“SA’s unemployment at highest since 2003,” shout the headlines. What a disaster. And yet, just a week before, entrepreneurs across the country were celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), making their own employment.
Apart from GEW there are various other initiatives that make up the entrepreneurial ecosystem. MyStartUp’s well-attended “I am an Entrepreneur” event was held at the IDC in Sandton. GIBS held a rather chaotic, but informative Entrepreneurship Day for a good number of participants. There were a number of other events, like the launch of The Innovation Hub’s eKasiLab at Soweto Empowerment Zone. Even the Global Entrepreneurship Network president, Jonathan Ortmans, was in Mzansi to launch GEW.
Business Partners announced the national winners of the SME Toolkit GEW’s Business Plan Competition for Aspiring Young Entrepreneurs. SiMODiSA celebrated GEW on its Venture Train from Jozi to the Mother City. Some of the incubators, such as the Branson Centre recognised GEW with appropriate events like bootcamps.
Several politicians also took the opportunity to blow entrepreneurship’s trumpet. The Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank recently observed: “…small business plays a critical role in a thriving economy.”
The heavy lifting
But, the heavy lifting is being done by South African entrepreneurs themselves. And who are these valiant men and women? According to DealSunny.com, almost all the world’s entrepreneurs have a bachelors degree and by far the majority are ordinary, middle class people.
My experience is that these findings hold true for South African entrepreneurs too. Note that not all small business owners are entrepreneurs (see what the difference is). Indeed, first responders at an earth quake or tsunami have to think ‘entrepreneurially’, it’s part of their job. But only some of the survivors do so spontaneously, the rest wait to be told what to do.
Our successful entrepreneurs are smart, often well educated, innovative and persevering. They don’t wait for someone else, like a government department to pass them business. They make business opportunities themselves, “spontaneously”.
But we also have a have a largely ignored small business segment of innovative informal entrepreneurs operating at the fringes of the economy. In his book, KasiNomics, GG Alcock reveals that “Parmalat Cheese Slices have created a multi-million rand business in ‘kotas'” and that the “muti market is worth R3 billion a year, with 27 million consumers.”
Many of us imagine that we need to be in the scalable high growth sector of FinTech development, taking the next jet plane to Silicon Valley to be an entrepreneur. But the research also reveals that the main reason that start-ups fail is remains that they are trying to sell something that people don’t want.
Ndabazezwe Mncube has found an unexploited networking opportunity with entrepreneurs themselves. He is providing something that they do want. He noticed how effectively Awethu Project attracted candidates to its business incubator programme by “offering companies with the potential for high-growth the chance to apply for up to R5-million in equity funding.
He started his own network with an emphasis on building fundable businesses by live streaming interviews with successful entrepreneurs to groups of members in restaurants around the country. So successful has Ndabazezwe’s venture become that he is now pitching for investment to scale the business further.
Ndabazezwe is a great example of enthusiastic South African entrepreneurs taking the initiative and doing it for themselves. There will be no shortage of enthusiastic entrepreneurs attending the 2017 GEW Global Entrepreneurship Congress in South Africa from March 13 to 16, 2017. Will you be there?
About the author: Rick Ed at age 60 sold his business to a younger and more energetic management team. He now educates entrepreneurs on strategic decision making and sales. Rick is a business advisor at DoBetter.Business.