This month Anton Roelofse, Business Partners Limited Regional General Manager, shares what inspires him about owner-built businesses; we feature Gwen Gower, owner of EarthWorx nursery, and William Duk, owner of The Plantation Shutter Co., in our success stories; and Gerrie shares his top 10 tips for getting into business.
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SME Business Bang
May 2012   |   Volume 4.3

Industry: In praise of South Africa’s entrepreneurs

Building a business anywhere is always a heroic undertaking, but nothing illustrates the positive force of entrepreneurship in society as clearly as some factories in the deep rural areas of South Africa.

"You walk into a workshop standing in the middle of nowhere and see people who used to have nothing, perhaps only a standard two or standard three, processing food in HACCP conditions," says Anton Roelofse, Business Partners regional general manager. HACCP is an exacting quality-control system for food processing that requires high standards of training.

No corporate, government agency, school or welfare programme exists that can so dramatically change the fortunes of people who were destined for a life of grinding poverty, and turn them into proud and prospering workers.

But what inspires Anton even more about owner-built businesses, especially far-flung rural enterprises, is the realisation that they have been grown out of nothing in extremely difficult circumstances. Their markets and suppliers are often hundreds of kilometres away, infrastructure is virtually non-existent, and the potential work-force completely untrained and barely literate.

Success story:
Abundant growth prospects for green-fingered entrepreneur

You would think it is a small, natural step to go from running a landscaping and gardening service to owning a nursery. Isn’t it virtually the same industry? How different can it be?

Very, says Gwen Gower, who started a gardening service ten years ago with three workers and a crock bakkie and built it into a successful landscaping enterprise boasting some 500 clients. But by the time she opened the doors to her EarthWorx nursery in Hout Bay one month after buying and totally revamping the neglected business, she knew she had entered a completely different world.

She never realised, for example, how important it is for a nursery to sell plants when they are in full bloom. While landscapers buy plants regardless of the growth cycle, the majority of nursery clients buy on impulse because they like the colourful flowers. And that was just the merchandising side of things.

Success story:
"Lucky" manufacturer leaves little to chance

Luck plays a part in any business, but the story of William Duk (pronounced Duke) and The Plantation Shutter Co. shows that it’s what you make your luck that determines the success of a business.

William has a classic stroke-of-luck story to tell about how he stumbled upon a small bankrupt company, took it over on the spur of the moment and in five years doubled its workforce and increased its turnover tenfold.

As a young chartered accountant he did the “London thing”, cutting his teeth at overseas companies. Coming from a business family, he always wanted to run his own business and saw the corporate world merely as a learning environment. So when he returned to Cape Town, he set his mind to starting a property business specialising in industrial and commercial real estate. He had a promising start, and soon found himself contemplating the purchase of an industrial building in Atlantis

Blog: 10 tips to get into business

By Gerrie van Biljon

So many potential entrepreneurs dream to be in a business of their own. That is great since this will not only offer an opportunity to the business owner but will create jobs (hopefully), offer a product or service, create wealth and then also to contribute to economic growth.

Before you go into business you need to understand what this entails and also whether this is for you (complete our entrepreneurial self-assessment to see if you have what it takes). Many people just should not be in business.

Tip no 1: Why be in business?

Why do you want to be in business? Get this clear in your mind before considering a business venture. Is it to make a living, to establish the business and grow it into an international Corporate, get in and get out soon, to keep your mind occupied, be successful or make money? According to research the main driver is not making money but rather the desire to be successful.

The business that you will be involved in (whether starting a new business or participating in an existing business), will depend on your motives. Consider some of the questions above and realise that the motives are different and thus the target business.

Tip no 2: What business?

The age old question: what business? This is probably your biggest challenge. A high-tech business is very different to running a supermarket. Here a self-assessment needs to be done; a few checks and reality checks. Examples: do you like working with people? Are you prepared to work 7 days a week for many hours per day? Do you want to be outdoors? Do you want to work in a team? Do you like animals? Are you prepared to work in a dirty environment? Cut out all the businesses or sectors that are a no-no. This will narrow down the options.
Poll results
Take part in our SME Index and you could win a Montblanc pen worth R3000.

SMEs are at the heart of South African business today and with the current economy still in a delicate position, many hold high hopes that SMEs will be the ones to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

Business Partners Limited will be launching their quarterly SME Index survey to gauge just how confident SMEs and entrepreneurs are in South Africa and what their outlook is for the future. The survey also aims to pick up on key social and economic issues affecting small businesses in various industries.

We will be sending you an email in the next week asking you to take part in this survey. It should not take more than ten minutes of your time and will go a long way in better understanding the unique position SMEs hold in SA.

The 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards, which aims to honour, benefit and uplift South African SMEs, is officially open for entries. This annual competition celebrates excellence in South African entrepreneurship and serves as an inspiration to others to succeed in the world of business.

Entries close on 16 June 2012, so submit your entry today
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