The current economic downturn brought by the impact of Covid-19 has not only changed the way companies do business but has renewed focus on the role of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMME) as a catalyst for growth and job creation.
While many jobs have been decimated and entrepreneurs left battling for survival, TSIBA, through the TSIBA Ignition Academy, is making great strides in the growth and development of emerging businesses, and with numerous initiatives geared to help boost the survival chances and growth of startup companies.
Since its inception in 2004, TSIBA has focused on inclusive enterprise development and access to education. In this work TSIBA has helped shape a new generation of entrepreneurs who have the edge to excel in the increasingly competitive business landscape. Through the provision of fundamental business tools, mentorship, accredited undergraduate and postgraduate business courses, learnerships and other vocational programmes, TSIBA has enabled numerous small business start up and stay up.
Studies have shown that a large number of startups fail within the five years of operation. This is a shortfall that TSIBA aims to address.
TSIBA does not provide venture capital to small businesses, but those who enroll on its academic programmes at the Business School or business support programmes offerred through the Ignition Academy gain more than a qualification. TSIBA ensures access to networks of professional mentors who are experts in the field of business and who can guide them through various stages of building sustainable enterprises.
As the CEO of TSIBA Ignition Academy, Karien Cloete puts it; capital funding is not the only requirement for business success, or the most important. Indeed, emerging entrepreneurs require more than just funding to thrive. The TSIBA Ignition Academy has been at the forefront of sharpening talent and offering guidance and support to emerging entrepreneurs to navigate the commercial aspect of running a business regardless of size.
“What makes us unique is that our programmes are tailor-made for entrepreneurs across the economic spectrum,” she says.
“We are as willing to invest time and resources in small informal township businesses just as we do with larger enterprises that are ready to get into the corporate supply chain,” she added.
With extensive experience in human resources and recruitment background, Cloete has a keen eye for talent development and empowering people to realise their full potential, something which ties in with the TSIBA value system.
“Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely journey, and our aim is to create resilient entrepreneurs who will stand up and try again if they fail. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is too wide for us to be just an incubator, we are more than that,” she added.
Many TSIBA alumni are intrepid entrepreneurs who run successful enterprises. One such entrepreneur is 59-year-old Delia Cupido, owner of Chameleon Schools, a Cape Town-based independent schools’ group which is made up of an Early Childhood Development Centre and two Primary Schools. As someone who obtained education later in life, Delia says her life experience motivated her to work towards ensuring access to quality and affordable education, particularly for people from less fortunate backgrounds.
Delia came through the TSIBA doors when her business was already up and running, an experience she says helped her grow and exposed her to new strategies.
“As a woman, sometimes you have to push through many barriers to prove your capabilities and get people to believe in you. With TSIBA, I have not only learned about the art of managing the business, they have given me the skills to manage my expectations and taught me the importance of emotional intelligence and strategic thinking,” she said.
Delia is now in the process of acquiring new premises to open another Chameleon school, in what is part of her steady expansion drive to meet the growing demand from communities around her.
Hers is a journey that is rooted in the pay-it-forward principle that encourages investment in people to ensure development with a conscience.
Another TSIBA beneficiary who has managed to turn her passion into a successful venture is Hilary Eckardt. Hilary is the owner of Hilary’s Mind Body and Soul, which specialises in the niche business of foot care.
Like Delia, Hilary’s business had been in existence before she went through a TSIBA programme in 2019.
From mixing products from her kitchen at home for sale to family and friends, Hilary recognised a gap in the market for accessible foot treatment, especially for people with chronic ailments. Today she is running her own practice and has plans of expanding her online product sales to reach a broader market.
“With TSIBA you don’t just learn the tools of the trade, you gain lifelong experience and a network of people who will guide you along the way as you grow into an employer,” she said.
The TSIBAlings, as TSIBA beneficiaries are known, may be just what South Africa needs to address the chronic challenge of high unemployment and poor growth through small enterprise development, including opportunities in the digital technology sector and other new age businesses.
A start-up that is already making waves in the fintech arena is Akiba Digital. Focused on providing companies with data consolidation Akiba Digital helps clients to better understand their customers’ financial behavior.
The company which was started three years ago is part of the supplier development programme run by the TSIBA Ignition Academy in partnership with RCS Cards, Akiba co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Tebogo Mokwena describes this as “an opportunity that the company is going to seize actively and with both hands”.
According to Tebogo, 26, embarking on the entrepreneurial journey takes courage, passion and determination and should not be done for the wrong reasons. Armed with a fresh outlook and a wealth of corporate experience with some of the country’s top private companies, Tebogo who quit her job as a Digital Consultant believes that the current social and economic challenges faced by the country present an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to come up with innovative solutions.
“There is an opportunity to every crisis, right now we have the Covid-19 pandemic and some entrepreneurs have seized this as an opportunity to create new businesses as a way of providing a solution to the problem,” said Tebogo whose trailblazing career saw her make the 2019 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans list in the Business and Entrepreneurship category.
“If you can’t go it alone, it is best to collaborate with people who share similar interests, that is what I did.”