Grow the economy… over a cup of coffee

Did you know that the May 8 elections had 19 new political parties on the ballot? That’s a record 48 in all.

Imagine my surprise then, when I received a SMS regarding voting for small business. Was this one of the new parties?

More interesting is that it came from Marnus Broodryk, a South African Shark Tank investor, entrepreneur and author of the book, 90 rules for entrepreneurs-The codex for hustle.

I have bought the book and been receiving podcasts from this vibrant entrepreneur. Was this really a call to vote for a party?

I am pleased to say no, and that Marnus was merely using this vital process and day to highlight one of the great solutions to unemployment in our wonderful country. The solution?

That a very real way to address the ongoing challenge of unemployment in SA lies primarily with small businesses and the courageous and resilient men and women who will lead these businesses.

Let’s be intentional in supporting initiatives that can help with establishing 11 million jobs by 2030.

What kind of manifesto would such a fictitious party have? Here is my slightly tongue-in-cheek proposal.

To strengthen, build and grow the economy, we can…

Aim lower, think smaller, give up, and drink a cup of coffee; Let me explain:

Aim lower

According to the Global Entrepreneurial monitor (GEM) report, only 7% of South Africans are engaged in entrepreneurial activity. In a country where youth unemployment touches 60% in some areas, this is not good news.

There appears to be growing consensus that entrepreneurship should be introduced at lower levels and ages – at primary and high school level.

Thankfully, it is not just a concept waiting to be applied. I attended a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) conference in April where entrepreneurial activity and focus is intentionally being brought into high school level.

Our Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College was established in 2015 with this imperative uppermost in mind – to introduce entrepreneurship sooner.

Teen entrepreneur, run by Lydia Zingoni, echoes this refrain.

Raizcorp, a privately funded incubator, established its own school in 2015.

All of these are examples of aiming to introduce entrepreneurship sooner at a lower age/grade.

Think smaller

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been identified as productive drivers of inclusive economic growth and development in South Africa and around the world.

Some researchers have estimated that, in South Africa, small and medium-sized enterprises make up 91% of formalised businesses, provide employment to about 60% of the labour force and total economic output accounts for roughly 34% of gross domestic product (GDP).

While contributing significantly to the economy, SMEs foster diversification through their development of new and unsaturated sectors of the economy. SMEs are considered an important contributor to the economy as drivers for reducing unemployment, especially since the formal sector continues to shed jobs.

By recognising and honouring the vital role of small businesses, simplifying their access to support and elevating their status, we can build something big, significant and impactful.

Give up

I would like to suggest that one of the most powerful things those that have access to resources can do is to share some of these resources (give up).

It’s the kind of generosity and mindset shown in Marnus by making his entrepreneurial book available to download free of charge (See www.90rulesbook.co.za).

It is also seen in the gracious commitment of individuals and organisations like Rotary International and Cover magazine, as they volunteer mentoring time to help build into entrepreneurs on our programme at the Centre for Entrepreneurship/Rapid Incubator (CFE/RI).

We also have the privilege of hero speakers and entrepreneurs who share nuggets and insights that make the theory live.

A further example of sharing opportunity may be seen in the City of Cape Town’s #YouthStartCT competition, where young people are given the training and support to transition their idea to a business.

But “giving up” can involve small, seemingly insignificant acts.

To those who are under resourced, that small act of generosity can be life changing.

And drink a cup of coffee

Some of my best networks, partnerships and opportunities have arisen accompanied by a cup of coffee.

It is also in this non-threatening environment that we can be exposed to new ideas, gain insight into other cultures and meet more people in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It can also help with:

Connecting with others authentically;

Connecting with new innovations and ideas;

Seizing new opportunities;

Overcoming obdurate obstacles; and

Finding solutions to the newest range of social challenges.

Being intentional about meeting for collaboration can also go a long way to those in the ecosystem thinking less in “silos” and in competition, but rather being complimentary for the greater good.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.