Support for women entrepreneurs
In a 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women's Report, it was revealed that sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of women wanting to start a business, with 51% intending to become entrepreneurs in the next three years. Of course, intention doesn't always lead to the realisation of a dream, and many women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges as they take the first steps to starting a business of their own.
Becoming an entrepreneur takes guts, determination and support. While the guts and determination is up to you, we can help you out a little with the support. Here are some resources for South African women entrepreneurs to help you grow your skills, confidence and business.
Apply for a government grant to kick-start your business
In 2013, government ramped up its support for small businesses and launched a number of measures to help entrepreneurs launch or grow their business. These grants and the qualification criteria are listed on the DTI's website.
Apply to the IDC or SEDA for business funding
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is a national development finance institution that aims to promote economic growth. They have set aside specific funds to finance businesses through the Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF). They also supply business plan support, training and mentorship to qualifying applicants.
The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) is an agency of the Department of Small Business Development. It has published a booklet outlining all the funding opportunities available for women starting up their own small businesses.
Find a mentor to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey
Women often find that the support and advice of other women who have been there and done that is vital to their entrepreneurial success. But successful female mentors aren't always readily available - you have to know where to find them. SME Toolkit South Africa has published this list of professional associations that connect entrepreneurs with established businesswomen.
Crowdfund your business through Kickstarter or Indiegogo
You've heard of people funding their businesses through online crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo . If you have a big idea that you think will excite and amaze people, get online, build a project and market the heck out of it to your online and offline community.
Join the Businesswomen's Association for access to support and funding
The Businesswomen's Association of South Africa (BWASA) is the largest and most prominent association of business and professional women in the country. For women entrepreneurs, the Business Women's Association (BWA) provides access to finance, networking, enterprise development and compliance advice as well as supplier diversity programmes, business health clinics, business incubation, and markets and trade opportunities through local, national and global business linkage programmes.
Members also have access to lifestyle benefits that include car rental, chauffeur and transfer discounts and access to the BWASA/SAA Corporate Loyalty Programme.
Expand your knowledge with free courses
Many universities around the world have made their course material available through massive open online course (MOOC) platforms like Coursera or EdX. This means that you can access the course material for degrees from Harvard, MIT, Stanford or even Wits (from the end of this year through EdX), and complete the modules online, at your own time. The courses are free, but you don't get an official credit at the university (although in some cases you can pay to upgrade), but you can expand your knowledge and understanding of your chosen profession or develop business skills.
Local business school Regenesys has created the same kind of free online course structure, but again, you have to pay to convert to an accredited degree.
Get information and inspiration at SME South Africa
SME South Africa is a portal for SME development news in South Africa. Be inspired by stories of success from other entrepreneurs or learn about developments in the start-up space. There's a specific section for women that profiles women in business and publishes stories about mentorship, funding and motivation.
Get ready; get set; go!
With a combination of grit, determination and a big idea, as well as the support of the services that we've outlined, you will be well on your way to business success. Just remember, it's lonely at the top, so be sure to find a way to bring other women up there along with you. We wish you well on your path to business leadership.