Project empowers women entrepreneurs

THE eThekwini municipal managers are working on an ambitious programme to empower 40 previously disadvantaged women and turn them into millionaires by 2011.

Nomaxabiso Mahlawe, Durban's deputy city manager for sustainable development and city enterprises, said the 50-50 Millionaires Programme was started in June 2008.

She said the programme was now in full swing, with two women already having reached their goals.

"The programme is an offshoot of a broader women's empowerment programme. We initially started off with 160 women and we narrowed this figure down to 40," Mahlawe said.

"The aim is to get the women, who had graduated from a training programme we offered at the eThekwini municipality, to take their businesses to the next level."

Mahlawe said at the time of joining the programme all the women were running businesses that had an annual turnover of between R50000 and R750000.

"Their businesses ranged from arts and craft, event management, catering, manufacturing, security, through and construction to hospitality," Mahlawe said.

The municipality helps support the women with training, mentoring, brand development, business linkage, networking and marketing.

She said the women were also given emotional support and inspiration to help build their companies into million-rand concerns.

"A few of the women have indicated success and motivation since the start of the challenge, while others have been battling to reach the target of becoming millionaires by June 2011," she said.

Bongi Shangase, who runs Shangase Property Development, said she started her business in 2007.

After joining the programme a year later she was able to build 10 houses and turn her small business into one that generates a turnover of more than R1million a year.

"The programme really helped me," she said. "Though I know I could have reached that goal myself, it would have taken me a lot longer had I not received guidance from the programme."

Jabulile Khambule of Umlazi, who runs Vukani Community Projects, said while the programme had equipped her with skills to run her business, generating the income to sustain it was a battle. She is struggling to reach the target of generating R1million income a year.

"But though it looks as if I am not going to reach that goal by 2011 I am going to stay in the programme because it has taught me so much," Khambule said.