With the official unemployment rate nearing the 30% mark in South Africa, meaning over 6 million people of working age are jobless, the focus on small business and entrepreneurship has become a big focus for government and the private sector.
The power of small enterprises to improve the lives of families and communities was demonstrated when 27 small business owners from low-income areas of greater Cape Town graduated from the sponsored Small Business Academy (SBA) programme of the University of Stellenbosch Business School, this week.
At the ceremony, the Top 3 Small Businesses were awarded.
Lisa Ndyalivani, the owner of WooWfoods, was named the Distell Top Student with the highest mark overall after completing the sponsored nine-month development programme aimed at empowering small business owners in disadvantaged areas to grow their businesses.
She runs a mobile coffee shop taking hot coffee and healthy food to commuters, students and workers in Bellville.
When Ndyalivani realised two years ago that tourism was “too seasonal for sustainable income”, she tapped into the food truck trend and converted her tourist bus into a mobile kitchen that starts the day at 6am serving commuters at the Bellville taxi rank and then moving on to the University of the Western Cape (UWC) campus from mid-morning to late afternoon.
“When schools are closed and business is quiet, we move around industrial areas like Parow. Being mobile means we can go to wherever our customers are to be found. What sets us apart is a focus on healthy food, because street food can be very fatty and rely on processed foods. We practice healthy cooking – grilling our burgers instead of frying, using fresh salad ingredients in our brown bread sandwiches – and try to educate our customers.”
The next step in her growing operation, which now employs two additional people, is to invest in a second vehicle to expand the operation to her birthplace of Khayelitsha and to develop a portable WooWfoods healthy foods stand that can create opportunities for unemployed youth to start their own businesses.
She says not only has the Small Business Academy honed her practical business skills, particularly in managing her finances better, marketing the business and becoming more operationally savvy, but she had also been inspired to continue with her education and has applied to do a postgraduate diploma in business next year.
Best business plan winner, Jacqueline Julie, supplemented the family income for more than 20 years by selling home-baked crunchies and says turning it into a fully-fledged business took a massive mind-shift.
Having made the shift, she says enrolling in the SBA was the logical next step.
“Being exposed to the learning and business environment after being a stay-at-home mom for 20 years has made all the difference, especially the mentoring aspect. I know that I can still learn at 50 – it has been life-changing.”
Although still in start-up stage, she said the business had grown ‘immensely’ during the time she was participating in the SBA, with turnover leaping from R1 000 last November to a current R13 000 a month.
Julie sells her pre-packed crunchies, brownies and biscuits to retailers in her local area and through agents who earn commission, and her vision is to develop a replicable model to enable other women to set up home-based businesses.
Port Elizabeth-born Vincent Zokufa has a vision to make sure that no learner leaves school without the basic IT skills needed for employment or for coping with tertiary studies.
“We find schools in impoverished areas have ICT infrastructure, but no specialist to look after it and a situation where most of the equipment is not working, often due to minor issues, and no one knows how to fix it. Access for the learners to use the computers then becomes extremely limited and sometimes is restricted only to those taking computing subjects.”
With his business, ConnectUs, they train learners to do the basic maintenance and look after computer labs.
“We open doors for these kids to a future career direction. The school pays them from their budget, and they become our troubleshooter on the ground, calling us in when they can’t solve a problem.”
The head of the Small Business Academy, Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener, says it’s exciting to see a drive to succeed among the graduates, which includes the ability to innovate and adapt their businesses to changing circumstances, which is an essential trait of entrepreneurs.
“What is especially exciting, is to see that participants on the programme are not just thinking about how to grow their own businesses but also how to share what they have learnt and create opportunities for others to get into business too. This is how small business becomes the economic engine that it should be.”
The good news is that applications are now open for the 2019 SBA programme. So if you have a small business and want to take it to the next level, download the application form at https://www.usb.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Application-form-for-2019-WC.pdf
Applications close on 25 January 2019 and the programme starts on 11 March 2019.
For more information, you can call Benji Matshoba on 021 918 4937.