Entrepreneurship

Unemployed man sitting near wall

The backbone of our country’s frail economy is weakening – rebuilding SMMEs needed

USB News

The backbone of our country’s frail economy is weakening – rebuilding SMMEs needed

Unemployed man sitting near wall
[Source: Skitterphoto; Pexel]

  • Jun 03
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, economy, SMME

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By Seraj Toefy, Custodian of Entrepreneurship at the business school

With lockdown destroying 42.7% of small businesses in South Africa, together with a record-high unemployment rate of 43.2% recorded in the first quarter of 2021, is a clear signal that the backbone of our country’s frail economy is weakening.

Now is the time for small business owners to look at how they can recover and rebuild in new ways for a post-pandemic business environment to retain employment and set a course for growth.

Small business globally is seen as the engine of job creation, but South Africa lags, with a high failure rate of SMMEs meaning we are still far short of the National Development Plan (NDP) target of small businesses creating up to 10-million new jobs by 2030.

The short-term outlook for small businesses most definitely varies depending on the industry, with some industries closed for the foreseeable future, however, many can still recover and consider action plans to rebuild their businesses. Amidst the uncertainty of not knowing how long the recovery will take, SMMEs must reconsider and reimagine their business models.

Embrace the changes
If your business is still yet to boom again, then there is no doubt you needed to make some serious changes to survive. What you don’t want to do is bounce back to pre-Covid routines.  Rather embrace the changes and create a new norm.

“Go back to basics and relook your business model…”

Go back to basics and relook your business model – interrogate why you did things in a certain way, and whether you could do things differently.  Most businesses grow organically with very little time spent on critical assessment. Investigate the changing consumer behaviour landscape and ask yourself how relevant your business still is, how can you adapt your service or product, attract a completely new consumer group, or use your skillset to start an entirely new business.

Side-hustles are very often overlooked as potentially fledging full-time businesses. If you started a side-hustle to keep things afloat, consider whether this could not steer your business into a new direction either as an addition to or a completely separate business.

Reassessing your staff complement is essential in reimagining a business. Consider how you can adapt job descriptions to keep overheads lower, upskill your star employees in taking on new responsibilities or diversify their tasks. By investing in your staff and making them part of your growth, they will be in many cases, the reason for long-term, sustainable, success.

Collaborate
Isolation is the death of many small businesses. By collaborating you can potentially grow faster. Share expenses, resources, leads and staff, even if only as a temporary measure.

“By collaborating you can potentially grow faster.”

For too long, we have viewed competition in a binary way.  I win, you lose.  We need to move past that and realise that the real competition at the moment is lockdown and a struggling economy.  If forming collaborative partnerships with your immediate competition is too much of a stretch, then look to see how you can collaborate with suppliers and complementary products or services.

Rising tides raise all boats, and working together makes that easier.

Milestones
Set yourself reasonable milestones for your growth.  It will be tempting to think that you will be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic growth figures, but expecting that could be frustrating.  Reset your targets, set mini-milestones that will keep you moving forward and motivated.  Build a runway of at least six to 12 months until you can safely be looking at pre-Covid levels.

“Reset your targets, set mini-milestones that will keep you moving forward and motivated.”

Stay connected
Brand awareness is your way of letting your consumers, customers and suppliers know that you are either back in business, have expanded your business or at the very least, that you are still around.

“…never underestimate the power of a phone call.”

Strengthen or re-establish the bond by communicating regularly and excite them with your offering. Clean up your database and use email and social media to advertise your offering or share new developments in your business. Re-skin your website and ensure it visually portrays a sense of dynamism. And never underestimate the power of a phone call. A short call to your suppliers could result in new, better ways of working together.

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USB Lion's Den 2020

Entrepreneurs present innovative business ideas at Lion’s Den 2020

USB News

Entrepreneurs present innovative business ideas at Lion’s Den 2020

  • November 26
  • Tags Our news, Entrepreneurship, events

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Entrepreneur Lohan Pieterse was named the overall winner at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) Lion’s Den event on Wednesday, 18 November 2020.

He is a current Masters student in Data Science at Stellenbosch University with a background in industrial engineering and five years of professional experience in the forestry industry. His business idea, GreenTweak Business Systems, aims to manage system implementations of proven new technologies for typically overlooked commercial enterprises.

GreenTweak USBHe says it is “absolutely amazing and a surreal feeling” being named the winner and says the insightful pitch training sessions done by Seraj Toefy (Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB) was invaluable to take constructive criticism to heart and evolved the presentation into what it was ultimately.

On the idea he says: “The flagship product of the business is called TreeVIZ – a computer vision toolkit which is designed for the forestry industry to accurately determine biological asset values at a large scale.

“The problem that forestry companies are facing is that they only capture location data by manually sampling between 5 – 10% of a complete stand – this often leads to erroneous recordings skewing growth models. Biological assets usually account for billions of Rands and are tied directly to an organisation’s balance sheet – so extreme variances will negatively affect finances and influence projections. Next year, my data science master’s project will aim to collect precision measurements for all trees in a designated compartment,” he explains.

Pieterse says the potential is huge when considering the vast operational footprint of forestry in South Africa and the prospective customers that could use such a product in future. “What makes GreenTweak a key differentiator in this space is that it will be using ground-level video recordings for collecting accurate tree data – an online platform will then charge forest companies a fixed rate per hectare to have access to the processed information.”

He says he learned a lot throughout the competition and is very appreciative to have met the fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. “Expanding my professional network was a pleasant positive on top of it all too.”

Pieterse takes home R50 000 as well as an entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship run by ESADE Business school in Spain.

“I intend to use the funds towards advancing my master’s project in 2021 through procuring the necessary equipment which will give the study a real significant boost. However, the true reward was having an opportunity to meet and present my business idea to all of the Lions – a panel of seasoned investors who assessed the potential pitches against one another. I am grateful for the chance to showcase my ambitions and I am excited for the prospects that will follow from winning this achievement.” he says.

“As a bonus, a fellowship programme presented by LaunchLab was also included in the prize which is very generous and this is giving me a lot of momentum to build up the business. Finding good co-founders for a start-up company is pivotal for success – especially during the early stages – and this collaboration will definitely complement my own shortcomings,” says Pieterse.

Civil engineering student Rinae Musekene was named the runner-up with his business RINAIBRA, a Maintenance Communication System (MCS) which replaces maintenance books, WhatsApp, and email. “We offer tracking of residence maintenance issues and a convenient communication system between the parties (student/tenant, and the maintenance administrator) involved,” says Musekene.

“The award means a lot for us as a young start-up that was started by final year students in a university residence. We are still in disbelief that our problem-solving skills have been transposed into such an exciting business opportunity. The biggest lesson that we have learned over the past few months is that individuals need to learn to earn their problems and understand that problems are not completely solved all at once.  Great organisations and businesses are not a mere pursuit of financial value but rather solving problems and in turn the money will follow,” he says.

Musekene received the second prize of R30 000 from SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilly Law. O’Reilly Law will assist the winner with company set-up and other legal considerations of a start-up, and Centuro Global will assist the winner to expand their business global when they are ready. “We are going to use the competition money to finance critical marketing operations and platform development to add features and to allow for support of more users.”

The other finalists were Alvira Fisher (CoShare), Jacquis Tolsma (Camradi) and Wynand Schutte (DwellSmart).

Facilitated by Seraj Toefy, Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB, the Lion’s Den panel included Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global, Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos, Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School, Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus, Brandon Paschal, Director of Innovation at SU LaunchLab, Josh Romisher, CEO of SU LaunchLab, and Daniel Strauss, Director of Stocks & Strauss.

 

On advice they would like to share to entrepreneurs, the speakers shared the following:

“Get a good mentor. Being an entrepreneur can be quite lonely and sometimes you just need someone to talk to.”
– Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global

“Don’t overthink it. Just start.”
– Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos

“Don’t start companies; start projects and see where it takes you.”
– Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School

USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business plays an increasing role in shifting society. That is why the prizes did not only consist of cash but also skills and mentorship.

USB would like to thank the following partners for their involvement in accelerating the vision of entrepreneurship with the substantial prizes to the participants:

  • SU LaunchLab
  • Centuro Global
  • O’Reilly Law

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usb lions den winners

When an innovative business idea comes to life

USB News

When an innovative business idea comes to life

usb lions den winners

  • November 04
  • Tags Our news, Entrepreneur, USB Lion’s Den

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2019 Lion’s Den winners share their experience

Gerrit de Villiers and Gerhard Landman, both MBA alumni of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), were the winners of last year’s USB Lion’s Den competition with their RoomCheck business idea, which was a favourite amongst the impressive panel of investors.

Gerhard, who owns a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) in Bloemfontein, Free State, experienced challenges first-hand in running a B&B remotely and that is how the idea for RoomCheck started. With their idea, they aim to solve a relevant challenge in the hospitality industry where the owner or manager needs to know how many guests occupied a room versus what was paid for.

“The idea is a device that provides the user with information on exactly how many individuals slept in a bed via a privacy-preserving device that is easily installed. This way our customers are empowered to take action based on the information provided in the way that they choose, whether this be charging the customer for an additional guest or confronting the manager,” Gerrit explains.

They decided to enter Lion’s Den because they needed help to get the idea off the ground. “We believed USB could offer the right connections, having studied there and knowing the competition will present us with the opportunity to engage with possible investors.”

USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business has an increasing role in changing society.

They say it was an “incredible experience that not only changed the business but also our mind-set around entrepreneurship”. “You often fall in love with your solution and the whole experience cemented the importance of rather falling in love with the problem and building your solution around it. It gave us the confidence in the idea to pursue it further,” he says.

They won a R50 000 cash prize and say financially it provided them with the boost they needed. Furthermore, they also won a mentorship programme from investment holding company Stocks & Strauss (which will resume after the Covid-19 pandemic).

Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to enter this year’s Lion’s Den is to focus on the opportunity to build relationships. “I would encourage anyone with a business idea to participate because it is not only a great opportunity to get the attention of investors or soundboard your idea (against some of the best in the industry), but it’s got more to do with the like-minded individuals that you get to meet. Your next business might just be in partnership with the entrepreneur you meet at Lion’s Den!”

*If you want to witness promising entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors, join us at the online 2020 Lion’s Den, in association with Centuro GlobalStellenbosch University LaunchLab and O’Reilly Law, on Wednesday, 18 November at 14:00. Book here

** The business idea that conquers all and emerges victorious from the den this year, will take home R50 000, plus a share of over R220 000 worth of prizes – including entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship, run by the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. There is also a healthy second prize of R30 000 courtesy of SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilley Law.

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Rushana Hartnick - Mitchells Plain’s Global USB Ambassador

USB News

Rushana Hartnick – Mitchells Plain’s Global USB Ambassador

  • FEB 18
  • Tags 2020 Academic Opening, USB Alumni, International Education, Entrepreneurship

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Speaking at the 2020 USB Academic Opening in February, MBA alumnus Rushana Hartnick shared her first introduction to internationalisation, the key theme of USB’s ongoing commitment to being a global partner.

When Rushana Hartnick, social entrepreneur and alumnus of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), started The Little Mermaid Swim School in 2012, she had a vision: to offer water safety and swimming to children in the Mitchells Plain area where not many home owners have swimming pools. In 2014, she catapulted her academic and business career as a participant in the USB Small Business Academy (SBA). Today, she is the holder of a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management and Administration (PGDip BMA), and recently became a Full-time MBA graduate from the business school. She reflects on her international experience gained from her journey.y

“When I arrived for the first day of my PGDip BMA, I was introduced to 11 exchange students, and I remember looking at them thinking that I don’t belong here. However, their sense of curiosity was contagious. I realised then that a highlight for me would be when I set foot off the continent to unlock my full potential.”

She was elected to join the EMBA Consortium for Global Business Innovation, a collaboration between 11 business schools, in Turkey, where she was joined by 11 nationalities to discuss pertinent issues facing each country.

“It was mind-blowing! Sharing impactful conversations with so many different nationalities, and there I was with a seat at the table. It led me to question my role in the society where I live and what I am doing to ensure that my country becomes one that everyone around the globe wants to visit or do business with.

“I was afforded another opportunity by USB to be part of the Digital Strategy and New Business Models elective in Brazil, where I discussed social issues with executives from around the world and creating business models in addressing these issues. This has started another journey for me – one that I can now make a reality back home, in Mitchells Plain.

“I want to thank USB, especially the support staff, for believing in me and giving me so many opportunities and exposure to broaden my mind and horizon for the good of my local community. When USB speaks internationalisation, it comes from the bottom all the way to the top. And I am not only an ambassador of Mitchell’s Plain but an ambassador of USB.”

Since its inception, The Little Mermaid Swim School, has grown from servicing 35 children to teaching swimming to 500 kids per week whilst also providing an aftercare facility.

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