Business Partners Limited has launched a R250-million Women in Business Fund aimed at increasing access to finance for female entrepreneurs and affording South African women a fair and equal opportunity to start, expand or purchase an existing business.
The Fund will offer finance between the value of R500 000 and R50-million per investment over a five-year financing period. All female owned businesses (at least 50%) that are commercially viable with female owners active in the business will be considered for financing.
Nazeem Martin, managing director at Business Partners says that the company has, over the past seven years, funded women entrepreneurs. 35% to 45% of all new business concluded over this period was with women entrepreneurs. The company aims to increase this figure to 50% in the near future. “The Women in Business Fund will play a key role enabling Business Partners to reach this goal and achieve an even split between male and female business owners being financed and on our book.”
He continues: “Two decades since South Africans officially started celebrating the ideal of gender equality in the form of Women’s Month, the number of women who enter and succeed in entrepreneurship is still disappointing. South Africa is no exception to the world-wide phenomenon that women, who represent more than half of the population, are still in the minority when it comes to entrepreneurship.”
Women-owned businesses still in the minority
Martin adds that research worldwide shows that when it comes to power entrepreneurship – high-growth, substantial businesses – female entrepreneurs are even more of a minority. “In the US, for example, only one in five businesses with a turnover of more than $1-million are owned by women. In Europe, only 8.3% of patents awarded are awarded to female owned businesses. There is little to suggest that the picture is any less skewed in South Africa. If anything, the situation has probably deteriorated recently given the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that only 6.2% of South African adult women are involved in entrepreneurship, down from 9% a year earlier.”
Geared towards facilitating the growth and expansion of women-owned businesses, the formulation of the Business Partners Women in Business Fund took into account some of the hurdles hindering women from starting their own businesses, as well as some of the proven incentives to drive women in business.
“Deep-seated cultural legacies discouraging women from choosing entrepreneurship added to family responsibilities have proven to be some of the hurdles. Research shows women to generally still be disadvantaged in building up an asset base which they could pledge as owner’s equity and/or collateral. Hence the Fund requires no minimum own contribution when applying for finance. Instead the gearing and other factors affecting the viability of a transaction will be taken into consideration for the loan.”
What’s on offer
Martin adds that all female entrepreneurs financed though the Business Partners Women in Business Fund will be supported with additional value added services such as dedicated industry specific mentors and a technical assistance (mentorship) grant of up to R25 000 to aid in the development of the business. A further R35 000 interest free loan for technical assistance, should it be required, will also be available. They will also have access to information, via a dedicated LinkedIn page Women in Business Africa, and networking opportunities, such as workshops and the annual Women’s Month seminar.
“Women share a unique approach to business which is why we seek to facilitate networking and knowledge sharing opportunities between female entrepreneurs, so that they can learn from their peers and continue to play their rightful role of generating wealth, growing our economy and creating jobs for many. We trust the platform will also be used to inspire young aspiring female entrepreneurs,” says Martin.
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