i.e., they are unable to produce the financial documentation required by funders to assess bankability and affordability, in order to approve their funding applications. These documents include up-to-date management accounts, latest financial statements, budgets, forecasts and tax clearance certificates, among others.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

This was reiterated at the recent African Youth Networks Summit in Tswhane, where the head of Old Mutual Foundation Millicent Maroga stressed, “the key issue is a distinct lack of support in getting the business ready for funding”.

Enter initiatives like the Riversands Incubation Hub, a campus north of Sandton that houses over 150 established and start-up small businesses in subsidised premises, with access to business support services. One of its key values to its SMMEs is bridging the gap between them and the many players in the funding space, in particular through its annual FundEX event, a platform giving guidance and helping to match entrepreneurs with funders.

“Contrary to popular belief, there is funding available. FundEX provides practical guidance on what funding is available and what it takes to access this capital. It also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to interact with a variety of funders, including banks, government funders and alternative funding platforms,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

The theme this year is ‘Secrets of Scale’, unpacking what it takes to build a ‘fundable’ business. This is highly pertinent, as much of the complexity in the SMME funding environment is seated in the size of the business, and what stage of growth it is at.

Finfind’s research found that although SMMEs and start-ups may qualify for venture capital funding, funding opportunities for less scalable SMMEs are less promising. “This opens the door for new, innovative funding models to serve this section of the SMME market. Start-ups and micro-businesses represent a significant potential market for innovative funders who are able to develop new lending models tailored to address this growing market,” said the report.

As women proliferate in this space, they need to equip themselves with as much as information as possible about the funding opportunities out there, says Retief.

“The DTI, for example, offers funding programmes, and aggregators such as FinFind and others can help entrepreneurs navigate the more than 400 different funding solutions available in SA. Entrepreneurs can also boost their business by regular engagement with a mentor. Many incubation programmes offer this type of support,” she says.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

There are also many initiatives to bring resources closer to entrepreneurs. For example, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) offers Technology Stations in diversified sectors, ranging from agro-processing, chemicals, clothing and textiles to tooling. These provide entrepreneurs access to university-level technical levels and specialised equipment at affordable pricing levels.

This speaks to upskilling, a key offering of incubation hubs and critical for women entrepreneurs needing to become finance literate. “At Riversands, we have a team of coaches and mentors who guide entrepreneurs in specific areas such as finance or strategy. Relevant educational material is regularly presented in formal as well as informal ways and reinforced with practical coaching to help entrepreneurs put theory into practice in their own businesses.  This is flanked with professional bookkeeping services provided on a subsidised basis. This allows business owners to build the financial records and systems their businesses need to qualify for understanding,” says Retief.

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Riversands FundEX takes place on August 16. For more information visit: http://www.fundex.co.za

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

These 13 black businesswomen are rapidly rising stars. You can learn from their journey and their entrepreneurial advice.

Entrepreneur

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female-entrepreneurs

Women all over the world are the powerhouses behind some of the newest, innovative start-ups and concept businesses. South African businesswomen are gaining momentum in this global arena too, with success stories like the 13 ladies below.

Female-led business growth is happening in South Africa, despite the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) statistics showing that only 6.2% of South African females take the leap into entrepreneurship.

These 13 black female businesswomen are going against statistical trends and represent some of the rising stars in South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape. 

  1. Boitumelo Ntsoane
  2. Phuti Mahanyele 
  3. DJ Zinhle 
  4. Polo Leteka Radebe
  5. Michelle Okafor
  6. Sonia Booth
  7. Basetsana Kumalo
  8. Sibongile Sambo
  9. Molemo Kgomo
  10. Nkhensani Nkosi
  11. Bonang Matheba
  12. Matsi Modise
  13. Khanyi Dhlomo
Prev1 of 14

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

[Infographic] The World’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs

Numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.

Colette Cassidy

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jk-rowling

Managing your own business is not easy. Unless you’re willing to stop at nothing to make the business succeed and unless you can balance supreme self-confidence with the cool, analytical head to know the risk that’s a risk too far, your entrepreneurial sojourn will almost certainly be brief and disastrous.

If you can set up your own company and keep it operational for at least several years, you will have proven that you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t turn over a massive profit from the company, being able to stand on your own two feet with self-made earnings is an achievement.

Then there are those whose businesses more than just survive. They grow into multimillion-dollar international enterprises which could make the owners world famous. One such example is JK Rowling. Granted, she might not fit the stereotype of a business owner, but she turned her passion into her life’s work and earned a fortune because of it. Like many entrepreneurs, she had an idea which took her from being in financial distress to owning a globally-recognised brand, namely the Harry Potter series.

Her story is an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere, as the corporate world is still thought of as a male-dominated environment. That perception is rather misleading, though, as numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.

the-worlds-most-influential-female-entrepreneurs-infographic

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

 

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