South African entrepreneurs face countless challenges from excessive red tape and having to operate in what is often an unfavourable entrepreneurial environment to a lack of the necessary business skills needed to make their businesses a success.
A panel discussion at the recently held Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) saw entrepreneurial thought leaders and entrepreneurs share their insights into how to solve some of these entrepreneurial challenges.
GEW forms part of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN). The initiative brings together aspiring entrepreneurs, experts and successful entrepreneurs in an effort to create and foster a global entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The panel included the CEO of Small Enterprise Finance Agency, Thakani Makhuvha, the CEO of Small Enterprise Development Agency, Mandisa Tshikwatamba, the co-founder of The Creative Counsel, Gil Oved, serial entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den SA judge, Lebo Gunguluza; and founder and president of the African Cooperative for Hawkers and Informal Businesses, Lawrence Mavundla.
The discussion focused on a range of topics from the need for early stage entrepreneurial training, ways to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in communities and what is needed to create a conducive entrepreneurial environment for small businesses.
On the need for education and entrepreneurship training
‘Let’s equip young people with the skills of the future’ – What I want to demystify is that education is not important in entrepreneurship. Education and skills remain important in entrepreneurship, but the question that we need to look into is what kind of education and I think when we are talking [about] accelerators, when we are talking [about] incubators – we need technology-oriented education that increases the value of human capital through skills that are relevant to sectors, particularly the sectors that have been identified as drivers of economic growth – Mandisa Tshikwatamba
‘Starting them young’ – When young ones go to school they need to be taught about entrepreneurship because then we will be able to assist at the end where one is looking for opportunities to start a business. [Entrepreneurs need to have] a grounding and understanding of what [needs to be done to create and present a watertight business plan] – Thakani Makhuvha
“In Jewish households generally, there is a spirit of entrepreneurship from a young age, you sit around the dinner table and you talk about business”
On the need for a cultural shift in SA
‘Encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship’ – We need a fundamental cultural shift. In Jewish households, generally, there is a spirit of entrepreneurship from a young age, you sit around the dinner table and you talk about business. Children are included, there is no such thing as children are only to be seen and not heard. They sit at the dinner table and they talk from an early age and they listen and their opinions are respected, and so by the time you leave the house you feel that it’s almost your calling to get into business – Gil Oved
On entrepreneurial skills
‘Know your numbers’ – The one thing that lacks all the time is financial experience and financial intelligence. We take it for granted that issues of managing cash flow, issues of managing how you relate to your creditors, relating to people that [you need money from]. All those aspects have a lot to do with your sustainability – Lebo Gunguluza
‘Entrepreneurs need financial intelligence’ – You’ll find that an entrepreneur will get a sum of money and then will go and buy a car cash and he’s not thinking that why don’t I maybe position myself so that I am strong for credit, so that I can buy the car using the bank’s money but I use the rest of the money to drive my business, instead he will take all the money and buy a car, therefore [this shows that] that type of intelligence is important – Lebo Gunguluza
On creating a nurturing entrepreneurial environment
Let’s build a conducive environment – “I think the first thing we had to deal with in SA is an environment that is not conducive and welcoming to entrepreneurs hence we had to request our own government to have the ministry of small business [development] which was very important and we are very encouraged in the way things are happening now because it means the situation is conducive. We’ve got somebody now championing our calls in the cabinet” – Lawrence Mavundla