As part of a collaboration between Ithala Development Finance Corporation and the Businesswomen's Association of South Africa (BWSA), the top 20 nominees in the “Imbokodo Iyazenzela” Women in SMMEs Awards 2016 were hosted at a business skills development workshop in Durban this week.
Stella Khumalo and Yamkela Ndabeni
“Imbokodo Iyazenzela” or “Women doing it for themselves” is one of three flagship programmes spearheaded by Ithala, KwaZulu-Natal’s provincial development agency, to improve the long-term sustainability of SMMEs in the province.
“The strategic partnership with BWASA is paying dividends as the bottlenecks preventing aspiring businesswomen from reaching their full potential are being addressed through ongoing skills development and mentorship,” said Sitandiwe Dimba, Corporate Social Investment Co-ordinator.
“While we provide financial support and business development workshops to empower women, the BWASA provides access to mentors with a real-life business perspective to match the industry sectors in which the businesswomen operate to ensure the skills gap is closed.”
Phase one of “Imbokodo Iyazenzela” involved a series of informative breakfast workshops held across KZN over a three-month period. The programme was piloted in 2015 and reached 1,041 women in 16 towns.
The objective of phase two of the campaign was to bring on board strategic partners to assist with the business development needs of female entrepreneurs.
The third phase is about connecting businesswomen with mentors who have the knowledge and expertise to elevate their businesses to the next level.
“The partnership with Ithala has enabled us to extend our reach to women in rural and township areas through platforms that will enable true empowerment,” said Mpume Langa, BWASA Durban Chairperson.
“By way of giving back to the community, mentors from BWASA volunteer their time to assist entrepreneurs - some of whom hail from afar as Jozini, Manguzi and Port Shepstone - in growing their businesses.
“Monthly meetings between mentors and mentees are held to develop strengths, address key issues and enable skills transfer. A stringent reporting mechanism to track discussions and progress is administered online to promote growth and development and ensure business targets are effectively achieved.”
In addition, inspirational speakers will be joining Ithala in its My Business Indaba, taking to the road later this month. The programme comprises a two-day entrepreneurial expo aimed at rural and township SMMEs, co-operatives, youth and women.
Yamkela Ndabeni, 28, the owner of Iyamzo Fresh Fashion in Stanger, said: “I never imagined I would learn so much in just two days. I really feel empowered as a woman after learning the importance of saving, budgeting, personal branding.”
Ndabeni’s mentor, Stella Khumalo, said: “Twenty of the 30 years of experience I have to share in the business world has been in management positions which makes me a suitable candidate to develop and empower women.”
Her message to businesswomen is to “stay focused, believe in yourself, network, persevere through challenges and seize the opportunity to grow yourself.”
Zodwa Madida, 42, the owner of Sbahlemini Multipurpose, a catering, décor and sewing company in Newcastle, said: “Over the past two days I have learnt a lot about business. What stood out for me was learning how to manage a business, financials and the importance of exceptional customer service.”
In the past three years, Ithala has funded 684 businesses. The organisation disbursed R875 million, creating 7,917 jobs. Women-owned enterprises comprise 28% of Ithala’s loan book while youth businesses are 39%.
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