During a recent address at the BRICS Youth Summit, Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu said that developing strong small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME) is the cornerstone of the National Development Plan. With a vision to create 11 million jobs by 2030, 90% of which are predicted to be from SMMEs, Zulu believes that, “small business is big business”. This is well understood by the SAB Foundation, who believe that small businesses are at the heart of economies that grow.

The SAB Foundation is an independent trust, set up as part of South African Breweries’ broad based black empowerment programme, that invests in the development of entrepreneurship in South Africa.

“The SAB Foundation is committed to making a substantial contribution towards South Africa’s national agenda of growing the economy and creating jobs. We believe that we have not only a responsibility to help, but a duty to improve the lives of people in communities,” says Bridgit Evans, SAB Foundation Director.

The foundation does this through a range of initiatives, including their Tholoana Enterprise Programme which provides two-years of structured business support, seed funding and assistance with access to markets to qualifying SMMEs.

“We invest in entrepreneurs – with a particular emphasis on women, youth, people in rural areas and entrepreneurs with a disability – who show the potential and commitment to grow their business and create jobs,” explains Evans.

Every year, the programme takes on about 60 promising new entrepreneurs and applications for this year’s programme will commence on 1 August 2018.

Last month, the SAB Foundation celebrated the graduation ceremony of the Tholoana Enterprise Programme class of 2016. In total there were 37 graduates who, upon exiting the programme, collectively increased business growth by 59% and created a remarkable 53 new permanent jobs.

Netto Maluka, was one of seven small business owners recognised at the ceremony. Maluka, who owns Mbombela Experience, a Nelspruit based travel and transport company, received the Superstar Award for his enthusiastic participation since joining the programme in July 2016.

Maluka made the most of opportunities afforded to him by the programme and, as a result, he enjoyed a 261% increase in turnover during his 20 months of mentorship, skills training, workshops and financial support. He also went from employing only three people at the start of the programme to employing six permanent members of staff and three freelancers.

“So much learning took place, but especially valuable was learning how to make an appointment and how to conduct a meeting with a client,” says Maluka. He also expressed the hope that other entrepreneurs in Mpumalanga would apply for the programme in order to create much needed jobs and stimulate the region’s economy.

Evans agrees with this saying, “One of our priorities is to provide opportunities for people in the rural areas who do not have ready access to support offered by those in large cities.”

Bukelwa Ngogo, another 2016 participant, managed to increase business turnover by 332% and jobs by a massive 400% during her time on the programme. Ngogo is the owner of SunKissed, a retailer and manufacturer of high-quality fashion, art, craft and home decor products. The store is managed from East London Airport, with goods sourced from suppliers across the province.

The SAB Foundation worked with Ngogo to help her implement a financial management and stock control system and well as open a Nedbank business account and develop a savings plan.

Ngogo says, “Being a participant of the Tholoana Enterprise Programme was hugely beneficial and really helped me find my feet as an entrepreneur. The aspect that assisted me the most was the provision of continuous business support and mentorship over a two year period. This was essential for me to address bad habits and limitations to bring about a positive and lasting change in my business. It was also hugely encouraging to know that I had access to knowledgeable mentors and experts, just a phone call away, to help with anything from accounting to marketing and social media.”

“Participants develop improved confidence and business skills that enable them to make their businesses sustainable in the long term so they can participate fully in nation building”, adds Evans.

The forecast is that by 2030, as much as 90% of new jobs in our economy will be created by SMMEs. However, in reality, nationally fewer than 30% of all SMMEs survive beyond three years. In the SAB Foundation’s case however, this figure stands at 70% for entrepreneurs that have gone through their Tholoana Enterprise Programme.

“It is profoundly heartening to see these thriving small business owners contributing so effectively to creating employment in under-resourced areas of the country,” concludes Evans.