The Ultimate Guide to Networks and Support Services for Township-based Entrepreneurs

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This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Township Entrepreneurship series. In the month of October we will explore the complexities, challenges and success stories of the township entrepreneurship ecosystem.

In this guide, we’ll introduce to you to support services available for township-based entrepreneurs – this includes incubators and hubs, support networks and initiatives by private entities that offer help to small business owners in the form of training, skills development and support.

  • The Box Shop (Soweto and Midrand) – The Box Shop is a business incubator promoting up-and-coming Soweto-based clothing and design brands. It is located at the top of Soweto’s famous Vilakazi Street. The distinctive contemporary building was built entirely from shipping containers and is envisaged as a space where local entrepreneurs can grow and develop their brands.
  • eKasiLabs Programme (Vaal) – this is an incubation facility at the Vaal University of Technology Southern Gauteng Science Park, in Sebokeng. It is a vehicle for the promotion of the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the townships, aimed at providing business development support to startups within various sectors such as information and communications technology, (ICT) advanced manufacturing, green economy and bio-economy. It is run by the Innovation Hub.
  • Riversands Incubation Hub (Johannesburg) – a large-scale business incubator that seeks to amplify entrepreneurial activity and connect small business to corporate South Africa. They also offer subsidized work premises. It is located near the township of Diepsloot.
  • The Awethu Project (Cape Town) – Cape Town-based Awethu Project Launch Pad has worked with thousands of micro businesses in South Africa through training and skills development. Their eight-year programme is currently undergoing a revamp. More information is available here for details on when the programme will be up and running.
  • Innovation Hub (Pretoria) – Innovation hub is a Gauteng-based science and technology park. They run various development programmes as well as competitions including the Maxum Smart business incubator which provides business development support to startups in the smart industries, including ICT and advanced manufacturing.
  • Silulo Business Incubation Centre (Khayelitsha) -Silulo Ulutho Technologies, in partnership with Vodacom Business, launched the Silulo Business Incubation Centre in Mitchells Plain earlier this year. The partnership works to help SMEs become fully digitised and thus enhance the productivity of their businesses, this includes a dedicated receptionist, a working desk, wifi access, access to meeting rooms and training and networking events.
  • Shanduka Black Umbrellas (Countrywide) – Shanduka Black Umbrellas is a non-profit incubation enterprise development service provider. The model supports emerging black businesses through the incubation programme to become independent, viable businesses. Their programme provides guided mentorship, through which clients receive the transfer of business skills, knowledge and network linkages.
  • The Bandwith Barn (Khayelitsha) – this is South Africa’s only township-based tech hub, the Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn made up of a co-working space and a place for networking and skills development. They run programmes that focus on people and small businesses that don’t easily have access to financial assistance or social capital, supporting them in developing tech and business skills. They include CapaCiTi,  a CiTi’s skills development and job readiness programme and VeloCiTi, an entrepreneurial support programme.

  • Brownsense Markets – a Facebook-driven support and networking platform for black entrepreneurs and business owners.
  • The Hook Up Dinner (THUD) SA – a platform for early-stage entrepreneurs and people with ideas. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors.
  • eKasi Entrepreneurs –  works as a catalyst for youth entrepreneurship in townships. The non-profit company develops township entrepreneurs through training and development, access to resources, information, finance and business tools and other integrated programmes.
  • Township Entrepreneurship Alliance (TEA) – the focus of this organisation is on empowering township-based companies and entrepreneurs through knowledge sharing, skills development, enterprise development and access to market.
  • #Back2Kasi Seminars – this organisation hosts a series of events aiming to inspire and support young black and emerging entrepreneurs conducted in townships across the country, including Tembisa, Soweto, Alexandra and Cosmo City, among others.
  • South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum – The organisation aims to build and promote entrepreneurship. They also host the annual Gauteng Township Economy Business Week which addresses the challenges township businesses face, and possible solutions.

Business support

  • AirBnB – last year, Airbnb partnered with local enterprise precinct Ikhaya le Langa on a programme to help boost township economies as places where businesses can flourish. The programme helps owners of hotel and lodgings to develop their knowledge of township culture and history, learn tourism business skills and improve users’ lodging experience. the participants of the programme also get major traction for their businesses. Their services will be made available on Airbnb.
  • Sumitomo Rubber South Africa – the Ithala Development Corporation, Sumitomo Rubber SA and Dunlop announced this year that they would be making job creation in SA townships a priority. The initiative aims to establish a minimum of 25 containerised tyre fitment centres across KwaZulu-Natal townships and rural areas and create 100 jobs in the process.
  • Mastercard/Spazapp – Mastercard is collaborating with Durban-based tech company Spazapp to help informal micro-businesses like spaza shops connect to formal markets and provide digital payment systems, by providing them with secure and convenient mobile payments. Spazapp is a money-saving android application. Through this partnership, Mastercard has integrated its global digital wallet Masterpass into Spazapp. Using Spazapp, traders can order a wide variety of products at competitive prices using Masterpass to digitally pay for stock and accept cashless payments from their customers with their mobile phones.
  • SAB Entrepreneurship –  SAB has a number of initiatives for entrepreneurs. The Tholoana programme, for example, gives business development support to entrepreneurs whose businesses are operational between six months and five years that are focused on positively uplifting communities. The Kickstart Boost programme wants to help entrepreneurs aged between 18-35 with a business that have been operating for more than two years with a turnover of less than R5 milion in need of coaching or loan funding to grow their business to become supply chain ready. Kickstart Ignite assists youth entrepreneurs who has a business idea or prototype ready. The Supplier Development programme assists a SAB supplier looking for private equity funding or technical expertise to help them grow and transform within their supply chain.
  • GlaxoSmithKline – This company had set up a mentoring programme for 57 spaza shops, and multinational McCain, which has sourced township dealers to distribute potato chips to spaza shops and tuckshops.
  • Pick n Pay – The retailer has a spaza modernisation programme, which piloted in 2016. The programme aims to grow a new generation of modern retail entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs remain independent with both mentorship and training supplied by Pick n Pay. In September this year, the third store had undergone modernisation in the Western Cape; 14 have already opened in Gauteng.
  • Kasi Unlimited –  this is a Tshepo One Million programme whereby the provincial government links vetted township enterprises with opportunities to provide goods and services to larger, more established corporates, on condition the small firms give young people from their neighbourhood opportunities through the Tshepo One Million programme as workers, interns or contractors.
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Melissa Javan
Melissa Javan
Melissa Javan is a writer with nine years' experience in the media industry. She enjoys blogging and taking part in Twitter chats. You can find her on Twitter @melissa_nel.

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