In its 13 years of existence the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) has become a centre of excellence for small business development. They attribute this to the following:
- Our people (Board, Executive Management, Senior and Middle Management and the most valued and important people: our staff on the ground)
Seda creates an enabling environment for its staff to be innovative as well as creating spaces in which entrepreneurs can thrive and be open to our way of doing business. Furthermore, through our skills development programme and our training and development initiatives, employees are able to learn and become leaders in their respective industries.
- Our products and services
Seda’s products and services allow small business owners and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in an organic way that will allow for them to become sustainable employers. Our products and services are designed with the small business owner in mind and we have products and services dedicated to both the small business and the owner.
- Our passion for entrepreneurship – living the Seda brand
Seda has gained traction over the past 13 years and has become a brand to be reckoned with. Seda’s human capital department is responsible for strategic human resource development, but have a strategy in recruiting and employing the best talent. It also ensures that Seda is in line with the employment equity goals of the country, therefore ensuring that we have diverse skills and human capital in the workplace. Our on-boarding strategy enables new talent to have a better understanding of the organisation and its values, its objectives as well as its strategic intent. Small Business Development is our passion as we are able to be around like-minded individuals on a daily basis.
The importance of supporting women-owned businesses
Women entrepreneurs are one of the targeted groups for the business interventions of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), and I have made promoting and supporting women-owned enterprises one of my key priorities.
The saying “If you educate a woman you educate a nation” rings true in many contexts, including entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.
The World Bank Enterprise Survey shows that although women-owned businesses tend to be smaller in size and slower in growth, they are equally as efficient and growth-oriented as male-owned businesses. It is Seda’s aim to see people who have previously been unable to access adequate support be given the assistance, guidance and information they need to start and grow businesses.
Over the past three years, we have intensified several of our programmes to ensure that women-run businesses receive the maximum value and support they need. We have found ways to ensure our SMMEs gain value from a multitude of our programmes, including introducing our Women Enterprise Coaching Programme (WECP) participants to our National Gazelles programme and the Technology Transfer Fund as well as our Quality and Standards Interventions. These programmes all assist in the upscaling and acceleration of their enterprises.
WECP has proven to be the best support offering we have towards empowering women-owned SMMEs, with numerous participants reporting significant improvements in their businesses in terms of employee numbers (which addresses the rising rate of unemployment here in South Africa) and an increase in annual revenue.
The programme is aimed at providing value-added information, support and management competencies as well as a networking platform for participants. It has provided many women with the knowledge and skills needed to grow their businesses, implement strategic planning processes and acquire other resources that will facilitate the growth of the business as well as its owner. One of the core aspects of WECP is that it not only focuses on operational and strategic aspects of being a businesswoman, but also extends to the health and wellbeing of the participants in their roles as mothers, wives, daughters and other influential or leadership roles they play outside of running a business.
Another programme that we have used to intensify our focus on women-owned SMMEs is Pitch & Perfect, a competition with the key aim of facilitating improved access to finance for SMMEs and improved deal flow for investors – bridging the gap between entrepreneurs and investors. We have seen an increase in the number of women-owned startups participating in Pitch & Perfect in the last two years, and as a result we have gained further insight into the true extent of involvement as well as some of the major challenges faced particularly by women-owned enterprises.
Pitch & Perfect provides SMMEs across the country – including those with support from Seda branches and our supported business incubators – with professional tools on how to present business cases effectively and efficiently; deliver persuasive pitches to potential funders; and improve access to markets, technology and finance.
As much as I feel passionate about women enterprise empowerment, our efforts to up the ante on the support provided to women-owned enterprises is based on statistics and data insights. Several Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reports have shown the consistent finding that men are more likely to be involved in entrepreneurial activity than women. Women face greater challenges, including social challenges over and above those commonly faced by their male counterparts. To become successful, female entrepreneurs have to overcome the following: lower educational and skills levels, a lack of business-oriented networks, access to funding and markets; lack of capital and assets, family responsibilities, cultural prejudices, and a general lack of confidence in their ability to successfully start and run a business.
Our experience indicates that with targeted and well-constructed interventions, more women can start small enterprises and successfully run, sustain and grow existing ones. Entrepreneurship among women remains key to total economic transformation of the country.