Businesswoman Darlene Menzies. Image: Supplied.
JOHANNESBURG - Multi-award winning businesswoman Darlene Menzies plans to become the lead generator and matcher of small business loans in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region in the next five years. 

Menzies is chief executive of Finfind, an online access to finance solution for SMMEs supported by the Department of Small Business Development and USAID.

She says her own experiences motivated her to be the matchmaker for small businesses. 

“I struggled to access finance when I started my businesses, the problem continued as my businesses grew. I found that this was the number one problem experienced by most start-ups and growing small businesses. The inability to raise the vital capital needed for cash flow bridging, working capital and expansion finance is one of the most common causes of business failure.”

Businesswoman Darlene Menzies. Image: Supplied.
Menzies, who was named by the the World Economic Forum as one of the Top 6 Female Tech Breakthrough Entrepreneurs in Africa for 2017, continues: “You can have a great car and be an ace driver, but it you’ve got no petrol you’re going nowhere. We started Finfind to provide a solution for this critical problem. We wanted to make it easy for entrepreneurs to find the finance that they need.”

Menzies has been recognised by Swiss-based STARS Group as a future global leader. “Finfind was started as an initiative by USAID’s Financial Sector Program in South Africa, a five year research and development initiative with a budget of R30 million, to improve the bankability of small, micro and medium enterprises and to enhance financial literacy and loan success in the sector.”

She says USAID already works in a number of African countries, “so we plan to work alongside them, but we have also had interest from as far afield as India and America. We plan to become the foremost lead generator and matcher of small business loans in the SADC region within the next five years”.

She describes Finfind in glowing terms, saying it’s South Africa’s “fastest growing online finance solution” for small and medium businesses (SMEs), and the “only aggregator of all public and private sector finance providers and finance products in the country”.

“In the same way that Tinder perfectly matches two people seeking partners, based on the specific requirements they provide, so Finfind matches the providers and seekers of SME finance based on the lending criteria and the funding need.”

Businesswoman Darlene Menzies. Image: Supplied.
Speaking about some of their achievements since the business was launched by Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu in October 2015, Menzies says they are growing by 15 000 visits and over 2 500 funding requests per month.

“It has received over 200 000 visits in the last two years with a total of over R40 billion in loan requests. The average user session duration is 5.5 minutes which is twice the global norm,” she says, adding that Finfin has raised a significant amount of venture capital funding in the last year and is 30 percent black-owned. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his State of the Nation Address that government would set aside at least 30 percent of public procurements to SMMEs, cooperatives and township and rural enterprises. He also revealed that government was finalising a small business and innovation fund targeted at start-ups, and that they would reduce the regulatory barriers for small businesses.

“Ultimately, the growth of our economy will be sustained by small businesses, as is the case in many countries,” said Ramaphosa.