The Groundswell business acceleration programme held its inaugural workshop recently at the Riversands Incubation Hub in Johannesburg. The 18-month programme is offering mentorship, access to funds and investment readiness preparation to 30 South African 'enviropreneurs' - small businesses offering products and services in the water, sustainability and resource efficiency sectors.
One of the youngest of the group is West Rand youth entrepreneur Mogale Maleka. This gutsy 25-year-old realised the potential for hydroponic technology to make a difference to farmers in drought stricken areas. His company, AB Farming, manufactures and assembles the Hydroponic Planter, an innovative solution that enables the cultivation of nutritious and tasty high value crops that require less water. Mogale is committed to seeing this emerging business reach its full potential - and hopes ultimately to go global.
Sophisticated and savvy scientists
Fetola CEO Catherine Wijnberg described the cohort as a group of sophisticated and savvy scientists, many of whom hold advanced degrees. “It’s exciting to engage with entrepreneurs of this calibre. They are promoting renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, offering environmental consulting, providing water resource services as well as patenting new inventions,” she said.
Pretoria youth entrepreneur Lorain den Boogert is an aquatic specialist and ecologist. Her business Iggdrasil Scientific Services produces independent biomonitoring reports. She reflected on the workshop, saying, "Thank you for allowing us to develop our own vision, strategic objectives and KPIs. This has opened my eyes an aquatic specialist and ecologist and will help shift my focus to potential pitfalls in my company."
The two-day Personal Transformation and Strategic Planning workshop gave each business owner a chance to imagine their business 100 years on. The entrepreneurs took home a nuts and bolts “business plan on a page” to help them implement their respective goals.
Forging new partnerships
Sowetan resident Portia Zwane supplies and services pumps for Joburg Water and East Rand Water’s wastewater treatment processes. She employs three full-time and three part-timers at Nokulunga Pumps. She said, “Knowing more about myself and my business helps me go on despite all the difficulties.” Zwane was glad of the opportunity to forge new partnerships with others on the programme, like plumbers and solar practitioners, who might complement her business.
In the initial phase of the programme, Groundswell participants benefit from group mentoring where they engage with peers in a mutually supportive environment, sharing experiences related to specific business challenges. These sessions are facilitated by experienced entrepreneurs providing valuable sector specific knowledge to unlock growth and promote business sustainability. In the second phase, high performers who demonstrate commitment to their business success will receive one-on-one mentorship to help scale their businesses, while developing and promoting their supply chain readiness.
Potential for graduate employment
Another participant, Dr Esta van Heerden of iWater Solutions, said, “Given this type of support, it might be possible to grow a biotech sector in South Africa that offers graduates employment.”
Participants in Fetola programmes typically grow by 50% per year, and have a long-term survival rate of close to 90%. The next workshop covers costing and pricing – a crucial fundamental for any small business. Groundswell is supported by seed funding from J.P.Morgan. Entrepreneurs wishing to apply for similar business development support are invited to visit Fetola’s website: www.fetola.co.za/projects.
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