Biggest SMME thinktank launched

Surveyor equipment at construction site

The SMME Opportunity Roadshows - which are to take place across the country in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Cape Town – will provide networking platforms for SMMEs and key players in economy sectors: finance, human resources, information and communications technology (ICT), logistics, and sales and marketing.

The SMME Opportunity Roadshows will offer small businesses and entrepreneurs focused direction for gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and extend an opportunity to become part of the value chain in these sectors.

According to statistics, 91% of formal business entities in South Africa are Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs), contributing just over 50% to the country’s GDP, and around 60% towards employment. The National Development Plan (NDP) intends to raise employment opportunities created by SMMEs to 90% by 2030.

However, IDC divisional executive, Khumo Morolo, said last year in October at a conference meeting in Sandton, while the small business sector contribute more than half of both employment and GDP, it often operates in an incoherent and haphazard manner.

He stressed the sector’s power and contribution needed to be harnessed and abetted by establishing a new SMME developmental agenda, since small enterprises are confronted by a number of constraints and challenges.

These include unfavourable legal and regulatory environments, poor access to markets, lack of finance and affordable business premises, little skills and managerial expertise, unavailable technology, tax burdens, and poor access to quality business infrastructure in poverty nodes.

Also, according to Nazeem Martin, managing director of Business Partners Limited, a specialist risk finance company for formal SMMEs, 2015 will be as challenging for small businesses as in 2014, due to continued sluggish economic growth.

To assist in addressing the aforementioned challenges, and supporting the Department’s new SMME developmental agenda, the SMME Opportunity Roadshow events present experienced mentors and facilitators, and honour accomplished South African business people.

Judging from the positive energy and enthusiasm ignited among the SMME Opportunity Roadshow delegates by veteran public speakers, in particular, Vusi Thembekwayo, the future for SMME development and growth looks far more optimistic though.

Thembekwayo is a former Dragon’s Den investor and the youngest JSE director in South Africa, wielding influence of over R4.27billion in capital through his various board appointments.

He strongly noted, “In ten years’ time, no-one will care what car you drove to the Chisa Nyama, or the how many bottles you popped on your way to ‘turning up’. I don’t turn up. I earn up.”

He further told delegates, “Do not think for one minute merely owning a business is experiencing glory. Rather claim your rightful place in society and build a business that will change the world by giving consumers real value, instead of just trying to survive.”

“Customer loyalty is nonsense,” he continued, “Customers are only loyal to themselves, not to you or your business. Addressing consumers’ real concerns, and satisfying their needs - are what will make you succeed, nothing else.”

In the past, Thembekwayo assisted investee companies to grow tenfold on average over a six-year period. He advised to always be led by the business case, meaning, when having to take decisions, if those decisions don’t seek to build the business, then don’t do it.

“Businesses should have an economic reason to exist only, meaning, identifying consumers who will need the services or products over a long period of time. Therefore, the real discipline in business is, everything you do, must deliver value. We need to build businesses that will run beyond being sustainable, no matter who runs it, or who owns it, or whether you black or white.”

He was without doubt the most popular speaker of the day, providing real strategies and step-changing thoughts, highlighting his well-known business equation: “Education + financial literacy + access to non-punitive capital – burdensome regulation = entrepreneurship.”

Ashraf Garda, programme director of the event, is a public speaker and broadcasting presenter who heralds a strategic position in brand communication at the very centre of South Africa’s dialogue and debate on SAfm.

He was also host of investigative journalism TV show Special Assignment for three years, and is the brain behind ‘Champion South Africa’ a broad-based mass participation movement that encourages a champion attitude amongst all South Africans.

Garda passionately noted, “I don’t do MC jobs which I’m not emotionally connected to. The issue of entrepreneurship, the issue of nation building, the issue of changing the destination of South Africa, is something I feel very strongly about, hence being here today.”

Garda noticed a sense of hunger among South Africans to better themselves and to do things for themselves, “With an inherent desire to carve their very own destiny. Today, provided an ideal platform to start doing this and to feed on the knowledge of others.”

The SMME Opportunity Roadshows showcase opportunities under the umbrella of the South African National Infrastructure Plan (SANIP), which identified over 600 project opportunities for qualifying SMMEs to participate in.

SMMEs are very diverse though, each one with very different needs. The majority of SMMEs are start-ups operating in different markets, either in the formal or informal economies, with some growing rapidly, while others already well-established and stable. Some business owners have a low-level skills set, while others are experienced and highly sophisticated. But most seem to be merely survivalist.

The point here is, SANIP policies and actions to support the small business sector, need to reflect and address this diversity. Therefore, for any SMME to participate in SANIP projects and mature markets, would require considerable business acumen.

Fortunately, South Africa is blessed with a multitude of small business incubators and other facilitators, expertly equipped with means to assist small businesses, as clearly seen at the first SMME Opportunity Roadshow.

The organiser of the event, Cape Media, believes, today’s small businesses are tomorrow’s corporate giants, thus SMMEs offer various opportunities for investors and business developers.

Presenters accordingly focused their talks on how SMMEs could access funding, how to improve their businesses through informed market research and business strategies, and how to plan for continuous growth.

The event was sponsored by Standard Bank, Auto Alpina BMW Boksburg, iKhokha and CNBC Africa. Since banks have a critical role to play in small businesses surviving, Standard Bank speakers provided much insight on making wiser financial decisions, especially in managing debt and how best to get loans.  

Ethel Nyembe, head of small enterprise, Standard Bank, said managing business credit records and keeping the business sustainable was vital.

“Standard Bank is constantly striving to help SMMEs be better at marketing, compliance, and cash flow management. We aim to provide better access to finance and give advice on customer relationships.”

Nyembe is passionate about South Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit. She advised, “For entrepreneurs to be successful, you need to know your product or service well, including any legal barriers, the competition and price margins. Know what will make you successful and how to create that value chain. Most of all, make your banker your best friend.”

Poor access to credit for start-ups, is among the most common obstacles for small businesses to grow into medium and large companies. Wilfred Mbuvha, head of small enterprise credit, Standard Bank added, “Much can be done to improve the situation for entrepreneurs, including formulating regulative credit access to avoid being trapped in a vicious cycle.”

“Today also gave us the opportunity to show Standard Bank is open for business with a range of products which will make it easier for entrepreneurs to run their businesses.”

Mbuvha concluded, “We also wanted to hear from people here today, how we could help them, and what it is they needed to move forward.”

Soweto-born Sakhumzi Maqubela, owner and founder of Sakhumzi Restaurant in Vilakazi Street in Soweto, engrossed the audience with witty observations and eloquent speech delivery on how he started his business, and how he dealt with obstacles along the way.

The main message reaped from his address, was “No matter how many challenges, keep on learning, keep on moving towards your dreams and goals.”

Other notable speakers included: Adv Leslie Sedibe CEO of Proudly SA; Noluthando Tutani, project manager at technology incubator Medo (Micro Enterprise Development Organisation); Gerswynn Mckuur, national programme manager at Global Cleantech Innovation Programme; Fredell Jacobs, enterprise development team leader at the Innovation Hub; Pierre Marais, executive of Small And Medium Business Services Telkom; and Paul Schonborn, sales and marketing director, PRP Solutions.

Taking from the presentation of Mckuur, national programme manager at Global Cleantech Innovation Programme - renewable energy projects could be the greatest facilitator for innovation and entrepreneurship in South Africa in future.

Smart use of technology for an enhanced digital experience and smooth business delivery had always been at the core of MTN’s offerings - and this time round as exhibitor at the SMME Opportunity Roadshow, it was no different.

MTN Business in association with Samsung, sponsored two prizes to SMMEs: the first prize was a fully hosted ecommerce website for a year to the value of R35,000. Second prize was a listing on the MTN directory services to the value of R10 000, guaranteeing the business owner about 1000 new clients.

Notable feedback from the audience were all along the lines of, “Today I’ve learned that bravery is very important, and to ensure keeping your eye on your goals.”

“A platform like this is very important as it offers a lot of tools to work with. We need more of these enriching events across our country as a lot of entrepreneurs want this type of encouragement.

“We learned a lot about the importance of knowing your customer. We were also able to identify where we go wrong in our businesses and learned how to fix it.”

Although SMMEs contribute much to GDP and employment, South Africa has yet to see the true value and benefits of SMMEs. Furthermore, statistics show small businesses have only 37% chance of surviving for four years, and a 9% chance of surviving 10 years. 70% to 80% of small businesses fail in their first year, and only about half of those remain in business for the next five years.

The Department of Small Business Development thus recognised the need for enhanced support to small businesses and co-operatives, and noted that the importance of providing training, mentoring, counselling and advice to SMMEs, along with improving the regulatory, administrative, and operating environments, were areas of priority.

Several SMME Opportunity Roadshow speakers also highlighted easing the regulatory burden will be key to unlock the economic and job creation potential of SMMEs. Most importantly, small business development initiatives should be closely targeted in different sectors and value chains.

However, an effective small business development agenda would require having professional mentors, astute business owners providing assistance to new owners, and sustained engagement between the private sector and government at national, provincial, and local levels.

In assisting with this agenda, providing mentorship to small businesses from successful key players in South Africa’s economy, the SMME Opportunity Roadshows will soon be recognised as leading gatherings of young entrepreneurs and business achievers in South Africa.

Robert Arendse, managing director of Cape Media said, “Today was nothing short of being absolutely phenomenal. The number of attendees far exceeded what we’ve anticipated, the sponsors got full value for their money, and the exhibitors enjoyed the interaction with favourable responses from everyone.”

The next SMME Opportunity Roadshow will be held on 8 July 2015 at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre (ICC) in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

The ones after that, will be held on 18 August at the Durban International Convention Centre in KZN, and in Cape Town on 10 September at the V&A Clocktower Conference Centre.

The first SMME Opportunity Roadshow was streamed alive on the Internet, ensuring that global online viewers could follow the proceedings as it unfolded. The three upcoming events will follow the same format, available to all those unable to attend in person.

For more information and other opportunities at the Roadshow please visit or contact Zama Hlekani at Cape Media on 021 6817000 or

Follow us on Twitter @SMME_Roadshow / Like us on Facebook

Rizél Delano


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