Forum a dream come true

2012-04-10 00:00

A FOCUSED forum that allows business owners and bankers to engage on a frank basis is a dream come true for many entrepreneurs, particularly given the frustrations they experience in accessing finance.

It will also ensure that investment in expansion projects in the real economy of the city takes place.

The Small Enterprise Development Agency’s (Seda) uMgungundlovu branch recently initiated a mentorship and training programme for 13 KwaZulu-Natal business owners.

The initiative culminated in a meeting between four finance institutions and five businesses — setting a path for the possible expansion of these local businesses.

Seda uMgungundlovu branch manager Mike Zondo told The Witness that these business owners plan to take their companies to the next level by accessing finance and expanding their current operations.

Critically, bankers and institutions present at the meeting, which included FNB, Ithala, Absa and the KZN Department of Economic Development & Tourism, highlighted gaps in the entrepreneurs’ business plans. They also indicated their willingness to fund these potential expansions.

Zondo said: “We are no longer talking. We are now doing. We have created a platform for small and medium enterprises to present their plans and receive advice from the banks on how to strengthen these plans.”

The programme was initiated in November 2011 under the stewardship of Seda business advisor Nonkululeko Masikane. It entailed hiring a service provider to train 13 businesses that were poised to expand their current operations.

Masikane explained : “These businesses had limited resources to expand and service new markets.”

The recent forum between the business owners and the finance institutions was the first of many future forums in Pietermaritzburg.

Five businesses with a turnover of above R500 000 per year were represented by six entrepreneurs:

• Manufacturer of fashion accessories: Rosabella (Miranda Barnard).

• Bakers of confectionary: Cake Factory (Farouk Kareem and Kenneth Reddy).

• Laundry service: Spot Free Laundry (Philile Khumalo).

• Shoe retailer: Designer Shuz (Farzana Safla).

• Potential buyer of a bakery business: Manciki Business Enterprises (Scelo Nciki).

Bankers urged entrepreneurs to put in place both formal contracts with customers and letters of intent with potential customers in order to justify their projections of future demand for their products and services.

They emphasised the importance of patenting their products, as well as constructing proposals with realistic projections of future demand.

“We believe the event was successful because it gave entrepreneurs direct access to banks and provided them with answers to important questions.

“The banks were definitely interested in the business owners’ ideas,” Masikane said.

A similar forum will take place at the end of April, between bankers and entrepreneurs with businesses that have a turnover of less than R500 000.

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