Eskom’s Development Foundation is set to give SMEs a share of R1,3 million in prize money through its Business Investment Competition (BIC) running for the twelfth year this year.
This was announced at an SME dialogue held by the Foundation yesterday under the theme: “Turning South Africa’s economy around through the success of small businesses”. Attended by small black-owned businesses, the dialogue looked into the challenges faced by SMEs and some solutions provided by experts in business, academia and government.
CEO of the Eskom Development Foundation, Cecil Ramonotsi, said that through the BIC the foundation is able to empower small businesses: “Every effort must be made to stimulate entrepreneurship, encourage risk-taking and create an environment in which these enterprises can take root and flourish.”
Ramonotsi said that the competition aimed to encourage entrepreneurship by recognising and rewarding promising small businesses as well as providing a platform to become part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
In 2018, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released research showing that, on average across the OECD countries, SMEs account for about 70% of total employment and generate between 50% and 60% of value added to an economy.
Tshibvumo Sikhwivhilu, 30-year-old owner and CEO of Lamo Solar, reflected on his journey since winning the competition in 2016. “Winning the competition was a great leap for us. Moving from running our business from the boot of a car to becoming the largest black-owned solar business would have not been possible without the prize money from the BIC and support from the Foundation’s Contractor Academy programme which allowed us to purchase the specialised information we now use to provide renewable power solutions to some of the most remote areas of South Africa.”
On the panel were CEO of Aurik Business Accelerator and small business guru, Pavlo Phitidis, The Department of Trade and Industry’s Financing Division’s Donald Mabusela, Murongi Consulting and Monash University’s Shingisanai Bvunzawabaya, Tafadzwa Madavo COO of the Riversands Incubation Hub and Andason Chibvamushure , Business Advisor at the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).
Giving advice to small businesses, Pavlo Phitidis said that entrepreneurs need to go beyond the product and understand whether people need the product and why they need it.
“Funders will not merely provide assistance to a business just because they are trying. You need to prove that you understand your market and make the funder feel that they will receive a return on their investment. People don’t buy your product because they like you. They buy from you because your product provides a solution cheaper than the cost of the problem, better than another business which offers another solution”, said Phitidis.
As an added benefit to entering the competition, all BIC finalists will have the opportunity to participate in The Business Connect which takes place in December 2019. To enter the Business Investment Competition, SMEs can visit www.eskombic2019.co.za. Entries close on 6 November.