Did you know that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa make up 91% of formalised businesses, provide employment to about 60% of the workforce, and contribute roughly 34% to the Growth Domestic Product (GDP)? These statistics are just a small indicator of the value that SMEs bring to our country.
South African entrepreneurs are making their mark on the economy and anyone who attended the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme Graduation can vouch for this statement. Entrepreneurship is alive and thriving.
On the 26th of February a group of more than 170 people gathered to celebrate the graduation of the 2017 intake of entrepreneurs who completed the intensive two-year programme. The SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme is in its ninth year of existence and the mandate of the Foundation is aimed at contributing to the economic and social empowerment of those who were previously disadvantaged.
Bridgit Evans, Director of the SAB Foundation, said: “The Foundation is geared towards providing opportunities for women, youth, people in rural areas, and persons with disabilities.” Bridgit expressed her excitement and pride while addressing the forty-eight entrepreneurs who graduated on the evening.
The graduating cohort achieved remarkable results while on the programme. The group achieved an overall growth rate of 41% while on the programme and they created 83 jobs, 53 of them being permanent. Results like these are rare in today’s economy, but these entrepreneurs have proved many wrong.
Alex Msitshana of Deaf Empowerment Firm was one of the graduating entrepreneurs and a keynote speaker. She delivered a speech that addressed one of the key factors of the programme – diversity. She said: “We come from very different and diverse backgrounds as individuals and SMMEs but have one common thread among us, being that, we are passionately South African. We are also very proud to have been associated with a company whose roots are as South African as biltong.”
Alex spoke on behalf of other entrepreneurs in South Africa with disabilities and how this programme is inclusive and supportive of people with disabilities. “That is what we talk about as people with disabilities when we talk inclusivity – make the environment conducive, whether it is the workplace, a school or university, society in general – make the environment conducive so people with disabilities can also thrive and put their abilities to maximum use.”
The diversity of the programme also speaks to the diverse businesses that can be found on the programme. From catering, building, cleaning to a mobile pharmacy in Khayelitsha – this programme reaches all corners of South Africa.
The graduation ceremony not only celebrates the entrepreneurs who have completed the programme, but also shines a light on those who have excelled in certain areas. The Rocket Fuel Award went to the female duo of WhyCook, Mathapelo Monthso and Yolanda Nomoyi; the Gold Star Award went to Blessing Sithole of Bakers Creationz; the Dream Participant Award went to Gerold Keffers of Filtrospec Wine Equipment Services; the Team Player Award went to Rushana Charles of Little Mermaids Swim School; the Media Champion Award went to Yesheen Singh of Terresano Holdings (Phyto Pro); and the Entrepreneurial Award was given to Phumza Matwele of Eunimike Trading. The Tholoana Award as well as a R15 000 cash prize was awarded to Freddy Sibuyi of Freddy and Sons Maintenance Engineering.
Freddy’s mentor, Ntando Maseko proudly says: “Freddy was not afraid to push his personal boundaries, his business’s boundaries, and his employees’ boundaries. At times I had to tell him to slow down, but he never did and because of his perseverance and determination he was able to achieve his goals.”
The call for applicants for the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme will open again towards the end of the year. Eligible black-owned businesses are encouraged to apply by visiting the SAB Foundation website here www.sabfoundation.co.za.