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Lending a helping hand – USB’s Small Business Academy reaches out to disadvantaged entrepreneurs

  • Financial Planning Programme Head
  • Jan 15 2019
11 minutes to read

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In South Africa, one of the challenges small and startup business owners face every day is finding the support they need to grow their companies. They need access to resources that will help them improve their business skills and bring their business ideas to life. With these challenges in mind, the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) decided to launch the Small Business Academy (SBA) in 2012.

The Small Business Academy started with the intent of providing business owners from disadvantaged communities with the business education they need to achieve financial success. This doesn’t only directly benefit the business owner, but helps improve the communities around them.

Here are five of the many entrepreneurs that the SBA has helped over the years:

Amani Communications

Bomikazi Nkolongwane is the owner of the 100% female and black-owned communications company Amani Communications, based in Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape. Before she launched her business, she studied political science, pursued a career in journalism and later became a communications specialist working for municipalities in Gauteng.

Her list of clients has grown to include the likes of Senqu Municipality, Joe Gqabi District Municipality, the Film and Publication Board, Arengo6, African Union Foundation and Chris Hani District. However, achieving this level of success wasn’t easy.

“It wasn’t smooth sailing from the first day. I didn’t have a proper business plan and ran my business informally with very little finance. But in the past nine months as part of the SBA programme I learned how to structure my business and most importantly gained invaluable insight from my USB MBA alumnus Johan Wepener who offered fresh perspective and sound advice.”

Thembile’s Breadshop

Thembile Gcukumeni’s breadshop was born from an unfortunate event. Originally a mountaineer and outdoor experiential educator, Thembile suffered a stroke that affected the left side of his body, leaving him with only one functional hand.

After undergoing rehabilitation to walk and talk properly again, he was able to receive the training and equipment necessary to become a baker. He was later selected for the SBA. The business and marketing skills he has gained while attending the SBA have given him a better idea of what he needs to focus on in his business. He also understands that empowering small business owners is critical in South Africa:

“I am passionate about enterprise development in South Africa. I believe that small-scale enterprises that reflect a person’s passion are one of the routes of economic success in our country.”

ATG EKASI Handbags and Clothing

Gugulethu-based entrepreneur Thuleka Duke originally worked as a flight attendant before starting a fashion business with her partner Abass Maazu in 2014. It was her work as a flight attendant that took her all over West Africa and sparked her desire to create African print handbags and apparel.

After she acquired the skills she needed to design and create fashion items, she struggled to grow her business. She lacked sufficient machinery, space and the financial backing to make her dream a reality. Thankfully she was selected for the SBA. She had this to say during the programme:

“It’s not an easy industry to work in and very difficult for designers to get noticed. But my selection to the SBA programme is an incredible opportunity for me to learn about areas of running a business I have never thought of. The knowledge that I’m gaining in marketing, funding and networking will certainly bring us closer to our ultimate goal of selling our products in leading boutiques countrywide and to put African designs at the forefront of international fashion.”

Towards the end of 2016 her company had gained five employees, and she was looking to extend the reach of her brand.

Mitchells Plain Music Academy

Self-taught piano player Trevino Isaacs became a professional piano player by the age of 15. His amazing talent and dedication to music soon led to him offering music lessons from his mother’s living room.

His passion for music didn’t stop there. Trevino realised that music could offer people in his community a way to escape a life of alcohol, drugs, poverty and violence. This led him to start the Mitchells Plain Music Academy with two of his friends who also studied music.

While Trevino’s business may have grown from a natural demand in his community, taking part in the SBA has still helped his business in other critical ways:

“Our growth has been organic to where we teach 40 students currently. My selection to the SBA programme has had a major impact on how I structure and market the business. The knowledge I’m gaining will assist us to grow the business significantly and help us achieve our ultimate goal whereby we are in a financial position to assist more students who have the talent but simply can’t pay the tuition fees.”

Women in Business Zone

Three Khayelitsha entrepreneurs saw a need to establish an organisation that empowered business women in their community. Xoliswa Tsholoba and sisters Wente and Letticia Ntaka formed the Women in Business Zone to ensure that they could focus their skills, knowledge and, sometimes, their financial resources to help their businesses thrive. The group has grown to five members, and their support has been extended to additional female entrepreneurs in Khayelitsha.

Wente, Letticia and Xoliswa were selected to take part in the SBA, and have since gained additional financial and marketing skills to apply in their businesses and the Women in Business Zone. One of their groundbreaking successes is that they were the first black women in Khayelitsha to execute on the trenching and laying of piping for fibre in the traditionally male dominated construction industry. They were awarded another contract for Khayelitsha and Eerste Rivier based on the quality of their work with the teams in Xoliswa’s construction company.

Wente highlights the importance of their work: “Other disadvantaged women in Khayelitsha can see that it is possible to do something – you don’t have to sit at home just because you don’t have a job. We want other women to see the strength we have working as a team, and the fact that not having a university education didn’t stop us from being businesswomen and making a difference in our community.”

The SBA is just one of the ways USB gives back to the community. For more information on the SBA and the SBA community, visit our website. Additional details on the SBA programme are directly accessible here.

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