Ready to open the first International Franchise Expo in Durban are Pearl Bengu, Ithala group chief executive, Siphesihle Mkhize, Ithala deputy chairperson, eThekwini councillor Busi Ndlovu, Siza Sibande, the acting head of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Vera Valais, executive director of the Franchise Association of South Africa.
DURBAN - Durban’s first International Franchise Expo at the weekend closed with satisfied franchisors leaving with extensive lists of potential franchisees and an undertaking for a bigger and better 2020 expo.

Speaking to guests at the launch of the expo, municipal councillor Busi Ndlovu said eThekwini supported the event as small businesses formed the backbone of the economy. The city wanted to ensure that SMMEs were included in the mainstream economy and that they grew into mainstream economic players.

She also said that the city wanted to work with Ithala in developing SMMEs and co-operatives.

Ithala’s deputy chairperson, Siphesihle Mkhize, said forging developmental partnerships was important if Ithala was to deliver on their goals of developing the economy of KwaZulu-Natal.

He said the franchise system weathered the economic downturn better than other business models. South Africa’s franchise sector has grown steadily and continues to make a strong contribution to the South African GDP, across its various sectors.

Quoting a 2018 Franchise Association of South Africa (Fasa) survey, he said that franchising, with an estimated turnover of R721 billion, contributes 15.7% to the total South African GDP, has over 850 franchised brands and around 41 000 outlets.

Guest speaker, marketing guru Mike Said, said business in South Africa was not easy. “When a new restaurant opens one cannot tell if it will last,” he said, pointing out that business people had to go back to the basics - making customers happy.

“What do your customers hate about doing business with you? You need to listen. What can you do about it as your job is to solve the problem for them,” he said.

Vera Valasis, Fasa executive director, said: “We tend to always look at the negatives in business and we miss the wonderful opportunities we have and that we have the right young people with the right attitude who want to work and to be developed.”

Valasis said the one thing people outside of the industry hated about franchising was the difficulty in finding funding.

“Now, here is Ithala offering a solution to the problem. That is why we were so happy to partner with Ithala in bringing the Expo to Durban. We commend Ithala for putting a stake in the ground, and we believe we will be back here next year with a bigger and better event,” she said.

While most of the more than 2 000 visitors were from Durban, the Expo attracted people from Swaziland, Mahlungulu on the Mozambique border, Johannesburg, Vryheid and Greytown among others.

The turnout and the interest surprised many franchisers, but the real work they said lay in following up on their extensive lists and it will be some weeks before they know how many of their leads will turn into sales.