Showing off the bead work of exhibitors at the Imbokodo Iyazenzela Women in SMMEs session in Ulundi recently are, from left: Silindile Buthelezi, branch manager at Ithala; Musawenkosi Phakathi, Ulundi Municipality LED manager; Sitandiwe Dimba, Ithala Group reputation management manager; and Siyabonga Makhathini, assistant director of consumer protection services for Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs in Zululand.
Hundreds of KwaZulu-Natal’s aspiring women and youth entrepreneurs in rural and township areas will get to grips with the nitty gritty of business over the next three months as Ithala rolls out the 2018 My Business Indaba.

The first indaba to kick off the road shows was successfully held in Ulundi at the end of June, followed by events in Pongola this week which aim to train small, medium and micro enterprise owners and seek aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to launch new businesses.

“The road shows bring to- gether our three main empowerment programmes which are specifically tailored towards SMME development,” said Sithandiwe Dimba, Ithala’s Group reputation management manager.

“Since we started the programme in 2014, we have seen the numbers of attendees at these events steadily increase and, in the past three years, we have reached more than 5000 SMMEs through these initiatives,” she said.

The programmes include the Imbokodo Iyazenzela Women in SMME workshops; the Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business competition; and Siyasebenza SMME Development workshops.

“These programmes are aligned to the government’s key priority areas of rural development, township revival, youth and women empowerment, and the green economy,” said Dimba.

“The Imbokodo Iyazenzela - Women in SMMEs - programme is a pillar of support to women entrepreneurs in KwaZulu-Natal who require access to information and the resources to grow. The development programme offers inspirational talks, advice, direction and opportunities for women in communities who are in business or who want to get into business,” said Dimba.

“Women are by far the greater number of entrepreneurs reached, which is an indication of many women seeing opportunities and wanting to be part of the economy, while others need to employ themselves,” said Dimba.

While getting to grips with business, the entrepreneurs also have an opportunity to enter their businesses and business concepts into competitions that celebrate entrepreneurship. The prizes are substantial and consist of business incubation, funding and assistance with business development.

From 2015 to 2017, Ithala visited 34 towns, engaged with 3 749 women and received 542 nominations for the awards. Of these, the top 20 female entrepreneurs each received mentorship which provided solutions specifically designed to meet the individual needs of their businesses.

These women continue their training in the second six-month phase of the mentorship programme in the 2018/19 financial year.

Research by the Seed Academy shows that youth entrepreneur numbers are dropping, which is why Ithala’s Inkunz’isematholeni Youth in Business programme seeks to encourage and support youth to come up with innovative ideas for viable businesses.

“It provides a platform for our youth to become entrepreneurs with our support.

“This year, we are directing youth to find innovative solutions to green economy challenges faced by communities.

“These are water and sanitation, waste management, service delivery and private sector green solutions,” said Ithala Development Finance Corporation acting chief executive Themba Mathe.

“Essentially, we are looking for youth who are passionate about seeing themselves grow, and are looking for a partner who will walk with them in ensuring the realisation of their business dreams,” Dimba said.