A total of 33% of entrepreneurs that have been in business for more than two years attribute the primary reason for their success to cultivating strong personal networks, according to the Real State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa 2017 survey.
In a SME South Africa article, Sandras Phiri, Director of Startup Grind Cape Town shares the sentiment that networking plays a critical role in growing your business. “Desktop research and data collection from the internet does not replace speaking to real people and this is where the mismatch can come in.”
Here are the various strategies entrepreneurs can use to grow their network:
Cultivate personal networks
Katlego Maphai, co-founder of the startup Yoco, is a University of Cape Town (UCT) graduate. He says that university is where most of his connections and friendships, including with his co-founders, were made.
When launching Yoco and working to gain traction, Maphai and his team were strategic about making use of the relationships and connections that were at their disposal.
He explains social capital: “Social capital is the availability of resources through a personal network consisting of family, friends, acquaintances, existing and former colleagues. The system develops over a lifetime and career, starting as early as attending school. I see it as a ‘help option’ that can be exercised at any time to further personal objectives.”
To empower others, Yoco hosts workshops to meet new entrepreneurs and to connect small business owners with each other. The point of sale payments provider which helps small businesses accept card payments, has workshops that is called Yoco Meets, include topics like Facebook Boost your Business.
You can find out more about these meetups on their social media platforms.
Emmanuel Bonoko, an entrepreneur brings together South African business heavyweights into the same room to inspire township youth. “I started #Back2Kasi to use my influence and networks to empower as many young people as possible,” says Bonoko.
The goal for their series of events is to inspire and support young black and emerging entrepreneurs. A big part of how they do this is by exposing them to success stories and providing access to information and networks.
For their first event this year they brought together entrepreneurs, DJ Sbu, Sibusiso Ngwenya of SkinnySbuSocks and Tshepo Mohlala of Tshepo the Jean Maker to talk about merchandising to township-based entrepreneurs.
Join entrepreneurial hubs and networks
She Leads Africa is an entrepreneurial incubator aimed at advancing female entrepreneurship on the African continent and the diaspora. This community helps young African women achieve their professional dreams through engaging online content and organises pan-African events like bootcamps or masterclasses.
Caitlin Craig, head of Community for She Leads Africa, says: “For an organisation such as ours, where we’re running business bootcamps and corporate masterclasses as well as pitch competitions, having a consistent, professional partnership as we do with OPEN (ecosystem), to provide the spaces we need is critical. We need to be able to rely on appropriate spaces to promote the growth of skills – our audiences need to trust in us.”
Join relevant Facebook groups
Facebook groups like BrownSense allow communities to connect and network with each other. Mzuzukile Soni is the founder BrownSense, a networking community for black entrepreneurs.
Soni says it is necessary to have these kinds of spaces that would play, kind of, a stakeholder role and [help] get small black enterprises to be heard and for more of them to gain access to the markets.
Candice Clark, a Career Coach and founder of the Facebook group Career Girl Collab, for example, connects with people who for example are interested in a career change.
Clark says many of her clients first joined her Facebook group before they knew her expertise as a coach. “You give potential clients a chance to interact with you and assess your skills and knowledge, prior to deciding to start coaching with you.”
Engage in Twitter chats
Twitter chats like #WeTalkBiz give likeminded people the opportunity to learn from each other on different topics like content marketing or cash flow.
The guest is asked questions by the host @_WeTalk and gets an opportunity to share his or her expertise and knowledge on the topic.
Nolly Qunta and Hardlife Muhamba are the co-founders of the #WeTalkBiz chat.
Participants can also ask questions, share their knowledge and engage with one another. You also find out what the participants do and where they’re from.
You can learn more about it by following the hashtag.
Grow your social media
Mike Sharman, owner of Retroviral Digital and a board member of the online influencer platform Webfluential, says from a personal branding perspective, for example, social media helps you grow your following. “(It has) less financial barriers to entry than ‘traditional media’. (It also is a) better ROI for small businesses.”
In the same article, two entrepreneurs shared how they used social media to grow their businesses. Mariza Halliday, one of the entrepreneurs used her social media to educate her followers on what services she provides and in return got clients this way.