By Anna Majavu
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Graça Machel Trust’s Women Creating Wealth (WCW) programme are set to launch a new mentorship programme for female entrepreneurs who need help getting investment in their businesses and advice on how to keep them up and running. SMMEs have until 20 August to apply for a place in the 18-month intensive programme, which will focus on how small businesses can apply for funding and develop winning pitches. For one year of the programme, each woman-owned business will have a mentor providing free business advice. However, only women-owned registered businesses that have been established for more than two years and have an annual turnover of between R120,000 and R10-million can apply. The business owners also must have a matric qualification.
They also have to be operating in the agro-processing and agriculture, mining, energy, infrastructure, automotive and transport, textile and wood, chemicals, and machinery and electronic sectors. Over 500 women entrepreneurs in South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania have graduated from the programme since 2016. Research has found that graduates’ turnovers increased by 65% within a year, with 93% of the programme’s participants putting in place new systems, and 79% introducing new products. The programme aims to reach 10,000 women-owned businesses in 10 years. “A significant challenge women small business owners face is raising finance to grow their businesses. It is estimated that the women’s financing gap is $42 billion (R800 billion),” said the Graça Machel Trust.
The Trust recently released a book of success stories from the programme. Dimakatso Gloria Ramahlodi started her Maledi Fresh organic fresh produce business with just R500 while on maternity leave in 2010. Ramahlodi said she identified a gap in the market when she found that hotels and restaurants in her area were unhappy with the quality of the fruit and vegetables they were buying. The Covid-19 pandemic also provided her with an opportunity to team up with courier companies and start delivering to families, doubling her sales. Another graduate of the programme, Bridget Mawilah-Lebala, founded Chambray Line Fabrics which sells wallpaper and fabric. She trained herself by working at leading fabric houses.
Mawilah-Lebala said that although she was eligible for government funding, she had struggled to access it. “Funding has been an especially tedious exercise. There is red tape as a result of funds being squandered in other industries,” she said. Mawilah-Lebala said it was difficult for her black-run, women-led business to make it in a majority-white industry, and many of her former clients failed to support her when she started her own business. She added that the WCW programme had helped her develop business leadership skills and connected her to a network from which she started sourcing locally made products from other women entrepreneurs, creating their own new value chain.
The IDC told Vutivi News it would contribute about R2-million to the project following the trust’s research which found that the three biggest problems facing women-owned SMMEs were a lack of financial and business management skills, limited ability to tap into coaching, mentoring, business networks, and poor access to finance and markets. “A big part of the programme is to create awareness of the IDC’s mandate, our priority sectors, and the various funding instruments the IDC has to drive inclusive industrialisation. We are proud to support 120 women through this partnership and look forward to the next 18 months with the participants,” said IDC women enterprise specialist Joy Manotwana.