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How do I go about choosing a a mentor and where can I find contact details?

There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when looking for assistance with your startup.

Entrepreneur

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What is mentorship?

Business mentorship is about giving educational and/or professional development support provided by experienced peers.

An experienced professional helps an entrepreneur to set up and guide a start-up business and also helps to improve leadership, employee accountability, teamwork, sales, communication, goal setting, strategic planning and more. Mentors will help to put a business plan together and help you build your business and get it off the ground.

How to pick the right mentor

  • Define a list of your top goals for the mentoring relationship
  • Brainstorm a list of prospective mentors
  • Research available information about them
  • Prepare a short list of questions regarding their feedback on your current situation
  • Ask them about their history, current situation, and experience
  • Be sure to spell out your goals and expectations, as well as your commitment to them
  • A written agreement will show you are serious about the commitment

What factors need to be considered when selecting a mentor?

There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when looking for assistance with your start-up. Mentorship helps entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to run a successful business. There are many sound mentorship organisations in South African that focus on small and medium enterprises.

A mentee seeks guidance to develop specific competencies, self-awareness, and business skills. The mentor is a person who has expertise in the areas of need identified by the mentee and shares their wisdom in a nurturing way. The most importing thing about choosing the right mentor is that you can relate and get along with the mentor.

Mentoring relationship types

There are two types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. The best mentors work, or have worked, in similar fields’ to your entrepreneurial venture, and the only way to establish if a mentor has the experience and skills the mentee needs, is to meet with them and find out, face-to-face, if that person can offer what you are looking for.

Types of business mentorship

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of mentorship – face-to-face mentorship, or online mentoring. Online business mentoring or ‘e-mentoring’ is an interactive, remote relationship between a mentor and mentee. It takes place over the internet rather than the usual traditional face-to-face meetings.

E-mentoring

Business mentors use online forums and websites – similar to social networking sites – where they share their knowledge and experience. The mentor applies to register as a mentor, is vetted by the website and then has their profile viewed by potential mentees.

Deciding how much mentoring you need

If you choose to get involved in face-to-face business mentoring, mentor and mentee need to agree about involvement and the kind of structure you want.

The degree of involvement you need

Some mentors and mentees work extremely closely with each other, speaking or meeting most weeks or even most days. Others don’t. It all depends on how much guidance you need.

The level of structure you want

Mentoring can be a very formal and structured process with regular meetings which follow a specific agenda and set of goals. It can also be quite a casual arrangement, where the mentee calls on the mentor as and when problems or questions arise.

How much does mentoring cost?

There are free mentorship programmes available in South Africa and there are programmes where you are expected to pay a fee. To find out who offers free services and which programmes are not free visit Entrepreneur’s SME Mentorship & Support Directory

Organisations which provide free mentorship

Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda). Seda mentors small business and medium-sized enterprises equipping entrepreneurs with invaluable information on starting, managing and growing a business. Seda provides non-financial and technical support for SMME sustainability and have branches throughout South Africa.

The Khula Mentorship programme offers two services − pre-loan and post loan mentorship. During the pre-loan stage entrepreneurs are assisted by experienced mentors with advice, counselling and the development of viable business plans in order to access funding. In the post-loan stage clients are assisted with various aspects of managing a successful business as identified by the client, mentor, bank and Khula.

National Youth Development Fund (NYDF)-One of the NYDF’s aims is to promote entrepreneurship among young people. In order to offer support, the Business Consulting Services of the NYDF offer business development support, for those starting a brand new business. BCS gives you one-on-one, face-to-face attention and guidance.

The Business Place is a network of walk-in centres for entrepreneurs who will find relevant support and information services clustered under one roof. Mentorship includes all the “how to’s” and “next steps” for anyone who wants to start a business.

Singayenza-Operating in the Western Cape, Singayenza helps entrepreneurs with identification and assessment of BEE SME opportunities in rural areas. They provide free mentorship support assist with full bookkeeping and administration service to each SME BEE business that they mentor.

The Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) is located in the Limpopo Province. It is a not-for-profit, pro-poor microfinance institution working towards the eradication of poverty by creating a supportive environment where credit and savings services foster sustainable income generation, job creation and social empowerment.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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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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