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Power Players: Dynamic Women Building Business In SA

Whether it’s out of necessity or just because women’s time has come, women entrepreneurs are driving a change in the face of small business in SA and across the continent.

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Dynamic Women Building Business In SA
 Dynamic Women Building Business In SA

This is according to dynamic South African women who now run their own successful businesses and will be speaking Small Business Expo and #BuyaBusiness Expo in Johannesburg this month, where the Standard Bank Women in Business Workshop will be staged.

While the 2014 SME Survey by World Wide Worx found that just 8% of South African SMEs are female-owned businesses, a recent Seed Academy Real State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa 2017 survey said the gap between male and female entrepreneurs was starting to narrow as women represented 47% of entrepreneurs surveyed.

With informal businesses thought to account for a large number of the SMEs owned by women, the actual number of women-owned businesses in South Africa is difficult to determine. But leading women entrepreneurs believe the number of women launching their own businesses is rising fast.

Shirley Anthony, speaker, author and Marketing Consultant at Marketing Breakthroughs, has owned her own business for 23 years. Among her many achievements, she has carried out over 100 projects in 25 different sectors, designing a marketing formula soon to be launched online and releasing her practical marketing guide for entrepreneurs as a free download at www.marbreak.com.

She believes the ‘glass ceiling’ that held women back in the past is disappearing. “Within major corporates, gender mainstreaming is starting to take place but the upper echelon is still male dominated; so we find that women who are serious about business tend to start their own,” she says. For many women, family responsibilities are a major consideration, so the flexibility offered by owning a business is also a compelling reason for them to take the plunge, says Anthony.

Kathryn Main, CEO of Main Multimedia and Money Savvy Kids, believes women entrepreneurship is a hot topic across Africa: “Women are starting to take the reins in entrepreneurship. It’s a movement that is gaining momentum, possibly because we’re often forced to start our own businesses.”

Main, who launched her first business in 2010, did so for the flexibility it gave her to spend time with her children. “I may get up at four in the morning and work over weekends, but I make my own hours and I enjoy that flexibility.”

Her businesses may be very successful now, but Main says she once suffered from the same lack of confidence many other women still experience.

“For many women, fear of failure gets in the way. We’re always self-flagellating – we seem to have been conditioned to believe we don’t have the capacity to own our own businesses.  We have to learn to have faith in ourselves,” she says.

Up against the patriarchy

Dynamic and successful entrepreneur Marang Marekimane, founder of Business Process Mechanics, believes women still face challenges in business: “We are still a patriarchal society as a whole, particularly in rural areas. There are some instances where men will still see me as the ‘pretty face’ in the room and not as the brain in the room. But I’m comfortable in my experience and credentials, and I’m very unapologetic about who I am, so there’s little that can be done to deter me in business,” she says.

In addition to running her own successful business, Marekimane also offers consulting to business accelerator programmes. “I deal with a lot of women in business, and I have noticed younger entrepreneurs are coming into the market with a lot of fire; with their sense of self intact, and probably more willing to take risks than women who are older. But she believes that no matter what their age, any time is a good time for a woman to start a business.”

“>There are highs and lows in business ownership, she concedes, but nonetheless she would not want to go back to working for a large corporate. “I like to say I am unemployable now – my mindset is very different from what it was when I was an employee. Now, I have found my internal drivers and the work I do validates me. I get to change lives, and this keeps me motivated,” she says.

Starting successfully

“>Getting started in business demands careful planning and preparation, they say.

Anthony notes that early corporate experience is an excellent base on which to build your own business. “I learnt my own marketing skills within major FMCG firms before launching my own business,” she says. With a solid background in the industry and a personal dedication to ‘doing the homework’ before meeting with clients, Anthony says she has never encountered business challenges that arose as a result of her being a woman.

Marekimane also believes her early start in a corporate environment helped her build the skills she now uses as a business owner. In addition, it was crucial for her to discover what motivated her, to help her decide to make the leap to business ownership.

Main says whether you’re driven to launch a new business because of circumstances or opportunity, it’s important to plan thoroughly.

“I planned and prepared for two years before actually leaving my full-time job and going on my own,” she says. She also recommends having 3 to 6 months’ salary saved, to cover costs while the business is finding its feet.

“My personal business ‘power secrets’ are networking and ongoing learning,” she says.

“I go to all the business events and accelerator programmes I can, and I am continually educating myself. Events such as the Small Business Expo, with networking opportunities and free workshops are a must for business owners, because you have to stay on top of trends and network every chance you get.”

“Passion sells and runs your business,” adds entrepreneur and MD of Reed Exhibitions Carol Weaving. “We’ve seen this time and again among the thousands of businesses that have participated in exhibition and its workshops over the years.”

The Small Business Expo and co-located #BuyaBusiness Expo will be held at the Ticketpro Dome in Northriding from 31 August to 2 September, when up to 10,000 entrepreneurs will network and learn from business experts in 90 presentations over three days.

The event, the premier hub for small business development presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with Eskom, showcasing 190 small businesses, business opportunities and service providers, as well as training and insight for South Africa’s small businesses and would-be entrepreneurs.


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Inspiring A New Generation Of Learning – Education As A Basic Human Right

Access to education isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic human right – Mzwandile inspires a new generation of learners.

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Raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents passed away at a young age, Mzwandile Harmans attended a poor school in Cala, the heart of the rural Eastern Cape.  It was his matric year; but with limited resources at Masikhuthale Public Secondary school, the pass rate was low and the learning environment less than ideal for conscientious learners.

Then one day a teacher came round to talk about Engen’s Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) programme, and everything changed for this talented young man who was determined to realise his full potential.

“We were given a chance to take a test to qualify for the EMSS Cala programme. The programme offered supplementary classes in maths, science and English, which ran every Saturday morning, but was 25 kilometres away,” remembers Mzwandile. “Fortunately, I took it seriously and I got in.”

Making the long round trip every weekend to attend the programme saw a steady improvement in Mzwandile’s  maths, chemistry, and physics marks, so much so that he was awarded a full Engen scholarship to study Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Mzwandile later impressed with his tertiary studies and after two-years was offered a one-year internship at the Engen Refinery in Durban, which he passed with distinction. On graduating from CPUT, he landed a two-year employment contract with Engen, as part of the company’s graduate development programme.

Today, Mzwandile is permanently employed as an Environmental Technician at the Engen Refinery.  “I am so grateful to Engen for all of this,” says Mzwandile. “I never thought it could happen to me.”

Engen’s Head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Unathi Magida says access to education is a fundamental human right.  “This resonates particularly with Engen as a company, as we believe in the value of education and know how important it is to ensure that young people have the opportunity to realise their full potential.”

Chwayita Mareka, Engen’s Head of Human Resources, says the company’s investment in young talent has focused on the Maths and Science Saturday Schools because they understand the bigger country agenda.

“As Engen, we try and play our part in helping to develop South African’s talent pool, as there is a scarcity of Science, Maths and Engineering skills. We offer bursaries for students to go to universities in these fields and we look after them, especially if they are from disadvantaged communities,” says Mareka.

“Later, they come into Engen as graduate trainees as part of our graduate development programme wherein we assign them a mentor that exposes them to the real business,” she adds.

Mzwandile’s journey is just one of many inspirational Engen stories that will be shared as part of a new TV series that aims to create a positive narrative around South Africa’s success stories.  The SA INC. TV series which launches on 7 April is a partnership between Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Brand South Africa and producers, Regency Global.

“At Engen, we strongly believe that a country which is educated is a country that will prosper. We are pleased to play a part in helping to develop South Africa talent, especially our young learners based in rural areas,” says Magida

To watch Mzwandile’s story please visit the website: https://regency.global/engen/ and the following hashtags: #JourneyWithEngen #BusinessBelieves #SAINC #humanrightsday #awesomesouthafrica #sustainability #livesouthafrica #weheartsa.

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Entrepreneur Today

How SMEs Can Stand Out From The Crowd

A recently released SME Landscape Report: An Assessment of South Africa’s SME Landscape: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks & Next Steps’ 2018/2019, revealed that 40 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) find that the industry that they operate in is extremely competitive. It also states that considering the low growth environment, this is likely to continue further into the future.

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To assist struggling entrepreneurs, Byron Jeacocks, Regional General Manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), says that it is imperative for SME owners who find themselves in this predicament to determine and implement tactics to remain competitive in saturated industries. “A good example of how to do this, is Business Partners Limited’s client, Prashun Sharma, owner-manager of glass and aluminium company, Aluminium Doctor, who was faced with an overtraded industry teeming with informal operators when he started his business seven years ago.”

“This was because the glass and aluminium industry suffered a contraction following the Soccer World Cup construction boom in 2010, and as a result, many tradespeople were retrenched and subsequently started up their own informal glass and aluminium installation operations to make ends meet,” Jeacocks adds.

Explaining how he ensured a competitive edge in his business, Sharma, who was also retrenched from his senior management position at a large aluminium company, says that when he started his company he decided to make it formal, compliant and professional. “I wanted to incorporate my corporate and managerial experience to differentiate my business, and to elevate this, I enrolled in a business management degree.”

“My degree covered everything from strategic management, supply management, first-line management to directorship and it touched on everything from listing on the stock exchange down to conflict management and change management. This really prepared me for business and I believe it was a key ingredient to my business’s success,” he points out.

However, Sharma says that when starting their businesses in a saturated industry, entrepreneurs should not feel despondent if the process is slow at the beginning. “At first in my journey, there seemed to be no difference between Aluminium Doctor and the rest of the informal businesses in the industry, but I continued to lay a formal foundation, whilst consulting with my lawyer and accountant to make sure these foundations were sound. I also started to develop professionally made marketing material, a website, formal email addresses and a fixed phone line.”

Aluminium Doctor’s breakthrough came a year and a half into the business, when it won a substantial contract with the building of the Durban ice rink, says Sharma. “This is when I knew that it was time to formalise my business premises and I found a 1000 square metre factory in Brairdene, Durban.”

However, in order to purchase the building, I needed to obtain funding and I believed that it was clear from the financials that the company could afford to buy the building, but the banks were not sure whether our fast growth was sustainable. “I was then introduced to Business Partners Limited which considers finance applications based on the potential of the business, and also on the capabilities of the entrepreneur rather than just on the balance sheet and age of the business.”

Commenting on this, Jeacocks says that Sharma’s management style and his commitment to furthering himself as an entrepreneur by studying business management was also a contributing factor to the approval of his business’s property finance loan,” comments Jeacocks.

“Today, seven years since he started, Sharma’s careful attention to his business’s formal foundations is still paying off. Just in the last twelve months, in an extremely challenging economy, Aluminium Doctor grew by 35 percent, and the business now has a presence in KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng where it will soon establish a permanent sales office in an expansion that is only possible for a formal, well run organisation,” Jeacocks concludes.

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Celebrating The Best Of The Best In Black Business

The 2019 Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Awards, held at Emperor’s Palace on Friday, 15 March 2019, celebrated the champions of transformation of the South African economy.

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Established in 2002, the BBQ Awards 2019 honoured the best of the best in black business. South Africa’s top black business owners and rising stars arrived to the red carpet for a night full of glitz and glamour. Celebrity TV presenter, socialite, radio personality and Idols SA judge Somizi Mhlongo led the festivities as the evening’s programme director. He was joined on stage by A-list celebrities and prominent politicians.

Jeff Radebe, Minister of the Department of Energy, celebrated 25 years of South Africa’s democracy in his opening keynote address and emphasised the importance of transformation.

“Transformation is well recognised as a change management strategy, which aligns people, which aligns processes and technology initiatives, irrespective of the industry you come from, in order to survive and evolve in this business environment. Changing the structure of the South African economy will result in it being more inclusive, more sustainable… with opportunities for all, integrated value chains, and less barriers to entry. In South Africa, the transformation agenda is very critical in all our endeavours and all our decisions.”

Radebe congratulated the winners of the 15 transformation categories on this recognition of their inspiring dedication:

  • Platinum Award: Dr Nobuhle Judy Dlamini, founding chairman of Mbekani Group, is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist. Her passion for creating and adding value to society and humanity provided her with the overall platinum award for the evening, as well as the Comair Outstanding Woman of the Year Award.
  • Hennessy XO Businessman of the Year Award: Sthembiso Elton Nkomo, CEO of Abalandi Risk Management, was recognised as a professionally qualified, dedicated, and respected professional in the forensic investigation and security services environment.
  • The Innovation Hub New and Innovative Business Award: AET Africa, a manufacturer and supplier of energy efficient and clean technology products, developed various products targeting the commercial and residential sectors.
  • Emperors Palace Community Builder of the Year Award: Emmanel Bonoko, Founder of EBonoko Holdings and a social entrepreneur. He founded EBonoko at the age of 21 with the aim of serving others and fostering leadership, youth empowerment, and entrepreneurship.
  • Dormehl Phalane Property Group Transformation Champion of the Year Award: ICT-Works, an organisation that provides innovative technology solutions. At its core it also enhances the lives of millions of people.
  • Best Employer of the Year Award: Maredi Technologies CC, an 100% black owned ICT infrastructure solutions provider for the private and public sector.
  • Trade & Investment KZN Young Business Achiever Award: Pravashen Naidoo, Founder and CEO of e-Waste Africa, established Africa’s first light bulb recycling business at the age of 30.
  • Bentley South Africa Public Sector Visionary Award: Dr Ayanda Vilakazi, CEO of Lama Marketing and Advertising (Pty) Ltd. He published numerous articles on how to improve services and operations in South Africa. As a seasoned Executive he has expertise in corporate governance, financial management and budgeting, enterprise risk management and strategic development.
  • BET New Entrepreneur Award: Ms Thobile Nyawo, Director of Nyawo Civil construction. The 19-year-old construction entrepreneur founded her company in 2015 with no start-up capital.
  • CSI Ubuntu Award: Vukani-Ubuntu Community Development Projects, a non-profit organisation that is the largest mineral-beneficiation organisation in the jewellery sector in South Africa and a network off grassroots development projects across the country.
  • NHBRC Iqhawe Mentorship Award: Musa Zulu, Creative Director of Valhalla Arts, as well as published author, international artist, celebrated motivational speaker, and prominent disability activist in South Africa.
  • NYDA Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Muhammad Simjee, Founder and CEO of A2D24 with a passion for building gadgets and writing software.
  • Nedbank Group Individual Transformation in Leadership Award: Karen Rademeyer, Fundraiser and Communications Manager at Go for Gold, having worked in the non-profit sector for 17 years She is passionate about education: Go for Gold as a dynamic Education-to-Employment programme that recruits school students from some of South Africa’s poorest communities and transforms them into technically qualified graduates.
  • LTE Holdings Best Established Black Business Award: Thata uBeke Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd, which offers turnkey solutions by designing, developing, manufacturing and assembling electronic and electro mechanical components for a variety of applications including aerospace, telecommunications, mining, commercial, and military specifications.

The BBQ Awards continue to be South Africa’s most prestigious transformation awards. For more information on the 2019 BBQ Awards, visit http://www.bbqawards.co.za/ or follow them on Facebook (@BBQAwards) and Twitter (@BBQ_Awards).

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