With unemployment in South Africa surging to 27.7% in the first quarter, more and more people are having to rely on their own entrepreneurial smarts to make ends meet.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that micro-enterprises are among the biggest drivers of the South African economy – the SME sector contributes as much as 42% to GDP, according to the Small Business Development Agency.
While there are no recent statistics, Bureau of Economic Research and Stats SA has indicated there are well over 2 million SMMEs.
This sector is not only for people struggling to find work. It is, increasingly, the hotbed of great entrepreneurial and innovative business ideas. Those that thrive do so in spite of manifold challenges. According to SEDA, these include access to finance and credit, poor infrastructure, low levels of research and development, red tape, high labour costs, shortage of skills, high crime levels and inadequate access to financially viable markets.
One company doing its utmost to support micro-enterprises so that they overcome these challenges is Spier, the Stellenbosch wine farm. Its support of micro-enterprises is a manifestation of its commitment to do business in ways which bring positive change to the environment and community.
The genesis of partnerships that Spier is involved in has generally come from its staff, who have identified a number of business opportunities and needs. “Often with the help of employees with entrepreneurial aspirations, Spier identifies opportunities to start a small business,” Spier sustainability director Heidi Newton-King says. These ideas have enabled Spier “to create and support sustainable jobs, and develop a spirit of enterprise development that would in turn create wealth and jobs for the community.”
The company then provides the means to make it happen – including mentoring, seed capital, facilities, the guaranteeing of contracts to a certain value – enabling the entrepreneurs to get their businesses up and running.
It’s a win-win situation: through this support, Spier is also meeting its supply chain goals by supporting small, black-owned, local businesses. Some initiatives have also enabled the farm to cut costs.
“By the time the entrepreneur approaches new clients, they have found their feet by working with us, learnt about our business needs and more importantly, their business limits! It creates a solid foundation for new business,” says Newton-King.
These collaborative partnerships have led to the establishment of a number of successful entrepreneurial ventures.
Debinisa Transport Company
Spier driver and messenger Caswill Mentoor approached Spier in 2009 with a dream of starting his own transport company, and Spier facilitated the formation of a joint venture between Mentoor and one of its transport contractors, Louw Vervoer.
To ensure it was able to finance the initial stages of its business, Debinisa was guaranteed a percentage of Spier’s transport business. At the same time, this has helped Spier fulfil its procurement aims, and has enabled Louw Vervoer to pitch for BEE business.
Mentoor has grown his business from one to four trucks as he expanded his client base and today, he is no longer dependent on Spier for his businesses success.
Primo Vino Packaging and Reworks
Spier provided the seed capital to Primo Vino to set up a company that customises and repackages wine bottles to meet the requirements of different customers and markets.
Former Spier employee Shaun Theunissen, who started the company in 2009, says his partnership with Spier was “a life-saving opportunity”. The company now employs four contract and eight permanent staff, operating from a warehouse in Cape Town where the farm’s exports, warehousing and local distribution are centralised.
Mountainview Tank Services
With a secure service commitment from Spier, Reynold Visser was able to obtain bank finance and buy his own vehicle to start his bulk wine transport service, Mountain View Tank Services, which takes wine to Spier’s bottling plant supplier from its cellar or from the cellars of its bulk wine suppliers.
Visser says he started his business to lift his family out of poverty, but became so indebted trying to keep it afloat that he struggled to make ends meet. The partnership with Spier was the turning point to success.