The recent City of Johannesburg Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Summits and Symposium, informed by Tamiko Sher’s Entrepreneurship Research Study: Voices of Entrepreneurs in Johannesburg revealed some surprising insights into what Joburg’s entrepreneurs need.
More than three-quarters of the people interviewed for the study were entrepreneurs and the balance, organisations that support small businesses. In addition, over 1,000 people were engaged across the Joburg’s 7 regions in a drive “to address and improve its entrepreneurial ecosystems, to grow the economy and facilitate job creation.”The entrepreneurs made it clear that for businesses to be sustainable, there is a need for financial literacy: “Many young people are disadvantaged from growing up with families that did not have exposure to formal financial practices.” People also need to know what it costs to run a business, and an understanding that without customers, there will be no money coming in.
The respondents indicated that learning from experience is necessary for their success. Few business-owners considered that formal education was important enough to mention, but getting support from other experienced business owners and mentors was. As it is a lonely road, entrepreneurs said they need support structures like family, friends and networks.
When it came to what government should provide, entrepreneurs in Joburg grumbled that they don’t know what business support and facilities are available, or where to find out. They do know, however, that procurement and policy people need to understand entrepreneurs’ needs to prevent the misdirection of supply chain spend.
In addition, they want a centralised database for Joburg entrepreneurs, not just for their business opportunities but also for social impact: to help them to ‘give back’.
Black businesses want B-BBEE to work for them, the people that it is intended to benefit. Instead, tenderpreneurship and corruption are crippling small black businesses. They want an end to Joburg ward counsellors interfering in their businesses programmes.
Working groups of entrepreneurs at the symposium compiled a list of key expectations of the city:
- Affordable, accessible, reliable internet connectivity where entrepreneurs need it
- Access to information and support via regional hubs, digital portals, e-learning and incubators
- Physical hubs peopled with knowledgeable and competent support staff in every region
- Joburg to facilitate and enable access to market opportunities, incl corporates and government supply chains
- Accessible, transparent and equitable tender process
- Integrated Business Information Management System linking key city departments
- Smart database that matches Joburg procurements’ needs with suppliers’ offerings
- Critical skills training and development
- Suitable premises, eg refurbished abandoned buildings, for business workshops and offices
- City to develop and implement – and monitor – a 30% procurement policy plan
Joburg’s mayor told the Symposium that it would implement 12 fully functional regional hubs by mid-2018. Let’s see if the city keeps its promises and delivers on all the other entrepreneurs’ requests.
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