THE first major small business incubator in the Northern Cape, the R12 million SMME Village was launched in Kimberley earlier this year. Built by the Sol Plaatje Municipality, the impressive facility, in Tyala Street in Galeshewe, can accommodate 40 small businesses and already has nearly 30 tenants accredited – most of whom have moved in.
Opened only six months ago by the town’s Executive Mayor, the SMME Village is already giving tenants valuable business support. Nomonde Tyabashe-Kesiamang, the municipality’s Executive Director for Strategy, Economic Development and Planning, said the village is key to job creation in the city.
“This is one of the ways we can enable informal businesses to become more sustainable and improve their management skills so they can grow and create more jobs,” she said.
The village is now home to 29 business enterprises, who were selected based on their growth potential and whether they would benefit from training and mentorship. The selection process included verifying tax compliance and a presentation to a selection panel.
Tenants have to sign a lease agreement as well as a mentorship agreement, and they have to attend the various training courses if they are advised to do so by the incubator. Non-payment of the very low rental is a no-no, and any tenant who does not pay for more than two consecutive months is asked to leave.
Tenants can stay in the incubator for up to three years – the time it usually takes for a business to be able to stand on its own two feet.
Thapelo Motsage, founder of Lethabo Hygiene Products, was among the first group of tenants. His business supplies cleaning materials and chemicals to households and businesses. Previously forced to pay expensive rent at a retail shop, the subsidised rental at the incubator has helped him free up working capital for stock.
Thanks to his improved business profile, Motsage also secured a loan from De Beers Zimele, the small business fund run by the diamond giant. De Beers has also been a major supporter of the SMME Village, covering the cost of furniture, computers, telephones, security and business support services.
Motsage is now able to purchase manufacturing equipment to expand his business, and will now manufacture his own products instead of having to buy them from wholesalers.
Lebo Phosha, another new tenant, started her web design company, Tsentle Visual Communication, in 2009. She says that in less than a month of being at the Village, she has “learned and grown so much” from being there. “Since I got here there have been big companies coming in every week to give us business workshops.”
Phosha was working from home before she became a tenant at the village. Having professional office space, and working with other entrepreneurs, has motivated her to stay focused and disciplined – away from the distractions of home.
Avron Scheepers of Nagpil Fashions, designs stylish ladies clothes. When attending a Department of Trade and Industry workshop at the Village he heard about the DTI’s small business incentives for the first time. Scheepers is now in the process of getting new manufacturing equipment.
Lynn Maggot, the Incubator Manager, who has been in the corporate and small business world for more than 26 years, says the best thing about the incubator is that the entrepreneurs – in addition to receiving grass-roots, practical guidance – benefit from working in close proximity to each other.
“This encourages them to share ideas, solutions to problems and even opportunities. It is a big family of people who want to succeed in business,” she says.
The SMME Village works closely with the Small Enterprise Development Agency, who assists with intensive training in marketing and finance. Tenants have to draw up a marketing plan, while the financial training helps business owners to get a clear understanding of their business numbers.
“It is imperative for entrepreneurs to understand and interpret the numbers of their business, because in most cases business owners are not aware of their finances. The village is still young but we already have tenants that are doing great through our programmes. I believe that in three years’ time we will have some real success stories as our first tenants graduat,” said Maggot.