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Stimulating The SME Sector: What Can Government Do Differently?

A number of SME surveys and reports have identified key barriers to entrepreneurs wanting to start new SMEs or expand their existing businesses. In several instances, changes in policy by government could reduce these barriers significantly, in others they have already taken action.

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The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) commissions an annual Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Insights Survey with several objectives: To canvass SMEs’ opinions and perceptions, to help SAICA members in small and medium practices (SMPs) to understand ways to better serve the small business community, and to assemble data that will be of use to government policymakers in their quest to enable SMEs as the primary driver of job creation, as outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP).

More than 1 300 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were canvassed in the 2015 survey, a significant increase on the 800 respondents who participated in 2014. SAICA are calling for SMEs to participate in the 2016 survey and to keep the pressure up on law makers. The link to the 2016 survey is: SMME Survey 2016.

One of the findings in the 2015 survey report indicates that if government wants to achieve NDP targets of 10 million new jobs, with the SME sector responsible for 90% of new employment by 2030, it should be prepared to accept that some things have to be done differently.

The survey results show unequivocally that the SMEs that have been in business the longest generally have the highest turnover, and employ the most people. So although the creation of new SMEs is very important, it is equally important to acknowledge that meaningful job creation only begins when SMEs are achieving annual turnover of R2-million or more.

Related: How SMEs Can Defeat The Red-Tape Bugbear

Given that over 60% of SME start-ups fail within two years, and only 20% achieve long-term stability, the research findings suggest a two-pronged approach by government may be required: To encourage more SME start-ups and to provide them with strong financial access and technical support, and actively to encourage growth in established SMEs that have survived the critical first few years.

Longevity vs turnover for SMMEs

Longevity vs employment in SMMEs

Top reasons for SME failure

Asked what they saw as the main factors behind the failure of SMEs, the survey respondents’ three top factors are revealing: Their debtors pay them late, they are not good at managing cash flow and they do business with clients who don’t pay them.

From all three top responses, it is clear that unreliable cash flow is one of the primary reasons why businesses fail. In a July 2015 report on levels of optimism among South African SMEs, the CFO of specialist SME lender Business Partners, Ben Bierman, said: ‘Cash flow is a constant challenge for SMEs, and late payments or non-payment is one of the largest risk factors impacting a small business’ sustainability.

‘Late payment can be disastrous for an SME’s cash flow – as they are unable to absorb these payment delays as effectively as larger companies do – and can potentially lead to the failure of an otherwise sound company.’

The perception that government at all levels pays late is unsurprisingly then, one of the major reasons why 72% of the survey sample does no business with government at all.

If government is to support and develop SMEs – particularly those that achieve B-BBEE compliance and are majority or wholly black-owned – by channelling its procurement spending to qualifying SMEs, it needs to create a culture of swift payment by government at national, provincial, municipal and parastatal level.

The KPI announced by former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in the 2015 Budget, which will oblige financial officers at all levels of government to ensure payment for services to SMEs within 30 days, could go a long way to removing this obstacle to SME development – as long as it is properly implemented, monitored and enforced by the Treasury.

The fourth factor named as a reason for SME failure in the 2015 SME Insights Survey is that they start with less capital than they need.

Related: Making Government Business More Attractive To SMEs

Combined with cash flow instability, insufficient start-up capital can quickly prove fatal to SMEs. Although government does provide a substantial amount of finance and support for start-ups through entities such as SEFA, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Black Business Supplier Development Programme, another survey by online payroll and accounting provider Sage earlier in 2015 revealed that 96% of South African start-ups receive no assistance, financial or otherwise, from government.

The problem appears to be mainly a lack of awareness of the available government and private sector funding, so a proactive step would be for government and big business to collaborate on educating more SMEs on their capital funding options.

As Ivan Epstein, President for Sage International and Chairman of Sage Foundation said: ‘One of the biggest barriers to the success of SMEs in South Africa is education. It would be a wonderful, positive opportunity to work with government to help SMEs face challenges like regulatory compliance, access to finance, skills development and mentoring.’

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It’s Never Too Late To Start A Business

Entrepreneurship at any age is key to minimising unemployment in SA.

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Whilst the country continues to battle a high unemployment rate – which increased to 27,5 percent, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the Third Quarter of 2018 – the narrative of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice should be widely promoted and encouraged across all generations.

However, according to Anton Roelofse, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTERS), the recently released 2018 Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey, compiled by Seed Academy and Old Mutual, revealed that 80 percent of entrepreneurs in South Africa are under the age of 45, with the majority of entrepreneurs reported to be between the ages of 25 and 34.

“In light of the high prevalence of unemployment, there is no reason that entrepreneurship should be reserved for the younger generation. Considering that only 20 percent of entrepreneurs are over 45, it is now more important than ever for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that the country needs them and it is never too late to start a business,” he says.

Delving into the reasons for this low rate of entrepreneurship among older generations in South Africa, Roelofse refers to the 2016-2017 Senior Entrepreneurship Report. “According to the report, older individuals have the lowest confidence in their ability to start and run their own businesses, and many believe that entrepreneurship is a young person’s occupation because the majority of entrepreneurs are young.”

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

In contrast to these beliefs, Roelofse says that it has actually been shown that older entrepreneurs are more adept at building resilient businesses, which is especially crucial during times of slow economic growth.

“If more older entrepreneurs follow their entrepreneurial dreams, not only will more jobs be created, but the idea of entrepreneurship will become more socially accepted for all ages and hopefully have a ripple effect.”

As such, it is vital for older aspiring entrepreneurs to realise that they are more equipped than they think to start and run a business, says Roelofse, who lists three pointers to boost older aspiring entrepreneurs’ confidence:

  1. Work experience: Starting a business at a later age means that the entrepreneur will have a lot more work experience. This will be extremely beneficial as it will contribute to the entrepreneur’s leadership skills, business management and acumen, problem solving skills, and industry experience, should the entrepreneur decide to open a business in the same industry.
  2. Personal networks: It is often said that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and as one grows in age, so do their personal and professional networks. Older entrepreneurs will therefore be more likely to know other established professionals who they can turn to for advice, collaboration, and offer their services to.
  3. An established passion: Older entrepreneurs tend to be less restless in their pursuits, as they have had more time to figure out what they are most passionate about, which can often be a driving force to start a business as well as motivate their success in the future.

These are just a few of the reasons supporting the notion that more older aspiring entrepreneurs should start their own businesses and contribute to increasing employment opportunities in the country, says Roelofse. “Age should be seen as an added strength, not a hindrance, when it comes to entrepreneurship. And aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of their age, should be encouraged and supported to contribute economically,” he concludes.

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Johnson & Johnson Launches Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

Calling on African Entrepreneurs to Submit Ideas in Six Categories: Mental Health, Consumer Packaging, Botanical Solutions, Health Worker Support, Digital Health Tools and Essential Surgery.

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Johnson & Johnson today launched the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0, the second continent-wide competition calling on African innovators to submit ideas for innovative technologies, products and solutions that have the potential to create positive impact for African communities. The challenge focuses on identifying scalable and sustainable solutions to six major health and environmental problems for Africa’s population.

“The growing number of innovation hubs throughout Africa is sparking a new generation of entrepreneurs who are innovating and finding new solutions for issues facing their communities,” said Josh Ghaim, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and member of the Johnson & Johnson Research & Development Management Committee, who is launching the challenge today at the Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum in Cape Town.

“Our goal with the second Africa Innovation Challenge is to expand our support for the region’s entrepreneurs by pushing the boundaries of creative solutions to meet several areas of urgent need. With six new solution categories, Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 represents an extraordinary opportunity for the region’s growing community of innovators to showcase new ideas with the potential for broad societal impact,” added Ghaim.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

“At Johnson & Johnson, we believe a great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, and we work with entrepreneurs around the world to relentlessly pursue innovations that advance and enhance the health of everyone, everywhere,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Public Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson and member of the Johnson & Johnson Research & Development Management Committee, who is simultaneously launching the challenge today at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference in London.

“This is an exciting time to be part of Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem, which recognizes that people and patients across the continent are waiting for urgent solutions. The Africa Innovation Challenge provides an important platform to support emerging entrepreneurs and help accelerate the development of unique, sustainable health care and environmental solutions.”

The Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 is designed to address the critical unmet needs of the continent and local communities in Africa while providing support to Africa-based entrepreneurs in creating innovative health care products and services. Among the selection criteria, entries must demonstrate the potential for scale from proof of concept stage to long-term sustainability. Challenge participants with the best solutions will receive up to US$50,000 in funding and mentorship from the global network of scientists, engineers and business managers within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to bring new solutions forward.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating once again on the Africa Innovation Challenge,” said Thierry Zomahoun, President and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and Founder and Chairman of the Next Einstein Forum (NEF). “Earlier this year, at our biennial Next Einstein Forum event, we had the pleasure of hearing from the first challenge winners. The incredible success of their businesses provides wonderful examples of leadership and entrepreneurialism and is a testament to the amazing young talent across Africa. We look forward to the winners of Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0.”

“The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies comprises of one of the world’s largest health care companies and is drawing on over 85 years of engagement in Africa in over 25 countries, and we are proud to support Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem,” said Alma Scott, Vice President, Operations and Partnerships, Global Public Health, Johnson & Johnson.

“We’ve learned over time that solving last-mile challenges through local empowerment offers the greatest potential impact in the fight against public health challenges, and that it can also help fuel the local economy and catalyse infrastructure investments.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

Solution Categories for the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

The challenge’s six new solution categories aim to address significant threats to Africa’s health care systems and environment:

  • Botanical Solutions: Sixty to eighty percent of households in Africa still rely on traditional medicine to care for themselves and loved ones. We are seeking naturally-derived, plant-based solutions that tap into traditional knowledge and deliver consumer health and wellness benefits through topical application.
  • Packaging Innovations: Managing packaging waste from the increasing consumption in Africa is a challenge for many communities. We are seeking sustainable innovations for packaging of single-dose units and other affordable product sizes that will reduce or eliminate waste, while protecting the product.
  • Mental Health: Caring for someone with mental illness, especially the youth, can be very challenging for rural communities. As a result, 75-85% of persons living with mental illness in Africa may not have access to mental health care. We are seeking innovations that create awareness for mental illness as a public health problem and offer solutions for patients, caregivers, and their communities to address these issues.
  • Health Worker Support: African frontline health workers experience high rates of stress and burnout due to the heavy burden of disease and marked health system challenges. We are seeking innovations that support the wellbeing and resilience of nurses, midwives and community health workers at the heart of delivering care.
  • Digital Health Tools: The African continent has the world’s poorest health outcomes, with HIV, TB, Mental Health, Maternal Health and Ebola having especially large impact particularly on women. We are seeking digital tools (including apps and other mobile/web/data enabled tech) for these important health care areas that can inform, educate, communicate and connect people to treatment, support and care through their reach and information and improve health outcomes especially for women.
  • Essential Surgical Care: A significant portion of the burden of disease in Africa can be treated with surgery. However, many health facilities in certain areas do not have the capacity to deliver even basic surgical services. We are seeking innovations that promote access to timely, safe, and skilled surgical care.

Challenge submissions may originate from anywhere in Africa, and from one or more individuals, teams or companies; subject to certain eligibility requirements set out in the terms and conditions for the challenge. The submitted health care solutions will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  1. Idea submission addresses at least one of the six challenge categories
  2. Idea submission is innovative and creative
  3. Idea submission is scalable
  4. Idea submission outlines how the award would help the applicant(s) reach a critical milestone within the timeframe of a single year and provides a full commercialisation plan.

To apply to the Challenge and review the applicable terms and conditions, please visit the Africa Innovation Challenge website. The deadline to submit applications is January 16, 2019. Neither Johnson & Johnson nor any of its companies is granted any rights to applicant ideas as a result of their participation in the Challenge. Applicants and winners remain free to continue the further development of their ideas on their own. Award recipients will be announced in Spring 2019.

For more information on the Africa Innovation Challenge and the stories of innovation from past winners, please visit www.jnjinnovation.com/africachallenge/.

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5 Reasons Why Co-working Spaces Are So Great For Entrepreneurs

If you need an office or command centre, but don’t have the money or time to spend on all of the administrative duties that come with running an office, these are the benefits co-working offers.

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Co-working spaces are designed to be dynamic by offering functionality and flexibility and are particularly well suited for companies and entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. 

Linda Trim, Director at FutureSpace, a co-working joint venture between Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap with two offices in Sandton Central, said: “As your business grows, a co-working office can become a viable option to scale up your team. It gives you the benefits of a fully fledged office at a much more affordable price than a traditional space – typically 25 to 30% cheaper.” 

If you need an office or command centre, but don’t have the money or time to spend on all of the administrative duties that come with running an office, these are the benefits co-working offers:

1. Low start-up cost

Co-working spaces offer entrepreneurs and start ups a chance to work in a fully equipped office without worrying about the costs of setting up an actual office.

“By getting a shared space, you can operate your business without needing to compute and allocate funds for building rent, insurance, office equipment and various other expenses that come with starting a business,” Trim noted. 

Even if you can afford it financially, the time spent on sourcing equipment and furniture and talking to contractors is a precious resource that should go to building your business.

2. Flexibility

It is extremely easy to scale up a shared office space as your team grows. Said Trim;”You can tailor your space to suit a one-person business, a team of two, a company of five – or even fifty. And add more space as you go. It’s very cost effective and better than trying to constantly guess what future headcount will be.” 

3. Central locations

Good co-working spaces should be right in the thick of business nodes so it’s easy and convenient for your clients to find you. “Renting your own private office may force you to sacrifice location quality for a more affordable monthly. By moving your business into a co-working space, you get an address in the heart of a business district, along with access to transportation, cafés, gym and shopping.”

FutureSpace’s co-working offices are at 96 Rivonia Road and 61 Katherine Street in Sandton Central, Johannesburg and within walking distance to the Gautrain and Sandton City. More FutureSpace offices will open in business nodes across South Africa from next year. 

Related: Five Lessons In Leadership From Someone Younger Than 25 Years Old

4. Networking opportunities

Renting space in a shared office means surrounding yourself with goal oriented and high-achieving entrepreneurs and business people. This means every day is an opportunity to network with small business owners, great thinkers, consultants and other entrepreneurs. 

“Being part of a co-working community means you are surrounded by potential partners, clients, and mentors – giving you the ability to easily outsource to talent when you need help with projects,” Trim added. 

5. Promotes work-life balance

‘All work no play’ is a phenomenon you’ll never experience when in a shared office. 

“Co-working spaces promote work-life balance by providing social events, coffee bars and gyms to de-stress and recharge during a day of work,” Trim concluded. 

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