Assistance not a one size fits all process
SA has done a great deal in ensuring small business owners and entrepreneurs are able to build sustainable businesses in their respective fields.
This was said during the Sowetan Dialogues under the theme Access to Markets and Bridging the Gap, which was held at Gold Reef City recently.
Shingi Bvunzawabaya, a panelist from Monash SA, told entrepreneurs that business processes in SA have come a long way in being developed to assist them. "There is a lot of extensively great work done for businesses in SA. But businesses are thrown in the deep end. But what happens when a company is thrown in the deep end for procurement? What happens when the company's products improve or they start producing a different line or product?" he asked.
Bvunzawabaya said SMMEs were often pigeon holed by suppliers, which prevents them from adapting to new demands.
He said the solution to this was the use of Electronic Software Delivery (ESD), which is a combination of preferential procurement, supplier diversity, supplier development and enterprise development programmes to service business needs.
It is a tool used as part of the broad-based black economic empowerment policy to advance economic transformation in SA.
"If I am supplier, I am now used to supplying this one product, but I am unable to penetrate different spheres. What an ESD is supposed to do is develop me; to walk with me through that journey through a simple phone call. That's how the process is supposed to work," he said.
He said if suppliers and businesses were intricately linked through service legal agreements and timelines were adhered to, it would make it simpler to develop robust ESD processes.
Donald Mabusela, another panelist from the department of trade & industry' s industrial finance division, said the department fits into this system by assisting SMMEs through financial assistance through various funding models available for entrepreneurs.
"The most practical support we give is financial assistance. There are a number of financial tools that assist entrepreneurs," he said.
Mabusela said entrepreneurs needed to ensure their ideas lead to real products before they could be funded for the manufacturing of those technological products.
"In the DTI, we try to play the space whereby the research will lead to real products. It's about finding solutions that address challenges in the market," he said.
Vuyo Nkhotsho, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller's general manager for strategy, monitoring and evaluation, said one of the key challenges that they faced in attempting to bridge the gap between SMMEs and big corporates was for their department to take a step back and remove the blanket approach they adopted in assisting SMMEs from different sectors.
"We took a step back and said we can't equally support someone who is in construction with the same product with someone who is in manufacturing," she said.
"The one key thing we do is categorising businesses because the needs of businesses are different and unique, so it helps us to make it easy to assist as such."