Entrepreneurs with technical skills but lacking in formal education have now been given the opportunity to start their own companies through a Soweto-based incubation programme.
The Seed Container Park (Secopa) incubation programme was introduced by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the intention to help highly skilled machine operators and manufacturers to start their own businesses.
Secopa business development manager Tsepo Mohapi says: “These operators and manufacturers have acquired their skills through on-the-job training but have been denied the opportunity to acquire front-end company management skills.”
The Secopa model enables operators to work under a branded company while learning skills like marketing and job costing until they are ready to function independently.
“This approach encourages a small business manufacturing culture, economic empowerment and employment opportunities in South Africa. The emphasis is on the creation of a small, dedicated and profitable manufacturing business park with a strong sense of participation and ownership.”
Formally launched in March 2013, it further assists clients with business basics, networking, marketing, financial management, access to funding, mentorship, regulatory compliance and management, and intellectual property management.
The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) assists Secopa with administrative capacity, training, advice, funding, compliance and other non-financial support.
Mohapi says successful completion of a business incubation programme increases the likelihood that a start-up company will stay in business for the long term, with studies having found 87% of incubator graduates stayed in business, compared to 44% of other businesses.
To date, some 40 entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors were assisted in Gauteng and the Free State and are willing to expand. The programme runs for three years, but in order to get assistance from Secopa, you have to be interested in business, willing to put in long hours, understand your market and have some technical capacity in your area of operation.
They identify those skills, form a business plan and submit it to the Secopa board of trustees. If the business plan is satisfactory, Secopa helps set up the business by providing a container from which to work.