In the previous edition of The Founding Fabric of Entrepreneurship, KasiTalk Township SMME Insights introduced the intriguing world of entrepreneurship in the mass market space through the insights of six thriving entrepreneurs.
In this edition, KasiTalk Township SMME Insights is delighted to bring exclusive insights gained through intimate chat sessions with four successful entrepreneurs and business owners who are making impressive strides in their respective fields. We feature Onneile Khwene, Ruth Africa, Ntsiki Biyela and Katlego Mathathe. These business owners share unprecedented views on entrepreneurship and their respective businesses.
So, how does it all start? Better yet, why does it all start? Accordingto the Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey 2017, the top 3 reasons for entrepreneurs to pursue their businesses are 1) identified an opportunity, 2) wanted to be own boss and 3) intended to utilise their skills. Further, results showed that almost half of the respondents’ motivation to start businesses was based on having identified a gap or opportunity which they sought to seize.
In the attempt to trace the source of entrepreneurship through intimate chat sessions with a variety of entrepreneurs, we have come to the realisation that there are certain personal attributes that influence and shape the nature of entrepreneurs.
For Ruth Africa, Founder of Wear 1981, the start of her entrepreneurial journey came from the hardships she experienced in Ghana’s unfavourable socio-economic conditions. Wear 1981 is the product of Ruth’s steadfastness and the need to make a living in Ghana as her job did not guarantee a safety net.
Onneile Khwene also shared a captivating story of how unemployment was the catalyst of her business journey. “I found myself at home without a job and as a result that affected my skin”, Onneile Khwene. Moritelo Naturals Care was the result of her attempt to solve her skin issues. In turn, this also solved her unemployment and still creates employment for others.
While identifying a gap in the market and seeking to fill it is often the reason that leads entrepreneurs into establishing businesses, qualitative insights from KasiTalk guests show that the attempt to address a personal matter can actually lead to the establishment of thriving businesses.
“In Africa we need something that we can call our own”Onneile Khwene
Entrepreneurship at an early age
The Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey 2017 also reported that half participants that partook in the survey were between the ages of 16 and 34, suggesting a fairly young or youth-dominated entrepreneurial landscape in South Africa.
One of the questions discussed in the KasiTalk chat sessions is whether entrepreneurship should be taught as one of the school subjects.
There is overwhelming consensus amongst KasiTalk guests that entrepreneurship should in fact be taught in South African schools as part of basic education.
According to some of the entrepreneurs, the current education system in South Africa conditions students to become employees as opposed to employers. “We’ve been taught to go look for a job. Get your degree and buy a car”, Onneile Khwene said.
While what Ruth Africa refers to as natural business instinct, tenacity, passion and other innate or natural entrepreneurial elements cannot be taught, technical aspects can in fact be taught and learnt. These can include financial management, marketing and human resource management.
Ntsiki Biyela, Founder of Aslina Wines, said that in addition to the different fundamentals of entrepreneurship being taught at schools, there should also be a focus on personal development. This is essential in terms of building personal confidence, accountability and discipline.
Limited market access
Barriers to entry and access to markets remains one of the fundamental challenges for small businesses in South Africa given the competitive nature of business.
The spaces in which EcoFinesse, Aslina Wines, Wear 1981 and Moritelo Skincare are breaking ground within have been long-dominated by well-established brands.
“Looking at the history of the wine industry, it has been dominated by white people… some of whom have historical surnames in the industry”.Ntsiki Biyela
Penetrating an already saturated market is difficult but can be achieved through collaboration with industry experts, believes Onneile Khwene and Ntsiki Biyela.
Onneile Khwene approached universities and said –
“I don’t have experience in this. But I know that you have students – PhD and Masters’ students – who are doing research in skincare. Here I am as an entrepreneur and I want to use that information practically and tell you if it works or not”.Onneile Khwene
Gaining consumer trust
Creating and maintaining the trust of particularly new clientele is one of the challenges experienced by SMMEs. As a new brand competing against well-established brands, EcoFinesse experienced difficulty in gaining the trust of clients. However, in its endeavours to overcome this challenge & successfully gain its market share, EcoFinesse later transitioned from being suppliers of hygiene products to manufacturing its own range.
“One of my challenges was to shift the community from trusting company A and support a youth and black-owned company”.Katlego Mathathe
Gaining the trust of consumers requires strategic positioning in the market. For instance, EcoFinesse has its market share in the mass market through being a hygiene brand that educates communities regarding the importance of hygiene. EcoFinesse also has a programme at local schools where learners are taught health and hygiene tips such as washing hands.
Difficulty in accessing funding
Funding is essential for business growth and evident to popular belief, access to funding for business expansion proved quite difficult for some entrepreneurs. Onneile and Ntsiki cited difficulty in accessing funding for their businesses, particularly through state or government coffers. “You get sent from pillar to post”, said Ntsiki Biyela.
Although the challenges may be unique to each business and require different responses, there are, however standard counter measures that can be employed by any business. The provision of quality goods and service is synonymous with free marketing. Maintaining consistency means repeat, whilst reliability translates into trust. These are essential in building a reputable brand.
Seed Academy. 2017. The Real State of Entrepreneurship Survey. https://www.seedengine.co.za/wpcontent/uploads/2018/03/Seed-Academy_Real-State-of-entrepreneurship