JOHANNESBURG – Small businesses are the economic engines of any country. Yet no space is more mentally challenging, highly competitive and financially frustrating.
Countries that understand the true worth and contributing power of their small businesses can thrive immensely by building the necessary and relevant ecosystems to fully support and scale them to sustainability.
Although significant progress has been made since the establishment of the Small Business Department in South Africa, small businesses continue to face various obstacles.
These include unfair competition from big business, entry to markets and access to funding, which is undeniably the key make-or-break factor.
Having a sound and viable business proposition that shows healthy potential is not good enough without the seed money to materialise and scale it. Yet the tedious and bureaucratic fund-sourcing process sends many a great idea straight into oblivion.
Research published in the US Small Business Profile shows that small businesses added 1.9 million net new jobs during the latest year studied. There are 30.2 million small businesses in the US, which employ 47.5 percent of the state’s private workforce. The top three ranked industries for small business employment in the US are healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, and retail trade.
In this regard, acting chief counsel Major L Clark, says that small businesses are the US’ economic engine and reiterates that they are the key to the state’s ability to grow economic output, entrepreneurship and private sector employment.
Recently, I had a chat with one of the start-ups at 22 on Sloane – Tebogo Mosito, who is the founder of Ditsogo Projects, a steel company that specialises in engineering, metal fabrication, the manufacture of rolling stock, conveyor structures, hoppers, chutes and various other machineries.
She has invested more than R700 000 in her business, which currently generates an annual turnover of some R10 million and employs 12 permanent staff and more than 25 temporary workers.
Although her business is based in the North West province, she’s a regular visitor to our 22 on Sloane start-up campus in Johannesburg.
Mosito describes her journey so far as a tough one, given that her industry is mostly male-dominated, both in reality and perception. Yet, she never gives up and is not afraid to get her hands dirty by doing any job necessary to ensure her manufacturing plant can survive, and more importantly, thrive. In order to expand her company, Mosito revised her business case and growth strategy and approached various funding institutions.
Confusingly to her, most funders declined to finance her, citing unfounded reasons, causing her immense financial frustration, which has become more and more apparent within many businesses looking to move to the next level in Africa.
Yet with sheer perseverance, Business Partners agreed to offer her a Series A funding package worth R2.1m. These funds have been invaluable to acquire a manufacturing site and expand operations.
Currently, she’s in search for another round of funding to continue her expansion drive and use technology to drive better performance and optimisation including exports to the SADC countries. Today, her current clients include Impala Platinum, Bushveld Vametco Minerals, Anglo, Sibanye and a few others.
Mosito was one of the 20 finalists for the 2018 Fast Growing SMEs Standard Bank Business Women’s award and also placed in the top three for the FairLady Women of the Future awards.
In addition, she was one of just 14 business owners selected by the Department of Trade and Industry to visit Peru in September this year. During the visit, they will engage with business owners from mining and engineering in Peru and seek business opportunities.
Mosito acknowledges that over the years, South Africa’s policies are getting more progressive and that the government’s policy on involving more women in the country’s mainstream economy has opened doors for her and given her the confidence to compete on a par with her male counterparts.
As South Africa ends the celebration of Women’s Month this August, we encourage more women to be motivated by Mosito’s story, the 100-year anniversary of late Ma Albertina Sisulu, which we celebrate this year, and the hard work and sacrifice of late Ma Winnie Mandela, who together fought hard to liberate the country and advocated for the development of women.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa: 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
- BUSINESS REPORT