It takes a village to raise an entrepreneur

Many people and organisations, both in South Africa and around the world, volunteered 67 minutes of their time in celebrating Mandela Day last week.

According to the Mandela Foundation, “Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General
Assembly. His life has been an inspiration to the world.”

By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good.

I had the privilege of meeting this great servant leader in 1994.

It was at a Chamber of Zululand meeting, hosted at their premises in Empangeni. In the lead up to the elections, Mr Mandela devoted much time to engaging with the different stakeholders.

I recall being impressed by his integrity, humility and leadership.

Some 26 years later, his legacy and spirit lives on through initiatives like Mandela Day.

The traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” has been widely quoted when examining the partnerships required during the maturation of our youth. Our “village” has never been more necessary than it is today. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a variety of partners to raise sustainable businesses led by resilient young entrepreneurs.

Allow me to share some of those in our village who help make our offering a little more robust and full. In each case, I will also make a recommendation to readers in how they can apply such benefit to themselves.

Volunteers, entrepreneurs and experts

Our learning programme at the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) extends over 10 months while the budding entrepreneur is getting their business off the ground.

It is supplemented by a variety of speakers, experts and entrepreneurs. They offer exposure to both the successes and failures of their entrepreneurial journey, which is forged in real life experience.

Application: There are a variety of venues and organisations in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cape Town where budding entrepreneurs could gain free access to quality input from business owners and entrepreneurs.

These range from information days of incubators and accelerators, to events hosted by the Chamber of Business; the City of Cape Town and some corporate entities.

In addition, I would strongly encourage all those who want to embark on an entrepreneurial journey to get to know an entrepreneur. We all know about entrepreneurs like Bill Gates; Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.

Yet it is factual that roughly only 25% of people in SA know an entrepreneur. Consider who is in the field you want to enter and see if they are willing to engage with you. You may be pleasantly surprised at the generosity of some entrepreneurs.

Mentoring

At the CFE, we have the huge privilege of the focused and regular input of volunteer mentors from Rotary.

This has great value as most of these men and women have considerable industry, business or entrepreneurial experience.

Mentoring of our beneficiaries began in April this year, and there are already some gains in clarity, confidence and competence in some of our beneficiaries.

We honour this commitment from Rotary who exemplify this quote by author Bob Procter: “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

Application: You can try to learn everything through the mistakes and gains you experience, or you can decrease the learning timeframe and the cost through the input of a mentor. Being mentored is a privilege and always has a price tag. Sometimes there is a monetary cost, but often it is free, and you always get out what you put in. Consider seeking a mentor. This could be achieved through organisations like the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and business partners.

Market linkages

We believe that if you don’t have a willing paying customer, you don’t have a business.

We encourage beneficiaries to start a business with a market in mind. This brings the third component of our village into play.

One of the intentions of the recent changes in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act is to facilitate the entry of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) into business through enterprise and supplier development.

In this exchange of value, both SMMEs and larger businesses win.

The SMME has some market and the larger business may see their scorecard increase.

The CFE is starting to experience some traction as mid-sized businesses begin to access these services.

Application: I encourage SMMEs to proactively register on the various databases within the Western Cape. In this way, they could be on the radar screen when services/products matching their offering are sought by companies/public entities.

In addition, I encourage you to engage with appropriate organisations to see if there is a possibility of market linkages. Mid-sized companies may also engage with the CFE to explore possible linking to our growing database of SMME beneficiaries.

These organisations, companies and individuals give generously of their experience, expertise and time to help make the offering to beneficiaries a little fuller and deeper.

In most cases they far exceed the proposed 67 minutes investment around Mandela Day.

We are so grateful for the commitment and support of these wonderful organisations and individuals; but believe that our village can be larger.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College. His column appears once a month.

Email comments or questions to steve.reid@falsebay.org.za or call 021 201 1215 visit www.falsebayincubate.co.za for more about the CFE.