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Top SA Entrepreneurs Share Their Tech Must-Haves for Small Businesses (Part 1)

Posted on May 10th, 2021
Articles slideshow Tech
SA Entrepreneurs Share Their Top Tech Must-Haves for Small Businesses
Left hand column (top to bottom): Boitumelo Monageng (founder) and Thabang Kgopane (managing director), Swypa Delivery; Sibu Mabena, founder of Duma Collective. Right hand column (top to bottom): Bilal Kathrada, founder of IT Varsity; Tumediso Lobelo, MD of Crystal Partners, Tiang Moabelo, founder and CEO of LoadALot; Thabang Wessie (COO) Lebeko Mphelo (Founder), Whoosh Innovations.

Many entrepreneurs find the process of buying technology for their business, whether accounting software, POS systems, CRM or fibre, to be very daunting.

This often results in entrepreneurs not making use of tech and missing out on many of its benefits, such as running a more efficient business, finding more customers, and saving money.

It doesn’t have to be this way. To make the process easier SME South Africa recently launched SME Solutions, an e-commerce website that helps business owners purchase the tech tools and business solutions they need to grow their businesses. 

Where should you start in investing in tech solutions for your business? SME South Africa speaks to real entrepreneurs to find out their experiences purchasing business technology.

Find out below which business software they have invested in for their businesses, where they go for recommendations and how they overcame their fears about purchasing technology.

SEE ALSO: You should be using tech in your business. For the next month we will be challenging all the tech myths that are holding you back from investing in business software. Follow our #debunkingtechmyths series on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, to learn more.

The Entrepreneurs:

  • Sibu Mabena, founder of Duma Collective, a 100% black female owned creative communications agency.
  • Boitumelo Monageng (founder) and Thabang Kgopane (managing director) of Swypa Delivery, a township-based door-to-door delivery app.
  • Lebeko Mphelo (founder) and Thabang Wessie (COO) of Whoosh Innovations, a 100% Black, Youth-owned payment solutions provider based in Tshwane.
  • Bilal Kathrada, founder of coding education platform, IT varsity, and Xander Apps, which develops educational apps for kids.
  • Tiang Moabelo, founder and CEO of LoadALot, an innovative technology-based moving company.
  • Tumediso Lobelo, MD of Crystal Partners, a majority female-owned and led investments entity. It has has been established as the alternative investment arm of Beryl Group.

 

What was the first business software you purchased when you launched your business?

Workflow Management System – “Pipefy, which is a workflow management and process automation tool.” – Lebeko Mphelo and Thabang Wessie

Communication tool – “Euphoria Telecoms is the first piece of software we purchased as a business. The system helped in terms of reducing airtime and data costs. The office and drivers are able to communicate with each other for free on the Euphoria line. We get free calls when we call establishments like Debonaires who also make use of Euphoria Telecoms.” – Boitumelo Monageng and Thabang Kgopane

Office basics – “Microsoft Office Suite.” – Sibu Mabena

Web design –“The first piece of software was website design software, WIX. The idea was to design and build a website in the most cost-effective way.” – Tiang Moabelo

Email solution – “With so much (technology) being free these days, we didn’t have to purchase our first software which at that stage the most important business software. It was Gmail. We used the free tier. When our company grew, we needed to move to a more robust email solution, that’s when we switched to Microsoft outlook and Microsoft Exchange email addresses.” – Bilal Kathrada

CMS – “Crystal Partners invested in an Enterprise Content Management system due to the nature of the business we operate. As an investment company, we are required to manage and process information in a structured manner. It is critical that we adhere to the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) act and governance in relation to company e-mails, internal processes, workflows, contract and record management. This software ensures that Crystal Partners are organised in how we function and process internal and external information.” – Tumediso Lobelo

What is the biggest challenge or fear you have faced buying tech for your business?

Local customer service – “The biggest challenge we have encountered is finding software services\tools that not only serve our needs but are based in South Africa. We usually find that in the search for such tools a lot of businesses based in either American, Asian or European markets are what usually we would come across though they fit the specifications/requirements we need. The challenge is the customer support that some of these businesses offer as we would find the time zone differences affect how queries/issues are resolved and how soon they are resolved. Having a local market with whom you can contact quickly, and even via telephone, helps get issues resolved quicker than support centres from external markets.” – Lebeko Mphelo and Thabang Wessie

Confusion – “When purchasing technological software like the Swypa App which is still in testing stages, we thought the app will be readily available on the play store, only to learn that it will be web based.” – Boitumelo Monageng and Thabang Kgopane

Affordability – “Cash to purchase. Without money in (the business) but needing to have the software to do the work to get money in… What comes first – the chicken or the egg??” – Sibu Mabena

Timing – “The biggest challenge in purchasing/investing in business technology that’s new and innovative is whether the timing is right, and will the market that’s used to manual processes adapt and find it more efficient, better and faster.” – Tiang Moabelo

Complexity – “Strangely enough the biggest challenge is the wide variety of software that’s out there, that’s all promising you the next big thing. We had to weigh through all that information and all that marketing jargon, and find what’s best for us, and what works for us.” – Bilal Kathrada

Integration – “Simple – fit. Technology is an enabler, not a dictator of how one’s company operates. We are very clear about our business and how we want it to function. Crystal Partners needed not just a technology provider, but a strategic partner who’s software will support us in a way that fits our business processes and strategy. Seamless integration and implementation into the environment is key and identifying a partner to do all this within a reasonable time frame is not easy.” – Tumediso Lobelo

Where do you go for guidance when you need to make a new purchase for your business?

Online reviews – “This is probably the most challenging part as there are so many software review sites that offer a similar service but their criteria as to which platforms rank the highest might not be as accurate as needed. Common platforms we use are Capterra and SaaSGenius.” – Lebeko Mphelo and Thabang Wessie

Reviews – “The guidelines we use before we purchase any technology is that we’ve always conducted market research and comparison between brands or companies.” – Boitumelo Monageng and Thabang Kgopane

Online search – “Google! (laughs)” – Sibu Mabena

Experts – “We have partnered with a research and development technology company called African Business Integration and they are our go-to for any technology guidance, prospects, and whether to purchase existing technology or build one and patent it. (It’s) always best to have tech experts in your corner.” – Tiang Moabelo

Online resources – “YouTube, definitely YouTube. YouTube reviews are an invaluable tool for us – whenever we are considering software we look at YouTube but also online resources like articles and things. Finally, when we are semi-ready to make a choice, we have it narrowed down to a few potential options, then we’d do the trial version of those software systems.” – Bilal Kathrada

Internal expertise – “Crystal Partners is led by experts in various fields allowing us to make purchasing decisions with minimal external consultations. Every purchase is supported by a strong business justification which needs to be approved internally first before external consultations commence. This decision making process ensures that all recommendations are made with the company’s best interests at the core. External service providers are then consulted based on the needs provided from the business case.” – Tumediso Lobelo

Look out for Part 2 and find out their biggest considerations when making a purchase and what accounting, payroll and POS systems they use, and more. Follow our #debunkingtechmyths series on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, to learn more.

SEE ALSO: Read This Before Your Next Big Business Tech Purchase