More funding fairs

2014-04-10 00:00

THE model for the KZN Funding Fair, a ground-breaking project that matches business project funders with entrepreneurs who need funds, is going national.

The 2014 KZN Funding Fair, only in its second year now, started at the Moses Mabhida Stadium yesterday. The inaugural event in April last year saw R330 million of new funds raised for entrepreneurial businesses.

Clive Coetzee, KZN Provincial Treasury general manager: infrastructure, said at the opening of the two-day event that last year had proved so successful that the project has been expanded.

The partners in the project are auditing and professional services firm Deloitte, KZN Provincial Treasury and the KZN Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism, all of whom work on the project on a not-for-profit basis.

Last year, three funding fairs were held for the business sector, for the infrastructure sector and the small and medium-sized business sector (SME).

This year, said Coetzee, an additional funding fair for the SME sector would be held before the end of December.

Deloitte Infrastructure and Capital leader Andre Pottas said they had received 250 business project proposals for KZN Funding Fair.

But they chose only 40 to participate — the projects that partners of the project thought would stand the best chance of being funded — as it was only feasible that 40 people could make a pitch to the funders over the two-day period.

Pottas said that the promoters of the remaining 210 project proposals should not lose heart as “there are a lot of great ideas among them, they just need to be refined a little more”.

About half the 40 proposed projects are based in eThekwini, while the rest are spread throughout the province.

The projects are also spread across a range of business sectors, including agribusiness, healthcare, industry, manufacture and tourism, and “biotech seems to be becoming a focus for KZN”, said Pottas.

He said the business fair had proved so successful that a similar event had been held in Gauteng, where some 650 business project proposals were received, out of which 50 were chosen to present to funders in that province.

“We have also been chatting to the Western Cape provincial government to hold a similar event there,” said Pottas.

Pottas said there was a common perception among entrepreneurs that there was no funding available for new business projects, but in fact “there is funding available”. He said entrepreneurs had two main challenges in funding for their projects — being able to “tick the boxes” of the funders requirements, and “you have to find the right route to the funds”.

Possibly the biggest factor contributing to the success of accessing funds for entrepreneurial projects “is a thick skin, a refusal to take no for an answer, and an ability to push, push, push for the funds”, he said.

There are about 16 business project funders at the KZN Business Fair, many of whom are based in Gauteng.

They include Absa Capital, Business Partners, Crookes Brothers, FNB, the Industrial Development Corporation, PIC, Nedbank Capital, LIV Business, Ithala, Investec, Standard Bank, NEF, TIA and the KZN Growth Fund.

Pottas said one of the benefits of the funding fair is that it shortens the time a project promoter needs to access funding, as it may take a “many months” for a KZN-based business project promoter to visit 16 project funders.

Allison Williams, intellectual property specialist from law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, said it was important for all new business ventures to be regulated by written agreement to protect the rights of the business owner and the other parties involved in the business.

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