Revived chamber to focus on start-ups

2012-12-14 00:00

DESPITE having emerged only recently from its dormant state, the Howick and Midlands Chamber of Commerce and Industry plans to concentrate on meaningful socio-economic development as a core focus area.

Acting chairperson Mano Naidoo told The Witness that the chamber was resurrected in 2011 thanks largely to the efforts of former president John Tungay.

While the organisation will continue to focus on its survival and sustainability, the chamber has made great strides in helping aspiring entrepreneurs from the Mpophomeni area.

The chamber now has more than 100 members, including 47 from the Mpophomeni area.

“The focus for us is not merely on business and the chamber. It is also about socio-economic development. That’s what we believe is the role of our chamber.

“We want to build the chamber up not to benefit only established businesses, but to encourage start-up businesses,” Naidoo said.

The chamber assisted the aspiring entrepreneurs in accessing support services aimed at getting their business ideas off the ground.

“We also helped them formulate realistic goals. Their ideas include a poultry business, a piggery, furniture making, tyre services and fashion design.

“The result is that they feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

There are also plans to establish a modest service centre from which budding entrepreneurs can access business support services.

Naidoo, who is also involved in the National Union of Residents’ and Ratepayer Associations, said the chamber was beginning to receive enquiries from prospective members, adding that they will have an operational web page in the new year.

Creating linkages with established business support entities and financial institutions like the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) are critical to the success of the Chamber and its constituents.

The chamber recently hosted a conference for aspiring entrepreneurs in Howick, which had the support of Seda and the IDC.

Naidoo said a number of other community upliftment projects were in the pipeline, including one involving a local crèche.

The chamber has embarked on a soccer coaching programme with the help of a South African Football Association-registered coach, Pietermaritzburg-based Katz Naidoo. The programme will see 40 young people being trained and certified as local football coaches and referees.

“Youngsters have nothing to do here … and soccer is a popular national sport. The programme is sponsored by local businesses.

“The idea is that they [the recipients] will form teams and clubs and participate in social and school competitions.

“A referral from Safa, through Bryan Rupram, to the chairperson of the local football association, Mr Funeka, got this off the ground. This has been received positively by the local football association.”

The chamber is intent on supporting micro businesses and start-ups.

“The message we want to send out is that if you put your mind to something, you will not starve.”

Naidoo stressed the importance of community involvement in the chamber and other local organisations. “When you live in Howick as long as I have and see that nothing is happening here, you realise you have to do something.”

Mano Naidoo, acting chairperson of the Howick and Midlands Chamber of Commerce and Industry

We want to buildthe Chamber up not to benefit only established businesses, but to encourage startup businesses.

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