Young entrepreneurs planning to start their own businesses are urged to make use of fellow business owners as mentors, as well as seek out advice before funding.
This is a food-for-thought from a South African expert, Byron Jeacocks, Business Partners Limited regional GM.
The business support landscape in South Africa for young entrepreneurs is full of opportunities, but entrepreneurs needs to seek these opportunities out and build their own support network. “Nobody is going to hand it to you on a silver platter,” he said.
Jeacocks said when starting a business, possessing deep industry knowledge sector, is key.
“General knowledge and business skills also mean the difference between survival and business failure. It is thus why young entrepreneurs should continually tap into older entrepreneurs’ knowledge and experience.”
He said for decades various spheres of government, corporates and development organisations have been setting up one-stop shops, help desks and local business service centres – places entrepreneurs are able to source affordable help on anything ranging from compiling business plans to finding finance and setting up administration systems.
However, while the idea behind the concept is positive, he regretted that so far none of these projects have managed to sustain and grow a consistently good service.
“The advantage of these projects is that services are often subsidised and are therefore affordable,” he said.
“Finance may even be available in the form of grants. However, the disadvantage is that the quality of service may vary considerably, and young entrepreneurs should scout around widely for good alternatives if the subsidised ones fail to live up to their promises.”
Jeacocks believes that it is entirely possible for young business owners to build an excellent support network for their business without any state-sector support. It starts with the acknowledgement by the young entrepreneur that business support is much wider than access to business finance, he said.
“If you don’t have to borrow money, don’t. You don’t need a million rand to start a business.”
He said more often than not, young entrepreneurs rather need support in setting up and managing systems in their businesses, including people management, VAT returns, sales, bookkeeping and cashflow forecasting.
“As many entrepreneurs are unaware of where to find help in building these systems, they simply focus on production and neglect the other aspects of running a successful business.”
Photo: South Africa celebrates its young entrepreneurs. Credit: SME Toolkit South Africa.