Online guide for business

2009-12-19 13:55

SOME small business owners have made the time to go on line in recent months to look for ­funding and to strengthen their operations.

In fact, 5 600 entrepreneurs across the country have used the National Empowerment Fund’s (NEF’s) computer-based business planner, which was launched in August.

One in five people who have used it has completed business plans.

The NEF says none of those who completed their business plans has applied for funding at the state-owned financier.

Nomusa Ngakane, one of the entrepreneurs using the business plan, says it is empowering to small businesses but inadequate for advanced entrepreneurs.

“It is a good idea because writing a business plan can be complicated and expensive. But the template appears to be designed for novice entrepreneurs.

“Some of the questions are repeated and I think the plan needs a little bit of refining,” says Ngakane, who runs an events management company. She has been penning business plans since the 1980s, mainly for funding purposes.

She identified the question: Why is a business being started? as a very useful one for prospective or emerging entrepreneurs.

Ngakane’s experience with the business planner has been mixed. She was impressed that the NEF called her from time to time to check how it was benefiting her business.

“When I registered I was not aware that the NEF would monitor our progress and it encouraged me not to give up on the idea I put down on the business plan, despite some of the challenges I am facing,” she says.

She currently needs funds to acquire a farm to produce sunflower seeds and corn.

The businesswoman from Uitkyk, a rural farming community in North West’s Madikwe, has been accessing the programme from an internet cafe in a nearby town.

She is unhappy, however, that she cannot save the plan on a disk and complete it offline, thereby saving on internet fees.

NEF chief investment officer Frencel Gillion says users can interact with NEF agents who will help them to fill out the plan, especially when it comes to challenging aspects such as cash-flow projections, which entail forecasting the monies that are expected to flow into the company and the drawing up of a plan to manage them.

The business planner can be saved on an external disk only once it has been completed.

Lucky Mohlahlane (24) who runs Studio Footwear, a shoe manufacturer, says that a friend recommended the business planner to her as she needed to apply for finance.

The programme was helpful because it contained a step-by-step guide on how to fill in the electronic form, she believes.

Mohlahlane’s factory, which makes sandals and children’s footware, is based in Rustenburg, while her warehouse is in Johannesburg.

Mohlahlane intends to use the Empowerment Fund’s business plan in her application for funding next month.

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