Helping local start-ups succeed

2012-09-26 00:00

TRANSFORMING a bright idea into a viable product or service is difficult at the best of times, and it is commonly accepted that entrepreneurs are increasingly in need of assistance from concept to the operational stage.

A helping hand

For budding and current business owners in greater Durban area and its surrounds, the eThekwini Municipality’s Business Support Unit (BSU) represents a vital institution for the private sector.

While all organisations face challenges, the BSU’s long-standing track record and the fact that most of its services and initiatives are either free or cost a relatively affordable commitment fee, mean that this unit can make a tangible difference in the sustainability of local businesses. The BSU recently hosted its annual Durban Business Fair 2012, the 14th edition of the event.

From start to finishing touches

The BSU’s head, Phillip Sithole, told The Witness that the BSU helps entrep­reneurs take their idea from the conceptual stage into the marketplace.

Sithole, who is also acting deputy city manager (sustainable development), added that they assist people with the registration of a company, business management skills, access to markets through business linkages, as well as access to “hard skills”, teaching people how to make tangible products.


The BSU also has several sector-specific programmes, including construction, women empowerment and fashion design.

“We have assisted hundreds of emerging fashion designers over the years.”

At this year’s fair, he said, there were retail buyers from across Africa and beyond.

“Some local designers have already gone for training at a fashion school in Milan, Italy.”

The BSU also facilitates access to finance for entrepreneurs who need an injection of capital to take them to the next level.

He said the main aim of the Durban Business Fair, which attracts more than 500 exhibitors, is to provide a platform for networking and business linkages.

A stake for local businesses

Sithole, who joined the BSU as a facilitator 12 years ago, is passionate about the city and its prospects.

“I believe that the city will attract even more investments. However, the investments will be meaningless if local businesses do not get a fair share of these projects.”

Sithole is also tasked with overseeing a range of other portfolios, including city entities, investment promotion, economic development strategies and policies, strategic projects, as well as development and planning.

Promoting investment

“We are currently finalising an investment promotion strategy for the city, including packages for investors. This will include business rates, electricity and other tariffs and business support initiatives.”

The BSU oversees a number of areas, including the bulk market, retail market, informal trading and business development programmes.

For more information, call the BSU at 031 311 4500.

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