Diep River digital entrepreneur Nicholas Lamohr received the Distell Top Student Award at the 2019 Small Business Academy (SBA), run by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), at a ceremony held on 5 December.The De Beers Business with the Most Potential award went to Barbara Thandeki from Gugulethu, co-owner of hand-made wig makers Khubar Hair & Beauty, while Michelle Mzee, managing director of Parow cleaning and security company Cleanstation, won the Absa Best Business Plan award.Lamohr achieved the highest mark overall in the 2019 SBA programme offered to 21 entrepreneurs from low-income areas of the Western Cape.A gap in the market and perseverance has seen him grow his company, Linchpin-PM, to profitability. The company offers website and digital strategy services to small businesses.Lamohr, who grew up in the Cape Flats, started his business with no capital, no plan, no mentor or business training but he believed in his idea and persevered. “I started Linchpin-PM after seeing a gap in the market for assisting small businesses. While working at a printing and design company for 12 years, I saw numerous small businesses’ requests for website design being turned away. Since the owner of the company was not interested in pursuing this opportunity, I registered my company and studied web design. Although I have been trading for eight years, I have been operating full-time for the past three years.”Lamohr employs four freelance designers and runs his business from Diep River and his home office in Zeekoevlei. His company evaluates its clients’ website content, updates their corporate identity and branding, and other marketing collateral, and provides them with a digital strategy.“One of our key strengths is investigating whether their product or service could be marketable through e-learning, or if their business would benefit from an e-commerce solution as opposed to a conventional website. We have the necessary design and software programmes to pilot their business digitally to reach more customers.”He credits the SBA programme for opening up a world of knowledge he never had.“The most impactful for me was the SWOT analysis which helped me to identify and plan around my business’s strengths and weaknesses. This, together with the marketing module which assisted me in addressing my business’s biggest flaw – not marketing robustly enough – and creating a business plan as the blueprint to my vision and purpose, has given my business structure and future growth projection.”Sponsored by Distell, Absa and De Beers, the SBA empowers small business owners in low-income areas with the knowledge to grow their businesses, become more sustainable and increase their potential for creating employment. Each participant is also matched with a USB MBA alumnus as a mentor.SBA head Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener says the education, private and public sectors need to collaborate in supporting small businesses to contribute to reducing unemployment in South Africa. “Research shows that not all small businesses survive their first years. Typical hindrances include the inability to create a business plan, poor market research and financial planning and management. Business and entrepreneurial education are fundamental in sustaining these small business owners. Education providers, corporate and government need to step-up their involvement to share their knowledge and skills,” she said.Applications are now open for the 2020 SBA programme. The programme is substantially sponsored, although a commitment fee is payable by participants. Applications are done online. Download the application form at www.usb.ac.za/small-business-academy/. Applications close on 31 January and the programme starts 11 March. V For more information, call Lynette Goosen on 021 918 4379.