BIG DREAMS

Big dreams for communications company in Aliwal North

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Having an experienced mentor is vital for any small business owner to overcome one’s challenges, says Bomikazi Nkolongwane (34) the owner of a 100% female black-owned strategic communications company, Amani Communications, in Aliwal North.

Bomikazi was named at a ceremony last night (19 July) as the top small business with the highest mark overall of the Small Business Academy (SBA) programme run jointly by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and the Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency (JoGEDA). The business development programme, a sponsored, nine-month course, equipped small businesses for the first time in rural Eastern Cape with business knowledge.

Bomikazi started her business in 2014 and has never looked back since. Her impressive client list include Senqu Municipality, Joe Gqabi District Municipality, the Film and Publication Board, Arengo6, African Union Foundation, and Chris Hani District to name a few.

Her services range from media relations to integrated marketing communication plans, social media management and publication development.

“It wasn’t smooth sailing from the first day. I didn’t have a proper business plan and ran my business informally with very little finance.

“But in the past nine months as part of the SBA programme I learned how to structure my business and most importantly gained invaluable insight from my USB MBA Alumnus Johan Wepener who offered fresh perspective and sound advice.”

Bomikazi is one of 26 small business owners selected to participate in the programme which covered from training in general management, finance, marketing, computer skills, business plan development, to personal development, and practical workshops. 

The programme provides a platform for previously disadvantaged small business owners in the Eastern Cape’s Aliwal North, Sterkspruit, Lady Grey, Ugie and Maclear to gain business, financial and operational knowledge to grow and strengthen their businesses, create networking opportunities and offers a mentorship programme whereby each participant is matched with a USB MBA alumnus.

Bomikazi says the programme has taught her how to believe in herself and the potential her business has to grow.

“I currently use freelancers and outsource certain activities but I’ve realised that if I apply some strategic thought I will be able to grow my business to such an extent that I can employ people permanently and ultimately become a force to reckon with in the public relations and communications industry.”

Bomikazi grew up in Aliwal North and studied political sciences before starting her career as a journalist and later as communications specialist for municipalities in Gauteng.

She says that having her own business is enormously gratifying and to look back on the success that she has managed over such a short time, a humbling experience.

“Many clients don’t understand the value that a communications company could bring to their brands or organisations. So it’s a real challenge to sometimes convince them of your service! But nothing beats the moment of satisfaction when my clients express their astonishment and happiness post a project or job that I have completed for them. And when they come back for return business or sign for a long term contract, it’s then when I realise that you should never give up and never doubt yourself.” 

Mr Ayanda Gqoboka, Chief Executive Officer of JoGEDA says that even though the district represents a number of economic opportunities in a wide range of sectors and industries, more than 35% of the population is unemployed.

“In the absence of ongoing meaningful investment and lack of business information platforms, the district is negatively impacted by increasing migration of people in search for employment opportunities in neighboring urban centers and to metropolitan areas. And those venturing to start their own businesses are almost all operating as survivalist business”

He says that JoGEDA was established to drive enterprise development in the region and through the partnership with USB and the SBA programme they are moving closer to ensure better businesses cohesion and support for entrepreneurs.

“We could not have managed this programme without the partnership from USB and the SBA programme. They have assisted the group of small business owners to run their enterprises with structure, a clear plan and greater understanding of the potential they each have. The group met for a week at a time at Ikhala Tvet in Aliwal North who offered their facilities to use for the duration of the course.

“In the years to come we envision developing a standalone Business Incubation Centre where this type of up-skilling can take place on a daily basis.”

Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener, Head of the SBA programme, said that they are incredibly proud of each participant for furthering their knowledge and becoming leaders within their communities.

“Many SMMEs don’t survive their first years due to a lack of business knowledge, the inability to create a business plan and poor market research amongst other. As a business school USB aims to give life to its vision of having a meaningful impact in society.

“With this in mind, we extended the SBA programme, which has been running successfully in the Western Cape for four years, to rural Eastern Cape bridging the much needed gap for business education to empower and strengthen small businesses.  Our vision is to make a difference in the lives and businesses of small business owners in low-income communities, building sustainability and eventually supporting them in such a way that they can play a vital role in alleviating poverty by creating employment.” 

She says that USB and the SBA programme looks forward in continuing the partnership with JoGEDA when the second group of Eastern Cape small businesses will start in November this year.

The SBA Development Programme is sponsored by JoGEDA, ECDC, DEDEAT and USB and the nine-month programme teaches business administration, financial management, business plan writing and marketing amongst other. Throughout the programme the candidates are mentored by an MBA alumnus of USB, proving to be one of the most valuable assets of the programme.

Entries are now open for the November 2017 intake and interested small business owners need to complete an online application form. Short-listed candidates will be invited for an interview and are required to complete an aptitude test. Visit www.usb.ac.za/sba/apply/wc for more information or contact Benjamin Matshoba at 021-9184379.

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