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The Big Issues Facing SA’s Small Business

There’s no lack of entrepreneurial spirit in SA, but start-ups and small businesses need skills, social capital and a supportive environment in order to succeed.

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It’s a popular misconception that funding is the biggest hurdle in the way of small business success: in fact, knowledge and networks may be more important. This is according to small business experts and members of the Small Business Expo expert advisory board, speaking ahead of South Africa’s premier small business development platform – Small Business Expo 2018.

The expo, taking place from 6 – 8 September at the TicketPro Dome is an annual opportunity showcase and knowledge-sharing platform for local small and medium sized businesses, is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation. It is further supported by the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Minara Chamber of Commerce; endorsed by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and approved by AAXO.

Related: The Next 5 Steps To Take After You’ve Been Denied A Small Business Loan

According to Langa Manqele, FinTech businessman and chairman of the Black Management Forum (BMF) in Gauteng, entrepreneurial spirit is flourishing across South Africa, including in the townships and rural areas.

“A trend we’re seeing emerging is for entrepreneurs to launch small scale manufacturing and agro-processing operations around the country.” This is in line with the government’s hopes for a more industrial economy, and presents many opportunities for job creation, he notes.

“Unfortunately, though, many start-ups are failing to break through into big business, and many are failing to comply with testing and safety standards. This may be partly due to a lack of awareness and information, and also because safety and standards infrastructure is out of reach of rural business, as well as being prohibitively expensive.”

Manqele believes that stepped up information sharing, skills development and networking, such as that available at the Small Business Expo, may help these start-ups break through into the big business league.

“This is why the BMF is endorsing the Small Business Expo,” he says. “Because of its focus on the development of black business in particular, along with its three days of in-depth workshops and opportunities to network, we believe it’s an invaluable platform for small businesses to gain the knowledge and social capital they need to grow. Capacity building is a major challenge, and the number of startups able to be absorbed by incubators doesn’t meet the national needs; therefore events like these fill the gap for critical business skills development.”

Linda Blackbeard, CEO of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), which represents businesses in Randburg, Fourways and Lanseria, echoes this sentiment. “Small businesses need partner networks in order to grow. Joint ventures, for example, allow them to take on bigger projects than they might manage alone. And through partnerships with large business, they stand to gain viable income streams.” But many do not know how to tap in to this ‘social capital’ or partner networks.

Blackbeard says belonging to an industry body such as the local Chamber of Commerce is a key first step to expanding partner networks. Another is to participate in industry events.

Related: Get Your Small Business VAT-Ready Without The Headache

“The Small Business Expo is a very important platform for networking, learning and skills development,” she says. “No matter how long you’ve been in business, systems and markets change and there’s always something new for us to learn so that we can operate more effectively.” She notes that marketing is another area where many small businesses fall short, making the networking and exposure opportunities at the Small Business Expo invaluable for small businesses.

BMF and RCCI will be present at the Small Business Expo, where small business can discover the benefits of joining the organisations.

Carol Weaving, MD of Reed Exhibitions, says building social capital and business capacity is the primary function of the Small Business Expo and co-located #BuyaBusiness expo. “Empowering small businesses to grow, has always been the focus of this event, which is closely aligned with the work of show partner, the Eskom Development Foundation. As the expo has evolved, we have increased our efforts to deliver a practical development forum that delivers tangible results for all participants. This year, the programme has been shaped with input from business experts across small business umbrella bodies, chambers of commerce, banks and entrepreneurs, all working towards a common goal of growing businesses in South Africa.”

Small Business Expo will include multiple development forums and workshops, including the Creative Business Cup, Nedbank Money Matters Workshops; Standard Bank Women in Business Theatre; Eskom  “Powering your World Indaba” and a Business Services Theatre.  In addition, the expo will showcase the Business Services Expo & #BuyABusiness Expo as well as offersa #THEClub VIP investors’ programme, business speed dating, online business matchmaking and dedicated networking areas.


About the Small Business Expo

The Small Business Expo, showcasing the Business Services Expo and #BuyaBusiness Expo, is devoted to the development of small and medium sized enterprises, providing an invaluable platform for small and medium businesses to market themselves, network and connect with entrepreneurs and interact with prominent business leaders and representatives from a number of corporate companies. The Small Business Expo is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation and will be held from 6 – 8 September 2018 at the Ticketpro Dome, Northgate.

The expo is supported by the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Minara Chamber of Commerce, and is endorsed by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and approved by AAXO.

For more information, visit https://www.smallbizexpo.co.za/

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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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Why Just Having A Great Idea Won’t Make You The Next Richard Maponya

Tilldan Bunagni – Brand Manager for Firstwatch Whisky shares some insights into what will help you on the road to business success.

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All entrepreneurs have hurdles to overcome on their path to success, and it takes guts and fortitude to survive the journey. As self-made publisher, William Feather said, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

Richard Maponya has been described as a living legend, and while his first business idea to retail directly to consumers in Soweto proved successful, it was his incredible determination and work ethic that saw him overcome an extremely hostile business environment for black business under the Apartheid Government.

Today’s up and coming entrepreneurs face different challenges and while there is support for SMEs from Government to Corporates, the reality is that starting a business and seeing it develop into a highly successful entity creating wealth for the owner, employees and other stakeholders, is the exception rather than the rule.

So, what are some ideas that will help you pave the way for a successful business providing for yourself, your family, your community

Ensure you don’t neglect the business while chasing the money

One of the worst mistakes a small business can make is not having a good admin system in place. Without booking keeping records, SARS compliance and financial records for example, you will at some point hit a brick wall.

Whether it’s because you are growing and need to access funding – which will prove very difficult without business documentation – or you have neglected your SARS payments and compliance, the wall be there. From the start, learn how to manage your admin yourself, or employ the part time expertise of a professional. It will be well worth the initial spend.

Don’t be scared to ask for money

Many successful businesses have become so because they sought funding when they needed it. Whether this is at the start-up phase or when the business is already established but ready to be fast tracked to the next level. While there seems to be a lack of understanding of how many and what options are available to SMEs in SA, the truth is there are literally hundreds of funding products available. Search Google with keywords such as: Access to finance in South Africa and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the what is actually available.

Don’t be scared to look for support

Success often comes with support. Being an entrepreneur or small business owner can be a very lonely existence. Whether you seek the backing of a Mentor or join a support programme, improving your business skills and having a cheering squad behind you is empowering.

Another form of support can be found in initiatives and competitions geared towards developing and rewarding entrepreneurs. Look out for ones that talk to the genuine needs of an entrepreneurial business – such as financial support backed by business training and support.

The journey for entrepreneurs is really tough, but certainly well worth the effort in the long run.

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How Firstwatch can help you!

Firstwatch is currently running the ‘Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge’. This serves as a platform to move business ideas and concepts to the next stage of growth for the 100 applicants selected to join the two-day workshop.  The training programme is chock-full with robust, hands-on experiential learning with some of the country’s leading business experts.

At the culmination of the programme, entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to pitch their business or business idea to a panel of judges – where the top 10 will be selected. All entrepreneurs will be invited to attend the closing ceremony on the 19th May, where the top 10 will pitch to the entire audience and a final panel of celebrity judges and successful entrepreneurs.

The overall winner will walk away with R50 000 support for their existing or start-up business.

The entry closing date is the 31st of March with workshop dates on 27 and 28 April 2019.

For information on the initiative simply call or send a Whatsapp, SMS or “please call me” to 072 391 9937 or e-mail info@firstwatch.co.za.

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Digital Transformation Should Be A Priority For Small Businesses In South Africa

With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

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When a water pipe bursts in your home one morning, your initial reaction will probably be to grab your smartphone and search Google for a plumber nearby. Perhaps there is one just around the corner, but you wouldn’t know about them if they don’t show up in your search results. This scenario sums up why a good digital presence has become a must for small businesses in South Africa. The internet – and almost any business opportunity – is where the customers are.

According to the 2019 Global Digital Report prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, 54% of the South African population are internet users. This means there are 31 million people in South Africa who are searching for products and services online; 29 million of them are active mobile internet users. With numbers like that, digital transformation is critical for any small business that wishes to find more customers and grow.

First step on the road

We believe the journey of digital transformation starts with creating your own online identity. This is creating a place of your own online, starting with a website, and letting people know who you are, what you do, and what you offer. Think of it as your mobile storefront or your online business card. Start small and grow over time: no need to over-engineer or over spend.

Website builders like GoDaddy Website Builder can help you get a professional-looking website up and running in a short amount of time, even if you don’t have a big budget or any technical skills. And it will look amazing on a smartphone, not just yours! Once you’ve created your website, you can start looking at using tools like social media, search engine optimisation, and e-mail marketing to help reach new customers and stay in touch with existing ones.

Thanks to the internet and the digital tools available today, it’s not as hard or as expensive to create and promote your brand as it once was. First, a solid strategy is important, and it should include ways of showing your target audience what makes your brand and products unique.

Here are some other tips about how you can get value from your digital presence:

  • Mobile continues to rise: As we’ve mentioned before, more than 90% of internet users in South Africa are mobile. You should focus on improving site speed, navigation structures and readability on mobile devices, and look to optimise your website from the start for the mobile experience.
  • Simple design: This is an extension of creating mobile-first experiences, and it’s important that your website looks and works great on all screen sizes. This year, web design will focus on relevant and catchy content as well as design to help ensure you catch your users’ attention.
  • Feature “platforms”. What do I mean by platforms? This includes maps, payment solutions, food delivery services, and shared rides fall into this definition. Our friend the plumber might not need these for his website, but a restaurant could truly benefit from adding maps, partnering with a booking or reservation service and even a customer rating solution.

With an increased number of data breaches occurring, protecting your new website and your customers’ data has become even more important for companies of all sizes. Whether or not a website has an SSL Certificate, it can affect your search rankings, so you should ensure your site has the added SSL Certificate protections.

Voice search and chat – are they in your business’s future?

Looking to the future, we can expect to see the digital world evolve at breakneck speed. Two trends to be on the look-out for in the not-too-distant future are voice search and chatbots. Currently, one out of every five internet searches come from voice queries, which means people are speaking their searches into their smart devices.

Therefore, while optimising your website and content for search engines, it will be important to do it for voice searches, keeping in mind the growing use of virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana. We can also expect to see more businesses using chatbots powered by AI on their websites, as well as social media profiles and applications, to provide instant assistance for their customers.

Perhaps your small business is planning to start implementing these tools during the year. Or it could be several years before these features are on your radar. Either way, they highlight some potential ways your evolving digital presence can allow you to find and interact with customers in new powerful ways.

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