Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  28 Jul 2010

VENTURES: Changing The Fortunes Of Entrepreneurs


Recent Western Cape Business News

Going solo in business needn’t be like bungee jumping with a home-made cord, according to Jan Steenkamp, executive head of Sanlam Cobalt .

He says South Africa lags behind its peers in entrepreneurship activity. Only 7.8 percent of the working population are entrepreneurs – half of what we should be seeing given our level of economic development. Why is entrepreneurship so vital? More entrepreneurs will boost job creation (South Africa already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world) and that in turn feeds through to economic growth.

So what are aspiring entrepreneurs here doing wrong? We are making a number of basic mistakes that can be avoided with a little bit of knowledge, says Steenkamp. That’s also where the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year competition comes in. The competition – open to all South African SME entrepreneurs – aims to encourage entrepreneurial growth, by rewarding the success stories. Business Partners has already received more than 200 entries – outstripping the expectations of both Sanlam and Business Partners.

So how does an entrepreneur know he has stumbled onto a good idea?  According to Steenkamp, “If you’ve got an idea, make sure it addresses a ‘pain point’. In other words, put yourself in your customer’s shoes – and make sure your offering will save your customer money, or offer him a product or service that is unique, even though it might be more expensive. Also, test your idea with objective people to decide whether your idea really fills a gap.” Steenkamp suggests that it is good to have many innovative ideas, but you then need to focus on the ones that might make more business sense by following any major trends developing in the country, and then capitalising on them. In South Africa’s case, that could include keeping a close eye on our electricity generation and distribution or water sources and purification challenges.

A common mistake made by entrepreneurs is underestimating the importance of the business plan. Steenkamp says, “Entrepreneurs often see the revenue opportunities but don’t think through exactly how the business will work.” Having a proper business plan will not only show you how to make money from your idea; it’s also crucial if you want to secure capital from a financial organisation to start your business.

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