Caption: TAKING the top three places out of 20 finalists in the 2018 Imbokodo Iyazenzela Women in Business Awards hosted recently.

Durban - Top KwaZulu-Natal women whose small businesses are making a positive impact on growing the local economy were recognised at an Ithala Development Finance Corporation awards ceremony in Durban last weekend.

Twenty finalists of the 2018 Imbokodo Iyazenzela Women in Business Awards were announced at a gala dinner at The Waterfront Hotel.

Thembi Maseko, owner of Umqhele Bed and Breakfast in Richards Bay, won the overall prize of R50 000.

Maseko runs the four-star guest house, which is situated in an upmarket area. It has nine rooms, each with an en suite bathroom and satellite TV. Her guest house has conference venues and plenty of on-site parking.

Phindile Nxumalo, owner of eThekwini-based Lwandle Enterprise Development, a firm of chartered accountants, scooped second place and R30 000 in prize money.

Nxumalo’s firm focuses on public financial management and aims to be an enterprise development leader supporting the SMME sector in financial management throughout southern Africa.

It has offices in Durban, Johannesburg and Nongoma, and services a number of public schools and early childhood development centres.

Mary Susan Ntshangase, owner of Khaya Amathamsanqa Ayanda Trading, took third place and won R20000.

Her catering and décor business is located in Ncotshane, Pongola.

Ithala group reputation manager Sitandiwe Dimba said the competition was in line with the institution's mandate as a development agency.

“Ithala continues to recognise and reward business success in the SMME sector emphasising its commitment to the continued development of entrepreneurship in KwaZulu-Natal. The SMME sector is critical to finding solutions to joblessness and poverty in the country,” Dimba said.

“Across the province, we found that women in SMMEs faced similar challenges in starting, sustaining and growing their businesses. Access to markets, finance, business support and marketing and sales were the key challenges,” Dimba said.

The business competition, now in its third year, received 568 entries, a 25.8% increase since last year and more than double the 201 entries in 2016.

Entries were received from sectors across the province that included agriculture, agro-processing, finance, tourism, hospitality and logistics.

The Mercury