Soweto small businesses can alleviate poverty, improve livelihoods and create sustainable employment opportunities, according to Nedbank Soweto’s Client Manager for SMMEs, Sello Maphosa. But for this to happen they must be resourceful in tapping into the buying power of residents, find and exploit opportunities, and upskill themselves, said Maphosa, who has been in the banking sector for over 20 years and has seven years of experience working with SMMEs.
This would help give them a competitive edge. “SMMEs face stiff competition from large businesses like Woolworths, Game and other reputable brands, so in order for them to stay on top of their game, they need to be more professional,” he said. “They can do this by gaining entrepreneurial skills and an entrepreneurial culture.” For Maphosa, these include skills in financial management, communication and relationships, marketing, sales, and customer relations.
“There is a huge shortage of these skills in SMMEs in Soweto, and it is evident in how, for example, some SMME owners do not have a business account, and cannot separate their finances well,” he noted. “When they come to the bank and ask for an overdraft, it’s difficult to give it to them because they do not give themselves a salary, and because they use one account for both private and business purposes it becomes difficult for them to produce their financial records.”
Maphosa also said that SMMEs needed to consider branching into other sectors that were in demand, especially in the era of digitisation. “Prospective entrepreneurs must consider venturing into ICT sectors like connectivity. There is a growing need for Soweto residents to access cheaper internet solutions,” he said. “Another sector worth looking into is fashion and agriculture, both of which are growing sectors and are showing great promise in creating jobs for the unemployed.”
Maphosa also encouraged Soweto residents to support local businesses. “There is everything in Soweto. If, for example, someone wants to organise a wedding, they can get suits and dresses for the groom and bride’s parties respectively, organise a venue, get a cake and catering services,” he told Vuivi News. “Residents must also support local SMMEs because they are the lifeblood of the economy. However, in order for residents to support SMMEs, SMMEs must pull up their socks in terms of marketing.
“One cannot, for example, run a business and operate it in the back of their yards, which makes it inaccessible and therefore invisible to the public eye.” Maphosa also commended Soweto small businesses for their resilience. “I have noted from the SMMEs that I work with that Soweto entrepreneurs are very creative in coming up with solutions to the problems they face, are disciplined and are driven and motivated to succeed,” he pointed out.