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The Rise Of Artisan Entrepreneurs In South Africa – And What It Takes To Succeed

Steven Cohen, Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia), comments on the sudden increase in Artisan businesses in South Africa.

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Steven Cohen, Head of Sage One International (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia), comments on the sudden increase in Artisan businesses in South Africa considering the fact that nearly one in five beers consumed in the US today is a craft brand, or that specialist coffee shops sales in the US have tripled to nearly $50 billion since 2002.

Around the world – from the trendy east of London to the hipster capital of Montreal’s Mile End – the so-called ‘flat white economy’ continues to rise. It comprises the thousands upon thousands of artisan entrepreneurs selling craft beers, ethically sourced coffee and organic, gourmet foods to consumers who crave healthy, sustainable and authentic eating experiences.

Artisan entrepreneurs started their rise after the 2008 recession. Just consider the fact that nearly one in five beers consumed in the US today is a craft brand, or that specialist coffee shops sales in the US have tripled to nearly $50 billion since 2002. And the trend has been picked up in South Africa, with more and more Small & Medium Businesses across the country serving customers with locally sourced ‘farm to table’ food and handcrafted products.

When we were evaluating the 702/CapeTalk Small Business Awards with Sage One this year, it was interesting to see how many artisan entrepreneurs there were among the nominees.

Related: How To Start Your Own Artisan Business

Like their counterparts in North America and Europe, they are creating enormous economic opportunities for themselves while supporting local producers and giving consumers alternatives to big producers and retailers.

So how is this done?

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Just think about how The Neighbourgoods market has revitalised its surrounding area in Braamfontein. This is one reason why we should support the rise of such businesses: They position themselves at the heart of the community. They support other small businesses and are effective job creators because of their focus on making high-quality goods with human care and love rather than mass producing products with machines.

The 702 winner this year, The Munching Mongoose, is a great example. This company scours South Africa to find the best local produce from small scale farmers and producers. Having secured high-quality produce, it delivers farm fresh milk, eggs, cheese, bread and an assortment of fruit and vegetables directly to its customers.

Other artisans nominated include Baseline, whose owners believe that bad coffee should not happen to good people and Las Paletas artisan lollies, which are made in small batches with fresh fruit, herbs, nuts and real dairy. What these businesses have in common is that they are founded by people with a passion for good food, environmental sustainability and healthy living.

Related: How To Launch Your Business Like You Mean It

Will you face challenges?

The Munching Mongoose has thrived, thanks to a receptive market, its exceptional customer service and the reach of the Internet. However, Brad Meiring, co-founder says that it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

“Logistics has been a big challenge for us as we operate a delivery service and many of the small scale producers we work with do not have great business systems in place. This makes reliably sourcing goods and receiving them at an expected time difficult,” he adds.

For Kyle Dods from My Place Gourmet Group, the big challenge is switching to paying VAT: “We’re now in a position where we have to add VAT, which in some cases adds an additional R10 to our product. These price increases in turn affects our customers.”

It is mandatory for a person to register for VAT if the taxable supplies made or to be made is, in excess of R1 million in any consecutive twelve-month period.

The artisan entrepreneurship space is challenging and having a passion for good food isn’t enough – you also need to be ready for long, hard hours spent pursuing your dream.

The most successful artisan businesses succeed by finding a niche, creating a personality for the business and building great customer relationships. They have a well thought out strategy about how to grow and scale a business that is based on the values of handcrafted care and the personal touch.

Related: What Should I Know About Dealing With Tax When It Comes To My Business?

Healthy margins

What’s more, it’s important to look at how you will earn a healthy margin off goods that will be more expensive to make or source than the mass-produced alternatives. How do you balance quality and price to ensure profitability? How do you keep people coming back, even if you’re not the cheapest supplier on the block? Traditional business disciplines such as tight inventory management, market research, hard-hitting sales and good customer relationship management are all key to success.

Artisan entrepreneurs are thriving and delivering great service to their customers, but clearly, we could be doing more to help them grow. Like most small businesses, they would benefit from less tax and regulatory red tape, better access to finance and more support from bigger businesses.

That said, advances such as online software and services, cheaper transportation and growing interest in locally produced goods all bode well for the future of South Africa’s artisan entrepreneurs.

At Sage we started small and have grown beyond what seemed imaginable and take pride in our customers being able to do the same. South Africa’s artisan businesses are on the same trajectory – far beyond simply selling goods in neighbourhood shops and flea markets – they are small business heroes who are helping to grow our country’s economy.

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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Start-ups Require A Strong Legal Foundation Webber Wentzel Ignite

Entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups are a lifeline to South Africa’s economy.

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Entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups are a lifeline to South Africa’s economy.  It is however a harsh environment and many entrepreneurs find themselves in a situation where they are wearing many hats and navigating potential pitfalls without the knowledge that many professionals have from years of experience.

This is especially true from a legal point of view where entrepreneurs are faced with real world regulatory challenges that could have far-reaching consequences on their fledgling business, such as financial regulatory, tax, exchange control and intellectual property.

A common example is that start-ups often forget to secure the rights and licenses they need to operate. For example, would you invest or partner with a company that:

  • doesn’t have a legal right to use their brand
  • doesn’t have proprietary technology; and/or
  • is reliant on a third party agreement that doesn’t permit commercial use?

Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance

These avoidable shortcomings often result in failures at critical junctures. The specialist legal services needed to avoid these problems are typically not easily accessible to start-ups.

With this in mind, Webber Wentzel has launched a project called ‘Webber Wentzel Ignite’ – a legal incubation programme that will provide selected entrepreneurs and innovators from any sector with:

  • tailored legal services valued at up to ZAR 100,000;
  • bespoke mentoring and training support – focused on legal knowledge and developing key legal skills relevant to start-up businesses; and
  • targeted networking and profile-raising opportunities.

Video about Ignite

Webber Wentzel is not asking for equity or exclusivity; only an opportunity to connect and make a difference as a trusted advisor over the long-term. It is a wonderful opportunity that will set the selected entrepreneurs apart in the marketplace. Applications close on 15 January 2018

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SMMEs So Much Focus On Funding, But What About Skills

A study by StatsSA which surveyed households and obtained evidence relating to skills development and unemployment between 1994 and 2014 showed the following.

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I think we can all agree that the funding of small businesses is only part of the solution. What is possibly more important (as an enabler) is the initial assessment of the level and adequacy of skills existing within new or developing enterprises and to evaluate what further skills development or training is required to ensure a firm business foundation and sustainable growth is achieved.

A study by StatsSA which surveyed households and obtained evidence relating to skills development and unemployment between 1994 and 2014 showed the following:

  • During this time frame across the South African working population of households there was an increase in skilled labour (21% to 25%), with a shift away from semi and low-skilled labour.
  • What is interesting to note in the growth of skilled labour is the disparity within the different race groups.

*For the purpose of this analysis, the occupation types were used to infer skills levels based on the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Skilled: manager, professional, technical. Semi-skilled: sales and services, clerk, machine operator. Low-skilled: domestic worker.

This is clear evidence that the role of enterprise and supplier development is a crucial one needed to up-skill and train the broader population. It is one thing to provide finance and access to markets, but without the appropriate skills development to make these investments sustainable is would be a fruitless exercise.

Related: 6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

The role that the private sector plays in post investment business support and capacity building is incredibly important. There is a requirement to build both technical skills as well as overall business management skills. This in my view is when we will start seeing real impact. In order for the enterprises to be effective in the contracts that they are awarded a focus on skills development (by both parties) is required.

In an economy where growth has crawled to a near halt, SMMEs cannot be expected to be the holy-grail for job creation. Making an impact in increasing the potential salary earning or employable workforce is key and therefore skills development requires a multi-faceted approach:

  1. From early education phase – where emphasis must be placed at school level for entrepreneurship training and opportunities is a key enabler. Entrepreneurship should in essence become a career option to consider. Innovation must be incubated. The world is changing and the skills required to be productive are changing as well.
  2. Clear regulations and commitment to quality interventions should be stipulated at policy level to incentivise skills development/ skills transfer from large corporates to small businesses.
  3. Without looking at the bigger picture these developmental areas are without support – so a holistic approach to skills development – mentorship, networking and overall business acumen are skills that often distinguish between those who do well and those who don’t in business. It needs to all work harmoniously and as an effective and efficient ecosystem reliant on each other’s strengths and support and mutually beneficial objectives.

Related: 3 Things You Must Have In Place To Get That Start-up Bank Finance

At the end of the day, an enterprise should leave an ESD programme empowered to stand and survive in the business world. We know that we are losing the challenge when time and time again we see developing enterprises moving from one ESD programme to another with nothing to show for it. Monitoring and evaluation of these enterprises is therefore also essential to track growth and success – but also to identify areas of weakness or need for further intervention.

At the heart of ESD is the notion that larges businesses/ corporates should move beyond compliance (aka box-ticking) and toward the heart of transformation. Intertwined here is the responsibility to use development interventions and activities in a deliberate and focused manner so that the skills level in small businesses can move upwards and ensure the longevity and success of growing enterprises.

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Become The Number One Pitch Hustler With The ENGEN Pitch & Polish Programme

The ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme, hosted by Engen Petroleum Ltd and Nedbank, powered by Raizcorp and supported by national media partner, Caxton Local Media, is based on teaching entrepreneurs to present a winning pitch that is clear and focused.

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ENGEN Pitch Polish final 30 Nov 17

The word “hustle” comes from a Dutch word that means “to shake things up”. Traditionally, the English word “hustler” was used to describe a dishonest person, who would do anything to make money. Hustling is, however, no longer a dirty word; nowadays, a hustler is someone who makes things happen. Hustling is about movement, activity and shaking things up in a positive way – the very things that entrepreneurs need to succeed!

Successful hustlers exist everywhere, and all entrepreneurs have much to learn from those who have mastered the art of the hustle! Whether they are building a business, selling a product or offering a service, hustlers focus on their goal and do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. Hustlers put in the hours and don’t waste time doing things that don’t contribute to their success in some way.

Hustlers grab every opportunity to pitch their business to potential funders and clients. They are seasoned pitch artists, and having secured the opportunity to pitch, know exactly what they want to say. Hustlers present a polished pitch! For this reason, the ENGEN Pitch & Polish programme, hosted by Engen Petroleum Ltd and Nedbank, powered by Raizcorp and supported by national media partner, Caxton Local Media, is based on teaching entrepreneurs to present a winning pitch that is clear and focused.

Related: What Type Of Pitcher Are You?

“With us you are number one”, the headline sponsor Engen’s slogan, could just as easily apply to the hustler’s attitude towards his clients and business. Hustlers put their clients first. Their elevator pitch is ready to go and hustlers, always thinking on their feet, can adapt their pitch to meet the needs of different audiences.

Nedbank, a co-sponsor of ENGEN Pitch & Polish, encourages people to “make your money hustle for you”. Hustlers know how to do this. They think carefully about their pricing model, know how to calculate profit, and make their money work for them!

Hustlers do not give up when they hear “no”. They see rejection as an opportunity to be overcome, not a roadblock. At ENGEN Pitch & Polish, entrepreneurs are subjected to many “no’s” as they learn to perfect their pitches. Those who learn to use this feedback to their advantage – are the hustlers!

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Bruce Diale

The pitch that was delivered from the heart, with the greatest ease, confidence, and precision – as well as energy and enthusiasm – were the qualities that caught the eye of the judges, and resulted in Bruce Diale, from Polokwane, winning the 2017 ENGEN Pitch and Polish programme, at an exclusive and prestigious event, held in Johannesburg, on 30th November. Bruce’s Agri-consulting business has developed, and patented, Gardenizly, an innovative vegetable gardening product, which is both water and space efficient.

This was not the only reason for his victory. “We chose Bruce as this year’s winner,” says Joe Mahlo, GM for Sales and Marketing, from Engen Petroleum Ltd, who was one of this year’s judges, “because he was clear on the value that his product and business will add to his clients and, indeed, to the world.” This is yet another indispensable quality of the hustler. Watch this space. A hustler has been born!

Related: 10 Ways To Beat The Odds And Get That Funding For Your Start-Up

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Refilwe Matsaneng

Second place was awarded to Refilwe Matsaneng, from Welkom, for her hair products business, GloLooks. Third place went to Renschia Manuel, from Cape Town, for her portable urban veggie growing boxes, GrowBox, business.

“It’s intimidating and unnerving to ask for money,” says Grace Govender, Head of New Business and Support for Relationship Banking, Nedbank. “To overcome this, entrepreneurs must focus on being properly prepared and authentic.”

To further help the entrepreneurs, Caxton Local Media, with over 140 publications, whose roots, too, are deeply embedded in the country, awarded the winner with R20,000 in advertising. “Caxton is firmly established in, and supportive of, local communities in South Africa and the partnership with ENGEN Pitch & Polish, along with Engen, Nedbank and Raizcorp, is a natural fit. We all believe in building small business, from grassroots up,” explains Dejane Poil, Head of Innovation at Caxton.

There was magic on the night as esteemed guests offered these three entrepreneurs further opportunities for growth and expansion.

ENGEN Pitch & Polish’s power lies in its ability to identify, through their pitch, the entrepreneurs that are number one hustlers. “These are the entrepreneurs who demonstrate the ambition to excel and the motivation to put in the work,” says Allon Raiz, the originator of the Pitch & Polish concept, now in its eighth year of identifying entrepreneurs who truly understand what it means to up the hustle!

For more information, visit www.pitchandpolish.com.

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