At WDBIH we have had the pleasure of working with a number of incredible female entrepreneurs, including our very own Daphne Mashile Nkosi, who started out working for WDB in the very early days earning next to nothing and worked steadily toward becoming the mining magnate she is today.
Daphne is just one example of South Africa’s many entrepreneurial success stories and, while it is important to celebrate the successes, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we still have a long way to go to build a truly thriving ecosystem.
Faith Khanyile, CEO of WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) says organisations like WDB and others are doing what they can to provide funding, guidance and support for female-owned businesses, but it’s really not enough.
“We need the financial institutions to really change their approach and policies to make it easier for women to access funding from their institutions,” Khanyile says.
In her opinion, it’s also time to get a lot tougher on government.
“I believe that the budget that is allocated to initiatives intended to assist female entrepreneurs is totally insufficient. This is why we are not making progress,” says Khanyile.
She says that, despite government having set up a department to assist SMEs, we have not seen tangible progress over the past 20 years.
“Government should be creating policy certainty and support for the growth and development of small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, government must allocate substantial budgets through grant funding and soft loans if they’re serious about making significant strides in entrepreneurship and see it as the means to address the huge unemployment and inequalities that we see today.”
Let’s Get Real
Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine, would agree with Khanyile and has the facts at her fingertips to prove that a lot of work still needs to be done in the entrepreneurial space. Rachelson and her team at Seed annually conduct The Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey, the 2018 results of which were released in August this year.
The survey, now in its 4th year, is the largest and most referenced survey of its kind, representing the views of more than 1 000 entrepreneurs across South Africa, and shows entrepreneurs are not thriving and more needs to be done to improve the entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa.
Rachelson says the foundations for success are lacking. “We see small progress in terms of business survival rates, revenue increases and representation of women entrepreneurs but what we really need is for stakeholders in the ecosystem to pull together and make major trajectory changes that support all entrepreneurs from seed through to scale-up stages; as well as a focus on getting the basics right: early-stage funding and high-impact business support throughout the entrepreneurial journey.”
[Have a read of this fascinating survey, Download here.]
Mentorship, Mentorship, Mentorship
Getting the basics right is absolutely key and one of the elements of getting the basics right is providing training and mentorship.
Digital Strategist, Lihle Mgaga has been working closely with WDB Investment Holdings for the past 18 months. She says that, after launching her business, Khulani Digital, she received great support from WDB and she has been particularly inspired by WDBIH CEO Faith Khanyile, who has taken the time to get to know Mgaga and mentor her about business (and how to create a life/work balance among other things).
She says it is daunting be an entrepreneur, so having back-up from Khanyile and the team at WDBIH has made an enormous difference in many ways. She feels the answer to getting more fledgling businesses off the ground is sharing knowledge and skills.
“I believe South Africa has a shortage of mentors and facilities that are truly dedicated to equipping youth entrepreneurs. As a result, the majority of us young people rely on international resources that are not always relevant to South African markets,” says Mgaga.
The WDB Growth Fund
For more than 20 years, WDBIH has been dedicated to making a social impact on women and youth entrepreneurs; providing them with business funding and non-financial support. WDBIH, together with its partners Grovest and Seed Engine launched the WDB Growth Fund in early 2017.
The Section 12 Impact Investment Fund focuses on increasing the participation of youth and women entrepreneurs in South Africa’s economy with a mandate to address the needs of growth-stage businesses while providing investors with Enterprise and Supplier Development points recognition and tax benefits.
One of the beneficiaries of the WDB Growth Fund has been Mahlatse Masimi, of Moshate Communications, who says: “The experience has been phenomenal in that the WDB Growth Fund has become like a big sister to Moshate. They have opened networks and have given great support and guidance.”
Opening new pathways
With impacting female entrepreneurs being a cornerstone of both WDBIH and Seed Engine, the two partnered to create the AccelerateHer programme.
AccelerateHer is a fully-funded business accelerator for South African women entrepreneurs designed to fast-track the development of women-owned businesses. The first two programmes were sponsored by Shell Downstream and saw 50 female entrepreneurs move from an idea to running a business in just 90 days.
The worthy winner of last year’s AccelerateHer initiative is Geneva Kuypers of Geneva Projects and Supplies (a company offering professional health and safety services).
Kuypers was part of this three-month business accelerator in 2017 along with 24 other women business owners who received training and business coaching over a three-month period. She values the team at WDB and Seed Academy, whom Kuypers says have become like family.
Like Mgaga, she says the entrepreneur’s journey is not an easy one.
“I was fortunate to have been part of a programme like AccelerateHer where I have had phenomenal mentors who have helped and motivated me so much. As an upcoming entrepreneur, get yourself a mentor — you need that support and guidance.”
Since winning AcclerateHer, Kuypers has grown her business and gone on to study further, and is doing what she can to assist other young entrepreneurs who are trying to find their feet.
So much more to be done
For Faith Khanyile and her team this is a journey that needs collaboration and commitment. Companies need to be in it for the long game, in order to create a space where woman entrepreneurs can thrive.
“I encourage every company out there and financial institution to take on the cause of assisting and uplifting our entrepreneurs in meaningful, actionable ways that can not only launch but sustain their businesses. Only then will we make a real dent in our unemployment figures and create a brighter future for all South Africans.”
While it is good to have Global Entrepreneurship Week shine a spotlight on entrepreneurship , if we want to make a real impact, entrepreneurship needs to be at centre of mainstream conversations, for the entire year and, in fact, the future.