What are the real issues facing SA small businesses?

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The experts behind the Small Business Expo 2018 say that there’s no lack of entrepreneurial spirit in SA, but start-ups and small businesses need skills, social capital and a supportive environment in order to succeed.

It’s a popular misconception that funding is the biggest hurdle in the way of small business success: in fact, knowledge and networks may be more important. This is according to small business experts and members of the Small Business Expo expert advisory board, speaking ahead of one of South Africa’s premier small business development platforms – the Small Business Expo 2018.

The expo, taking place from 6 – 8 September at the TicketPro Dome is an annual opportunity showcase and knowledge-sharing platform for local small and medium sized businesses, is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation. It is further supported by the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Minara Chamber of Commerce; endorsed by the Black Management Forum (BMF) and approved by AAXO.rea

According to Langa Manqele, FinTech businessman and chairman of the Black Management Forum (BMF) in Gauteng, entrepreneurial spirit is flourishing across South Africa, including in the townships and rural areas.

“A trend we’re seeing emerging is for entrepreneurs to launch small scale manufacturing and agro-processing operations around the country.” This is in line with the government’s hopes for a more industrial economy, and presents many opportunities for job creation, he notes.

“Unfortunately, though, many start-ups are failing to break through into big business, and many are failing to comply with testing and safety standards. This may be partly due to a lack of awareness and information, and also because safety and standards infrastructure is out of reach of rural business, as well as being prohibitively expensive.”

Break into the big business league 

Manqele believes that stepped up information sharing, skills development and networking, such as that available at the Small Business Expo, may help these start-ups break through into the big business league.

“This is why the BMF is endorsing the Small Business Expo,” he says. “Because of its focus on the development of black business in particular, along with its three days of in-depth workshops and opportunities to network, we believe it’s an invaluable platform for small businesses to gain the knowledge and social capital they need to grow. Capacity building is a major challenge, and the number of startups able to be absorbed by incubators doesn’t meet the national needs; therefore events like these fill the gap for critical business skills development.”

Linda Blackbeard, CEO of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), which represents businesses in Randburg, Fourways and Lanseria, echoes this sentiment. “Small businesses need partner networks in order to grow. Joint ventures, for example, allow them to take on bigger projects than they might manage alone. And through partnerships with large business, they stand to gain viable income streams.” But many do not know how to tap in to this ‘social capital’ or partner networks.

Blackbeard says belonging to an industry body such as the local Chamber of Commerce is a key first step to expanding partner networks. Another is to participate in industry events.

“The Small Business Expo is a very important platform for networking, learning and skills development,” she says. “No matter how long you’ve been in business, systems and markets change and there’s always something new for us to learn so that we can operate more effectively.” She notes that marketing is another area where many small businesses fall short, making the networking and exposure opportunities at the Small Business Expo invaluable for small businesses.

BMF and RCCI will be present at the Small Business Expo, where small business can discover the benefits of joining the organisations.

Carol Weaving, MD of Reed Exhibitions, says building social capital and business capacity is the primary function of the Small Business Expo and co-located #BuyaBusiness expo. “Empowering small businesses to grow, has always been the focus of this event, which is closely aligned with the work of show partner, the Eskom Development Foundation. As the expo has evolved, we have increased our efforts to deliver a practical development forum that delivers tangible results for all participants. This year, the programme has been shaped with input from business experts across small business umbrella bodies, chambers of commerce, banks and entrepreneurs, all working towards a common goal of growing businesses in South Africa.”

Small Business Expo will include multiple development forums and workshops, including the Creative Business Cup, Nedbank Money Matters Workshops; Standard Bank Women in Business Theatre; Eskom  “Powering your World Indaba” and a Business Services Theatre.  In addition, the expo will showcase the Business Services Expo & #BuyABusiness Expo as well as offersa #THEClub VIP investors’ programme, business speed dating, online business matchmaking and dedicated networking areas.

About the Small Business Expo

The Small Business Expo, showcasing the Business Services Expo and #BuyaBusiness Expo, is devoted to the development of small and medium sized enterprises, providing an invaluable platform for small and medium businesses to market themselves, network and connect with entrepreneurs and interact with prominent business leaders and representatives from a number of corporate companies. The Small Business Expo is presented by Reed Exhibitions in partnership with the Eskom Development Foundation and will be held from 6 – 8 September 2018 at the 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/