'You must be everything to everyone': Ex entrepreneur now helps others get on their feet

Tashline Jooste, CEO of The Innovator Trust
Tashline Jooste, CEO of The Innovator Trust

A key factor in the failure of small businesses is that owners are not trained in getting the fundamentals of running a business right, says Tashline Jooste, CEO of the Innovator Trust.

Jooste has a background in finance and spent most of her career in the corporate world, in marketing. She also has a six-year stint as an entrepreneur under her belt, and told Fin24 in an interview that if her small business had the support now made available through incubation hubs, that would have made a difference to its success.

In 2014, Jooste got the opportunity to lead The Innovator Trust, a programme in partnership with mobile operator Vodacom, which helps grow small black-owned businesses in the information communications technology sector. First formed in 2014, it supports them through training, skills sharing and other infrastructure support, and over in the past three years, over 100 businesses have benefited from the programme. Of these businesses, 51% are black-owned, and 40% are women-owned.

Jooste's goal is to to grow the female representation. "I hope by the end of the financial year to increase [female representation] to 50%," she told Fin24.

Asked why she joined Innovator Trust, Jooste said it was not difficult to make the move. "You ultimately are going to impact someone's future in a positive way. Doing that as a female is important and vital," she said. Seeing businesses grow makes you feel like you have empowered someone else, she added.

"You're not just assisting a business owner to grow their business, but you are also assisting a person in terms of how they see themselves. There is a certain level of confidence to grow the business even further," Jooste said.

'Operating in isolation'

Jooste said as a business owner, and having worked with other small businesses, she found the challenges to be somewhat generic in that business owners often have to "operate in isolation".

"It's a one-man show and you have to run a business by yourself. You have to be everything to everyone. You need to do finance, marketing, you have to do stock control," she said. A business owner might have strengths in certain areas, but will still need to carry the rest of the responsibility of running the business by themselves and the challenges arise when they are not equipped to do so.

She agreed that access to finance or to the market are challenges for small businesses, but before one can consider tackling those challenges it is important to get the fundamentals right.

For this reason The Innovator Trust has stepped in to help small business owners particularly in the ICT sector with the necessary training and certification to operate in the ICT space. Certification is very important in ICT, Jooste said. "What Innovator Trust does is to give support to allow for those certifications, over and above just business training," she said.

Sounding board

Apart from the necessary skills to run a business, and certifications such as B-BBEE certifications, the Innovator Trust also offers coaching to help with the personal development of the business owner.

"It is about changing someone's future, about impacting them positively and providing them with tools to make a difference.

"With everything, failure is bound to happen. Challenges are out there it is important to teach every one of us how to adapt, and how to grow from that and become stronger," Jooste said.

Recalling her own business journey, Jooste said that sometimes you need a "sounding board" or to "speak to someone who can guide you in the right direction".

Jooste added that even once small businesses exit the programme, they are always able to reach out to The Innovator Trust for help with future growth challenges too. "Any business will go through various growth stages and phases and I honestly believe even though they go through these different phases you can't stop the support," Jooste said.

Her advice to small businesses entering the ICT space is to join an incubation programme that not only focusses on business support tools but also certification.

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