South African entrepreneurs and small business owners have long cited a lack of funding as the biggest hurdle in the way of their business success. But many are overlooking a multitude of traditional and disruptive funding opportunities available, say business and finance experts.
Speaking ahead of the annual Small Business Expo, small business and finance experts report that the funding challenge is often a perceived, rather than a genuine one. And small business owners have it in their power to overcome the challenge through proper planning, preparation and research.
Nedbank Group economist Busisiwe Radebe says many small business owners still see ‘traditional’ funding – a loan from a bank – as the only option for business finance. “But traditional funding is not for everyone. It’s an older model, with an important place in financing, but for younger, disruptive players or those with no track record, disruptive funding might well be the way to go for start-up finance.”
Radebe notes that banks are built on risk management, and they are in fact custodians of other people’s money, therefore they will not always be willing to lend money to newcomers with no business plan, assets or credit history. “This should not stop people from asking, however. Large banks have business divisions, where even a potential start-up can get advice and find out what they need to put in place in order to qualify for a loan in future.”
“Many entrepreneurs are ill-prepared when they approach banks for funding,” says Thapelo Tsui, relationship banking manager and small business development expert at Nedbank. “In our experience, a certain amount of hand-holding is necessary to help would-be entrepreneurs prepare to apply for funding and manage their finances responsibly. As a result, Nedbank is working to help small businesses understand the processes and manage their finances more effectively.”
Darlene Menzies, CEO of Fin Find, says: “Too many people think banks are the only place to go for finance. They aren’t. There are numerous, VC funds, crowdfunds and grants available to small businesses in South Africa.” The Fin Find platform aggregates over 450 funding products available to local small businesses.
Megan Dedekind, senior investment manager at Business Partners, echoes this view: “In addition to the challenge of finding the funders, many new businesses do not understand what funders are looking for. In addition, many are inclined to over-extend themselves in terms of debt.”
Disruptive funder ProfitShare Partners is one example of new models for business financing available in South Africa. Founder and CEO Andrew Maren explains that the model aims to close the gap between start-up finance and growth funding for those businesses struggling to secure traditional loans. ProfitShare Partners offers small businesses 100% funding on valid purchase orders, allowing them to compete for larger contracts. This transaction-based loan does not incur interest, but rather a share in the profit from the transaction. It’s a low-risk model for the lender, says Maren, and it also reduces risk for the small business, since ProfitShare Partners carefully assesses the transaction before approving the funding. “We are inundated with applications, but since our platform is tech-based, we are able to keep the costs of delivering the service manageable,” he says. “ProfitShare Partners has helped at least 40 clients grow from turnover in the hundreds of thousands to turnover in the millions, with one growing to over R35 million turnover in just two years. For many small businesses, this support bridges the gap and almost grooms them to become bankable, and once they have a track record and a financial history, they move on to traditional business banking models.”
Nokwazi Mzobe, Founder of Matoyana Business Solutions, author of the Small Business Handbook and driver of the Fearless Women campaign, adds that disruptive funding options also include stokvels and crowdfunding. “Platforms such as Thundafund or even smaller initiatives through platforms like BackaBuddy are proving very successful in raising funds to empower and help people,” she says.
Beyond traditional lending and disruptive funding lies a model for sustainable business development that rests heavily on responsible, involved support for viable small business models. “You might term this model ‘responsible funding’,” says Eskom Foundation CEO Cecil Ramonotsi.
Eskom Development Foundation, through myriad interventions, has invested heavily in small business development across the country in recent years. However, Ramonotsi notes that the investments were never traditional loans or disruptive funding – they were always strategic and fiscally responsible investments made with a view to delivering maximum socio-economic returns for the country.
Eskom Foundation’s business development efforts include the Simama Ranta Schools competition to spark entrepreneurial development at an early age, and its annual Business Investment Competition (BIC), for black-owned SMEs in the engineering and construction, trade and services, manufacturing and agriculture/agro-processing sectors. BIC, which was launched in 2008, has attracted entries from over 357 businesses in the past five years alone. In addition, Eskom’s Contractor Academy has issued contracts to the value of R2,6 billion.
“We believe that simply allocating a loan or a grant to any start-up that applies for funding is not enough to assure their sustainability or economic development for South Africa,” says Ramonotsi. “Eskom’s responsible funding approach takes into account the fact that the four sectors we focus on in the BIC contribute the most to the GDP and play a very instrumental role in the country’s economic growth. In addition, entries are carefully assessed for their viability and sustainability, ensuring that the winners are truly capable of growth and job creation. And to help BIC winners deliver on their potential, we remain engaged and follow up with them, to ensure they have the best possible chance of business success.”
Funding for start-ups and small business will come under the spotlight at the Small Business Expo in Northriding next month, when experts in the fields of small business management, financial management and funding will deliver talks and host workshops throughout the three days of the event.
The Small Business Expo will be staged in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation from 6 – 8 September at the Ticketpro Dome. Online registration by 2 September is free, or R70 at the door, and visitors will benefit from free training in the Standard Bank Women in Business theatre, the Nedbank Money Matters theatre, Business Services theatre and the Eskom Powering your World theatres. Register today at www.smallbizexpo.co.za
About the Small Business Expo
The Small Business Expo, running alongside #BuyaBusiness Expo, is devoted to the development of small and medium sized enterprises, providing an invaluable platform for small businesses to market their businesses and interact with business leaders and corporate companies. This expo exposes visitors to a wide range of business models, incubation programmes, business contacts, speakers and other entrepreneurs who will engage them on starting or growing their business.
The Small Business Expo features numerous highlights, including free workshops and talks in the Nedbank Money Matters Theatre, Standard Bank Women in Business Theatre, Eskom Powering Your World theatre and Business Services theatre. Explore exhibits, visit the #BuyaBusiness expo alongside, and explore new business opportunities.
The Small Business Expo is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Ticketpro Dome, Northgate. The expo is supported by the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Minara Chamber of Commerce, and is endorsed by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and approved by AAXO.
For more information, visit https://www.smallbizexpo.co.za/