As more people face little prospect of finding a job, entrepreneurship has been widely hailed as a driver for job creation that can also boost the economy.
This week International Monetary Fund (IMF) made dire predictions for the year ahead, warning that a third of the world will be hit with a recession given the economic downturn in China, Europe and the United States.
Two small business owners who started the journey in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic prove that with the right support, entrepreneurs can thrive and help tackle the country’s high unemployment rate which stood at 32.9% last year.
Founded in February 2020, Grand Scale Consultancy (GSC) sought to provide a service that would not only provide others with financial management skills but also empower start-ups and coach executives as well.
“Having worked as a chief financial officer for 10 years and seeing the difference that this made to the organisations that I worked for, I saw a need to expand my impact.
“I also saw that beyond the numbers, the entrepreneurs’ deepest need was to find ways to grow their business, and that’s how the training service was started,” said founder and CEO Unotida Nyoni.
Nyoni said he had always seen the potential for Africa to be in a better place economically and believed that entrepreneurship development was one of the best ways to get there.
But Nyoni had to overcome other hurdles before starting the entrepreneurship journey.
“I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to establish a company that would sustain me let alone other people. Self-doubt was a big one that I had to battle and of course procrastination.
“The skills challenge of transitioning from being a full-time employee to being an entrepreneur. When you are so used to doing one thing very well and then suddenly you are now having to consider and work in all aspects of the business on your own, it gets crazy.”
Entrepreneurs such as Nyoni recommend having a good support system of mentors, coaches and fellow entrepreneurs to keep focused on the vision.
“They taught me that courage comes before confidence and that’s exactly what I needed to keep going.”
The pandemic also provided an opportunity for Nathan Simons to start Big Beard Web Solutions which offers web design, development, support and copywriting services.
“I had been freelancing for more than a decade, decided it was time to formalise my services, become a major player in the local industry and create opportunities for people who resembled me,” said Simons.
“One of the biggest challenges was finding reliable service providers and ensuring that our business processes were in place to effectively serve our clients with the same level of quality each and every time.”
Both business owners joined the Bootcamp to Boardroom (B2B) programme run by the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO).
The nine-month programme, run in conjunction with top business owners from Cape Town, including television show Shark Tank judge and CEO of Over The Rainbow Foundation, Dawn Nathan-Jones, is helping 21 entrepreneurs from various industry sectors in the province with mentorship in critical areas in order to grow their businesses.
“Imagine the impact on unemployment if every sole proprietor or small business in South Africa could hire just one person. As experienced and successful business owners it makes sense that we pass our knowledge and skills onto others and support and mentor them along the way. We are determined to see these entrepreneurs succeed,” said Julia Finnis-Bedford, founder of Bootcamp to Boardroom.
Finnis-Bedford added that running a business was overwhelming “as you are the only one steering the ship and trying to keep it afloat”.
“We believe in giving back and entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs.”
As a result of the mentorship Nyoni’s business grew by 44 % and the team expanded to four members.
He also attributed his success to widening his sources of support which included participating in the Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2019, investing in his personal development through coaches and being part of a network of entrepreneurs through the Junior Chamber International (JCI).
As part of his business growth plans, Simons said he would explore government initiatives that could help hire more young people and women as outlined by B-BBEE standards.
Both Nyoni and Simons advised entrepreneurs to:
* Find something that they are passionate about, are great at, that meets a need in the community, and that people are willing to pay for.
* Start from where they are. Test the market and see if they are on the right path. You won’t know unless you try.
* Get a great support system of coaches, mentors and like-minded entrepreneurs.
* Surround themselves with other entrepreneurs who have been in the game longer.
“So often it can feel like it is you against every other business, but business is not a zero-sum game. There is room for you and your services. You are not alone. Add value and the rest will follow,” added Simons.