Over the past seven years, the SAB Foundation taken pride in investing in entrepreneurs who have a viable business solution that can also create employment opportunities for other people. One of the key factors for the SAB Foundation is mentorship. The SAB Foundation believes that mentorship plays a role in assisting entrepreneurs to grow in the business world. We took some time to chat to three of our SAB Foundation entrepreneurs who are all involved in the various entrepreneur programmes offered by the SAB Foundation; namely the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards, The SAB Foundation Disability Empowerment Awards as well as the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme.

The SAB Foundation runs several entrepreneurship programmes every year, where entrepreneurs are granted funding for their businesses. In addition to the funds they receive, entrepreneurs are put on a tailored programme with a business mentor.

We spoke to the 2017 winners at the SAB Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards (SIA &DEA) to find out more about their experience with their mentors. Lindokuhle Duma is the founder of Iziko Stoves, innovative cooking and braai stoves that utilise wood, coal or any biomass materials as a cooking fuel. Wade Schultz is Managing Director of Brownies and Downies in Cape Town, a training centre for people with intellectual disabilities and a vessel to create a change and acceptance in the South African culture. Lastly, Yvonne Mamokiba Makuwa a past participant of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme is the founder of an engineering company based in Limpopo.

“Being an entrepreneur can be a very long, scary and intimidating process, especially for startup entrepreneurs,” says Duma. He further supports his statement and says: “An entrepreneur needs the support not only to get good contacts and get ahead but also to have the necessary support through the stressful and difficult journey of business.”

Mentorship gives the opportunity to have a professional and qualified person on your side, a person that can assist you in growing your business and also to motivate you when things don’t seem to be working out. Schultz explains that he is grateful to the SAB Foundation for supporting him and the business, not just financially but also with a very good mentor that he could rely on. Schultz says that mentorship is vital especially for start- up entrepreneurs: “An entrepreneur should have at least one mentor. This enables one to grow as an individual and move out of one’s comfort zone”.

Makuwa completely agrees that mentorship is essential, she says that without her mentor who was assigned to her when she was a part of the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme, she would not have been able to understand her business the way she does now. Makuwa states that she wasn’t good at most things, like HR, finance and marketing as she didn’t fully understand how they worked. However, having a mentor by her side helped her enormously.

“Having a mentor helped me and the business to strengthen some legs we were not, I was fortunate enough to get a mentor that I connected with and always felt free to ask her about anything I didn’t understand”, says Makuwa.

It is obvious that all entrepreneurs agree that mentorship has played a role in their businesses. Having a mentor has assisted to shape their businesses and also assisted them to grow as individuals. A mentor helps you understand what a business is and how it should be run. Mentors grant you confidence to actually run your business. Duma explained that when he started he didn’t know how to handle his employees and he struggled with enforcing a work culture. But, that changed when he had someone to help improve his leadership skills.

Regardless of the industry that an entrepreneur is in, they need an experienced mentor to assist them in the business. They need guidance and also to have someone reliable who has been in the industry longer than they have. A mentor helps one to move ahead and also to assist in growing the entrepreneur and also the business.

Schultz concludes and says that, having a mentor has boosted his self-esteem and he is now very confident in running the business. He is so confident he has taken the task of mentoring someone else to grow in the industry, “I am not a full – time mentor but I am currently mentoring a volunteer at our business. It has been a great experience because it allows me to put my efforts and teaching into perspective,” shares Schultz.