Mentorship programme gears rural women for business

405118A mentorship programme to capacitate KwaZulu-Natal rural and township women with business skills to realise their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs and enjoying a better quality of life has been made possible.

Spearheaded by Ithala Development Finance Corporation, the mentorship programme is designed to help micro-level SMMEs grow and sustain their businesses.

The initiative forms part of phase three of Ithala’s Imbokodo Iyazenzela programme which is a pillar of support to women entrepreneurs in KZN who require access to finance and the resources to grow.

Imbokodo Iyazenzela was launched in 2015 and has reached over 3000 women in 16 towns across KZN to date.

The top 20 finalists from the 2017 programme are undergoing mentorship and coaching with Cutting Edge Business Solutions on a formal and regular basis to help them improve their businesses and make them sustainable.

The mentors’ role is to help maximise the business revenues of mentees by providing them with effective marketing ideas and financial literacy lessons, improving their administrative skills and helping them to be compliant with the legal requirements for running a business.

During a two-day business skills development workshop hosted by Ithala earlier this year, mentors from the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) volunteered their time to assist budding entrepreneurs to elevate their businesses to the next level.

This is an informal arrangement whereby mentors and mentees meet on an ad hoc basis and mentees call their mentors from time-to-time for advice. During these interactions, mentors impart their years of business knowledge and expertise with mentees whose progress would be monitored.

“After traversing KZN to identify the bottlenecks preventing aspiring business women from reaching their full potential in phase one of Imbokodo and thereafter, putting them in touch with our esteemed partners to overcome their challenges in phase two, the finalists have experienced tangible business growth,” said Sitandiwe Dimba, Ithala’s Corporate Social Investment Co-ordinator.

The four broad categories of hindrances identified during the outreach were access to markets, finance, business support and marketing and sales.

“Core to Ithala’s mandate is to enable the progress of people and the initiative heeds government’s call to accelerate socio-economic transformation. Enterprise development is a journey, not a destination and we are pleased to play a pivotal role in the success of the mentees through mentorship.”

Melanie Bhengu, an Imbokodo 2016 award winner, runs a restaurant and take-away called Glebhisi which she named after her grandfather. She serves a combination of western and African food from her premises in Izingolweni on Durban’s South Coast and has plans to open a bigger operation in Mtwalume close to where she lives.

“I am most appreciative of the mentorship programme which has provided much needed guidance and assistance. I now have a Facebook page called ‘Mellow’ which has grown on my customers,” she said.

With help from her sister, Bhengu started operating a catering business from home and planned small parties and functions on an ad-hoc basis. She now operates full-time from proper working premises where additional staff are recruited.

The top 20 women from Imbokodo Iyazenzela will be participating in an exhibition to take place at La Lucia Mall on Women’s Day (9 August). In an effort to broaden the exposure of these women and help them gain access to diverse markets, Ithala has sponsored the space for the women to exhibit.

Through a partnership with Ithala, the women will be featured on SABC 1’s award winning magazine show “Making Moves” which provides on-screen exposure to budding and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Mbali Shinga 44, is the sole owner of Ubuhle Bozalo Trading which offers cleaning, gardening, catering, crockery hire and internet services.

“I read in a local newspaper that workshops for up and coming entrepreneurs will be coming to Mtwalume and I was eager to attend.

“The cash prize money of R7 500 that I won for being amongst the top three Imbokodo Iyazenzela awardees assisted with rent for my first office where we are still operating. My mentor, Zandile Nkala, has helped immensely to brand and market my business.

“I have taken it upon myself to start mentoring members of my community, especially the youth, by conducting ‘Entrepreneurship Talks’ to motivate them to start their own businesses.”

Thulani Mazibuko, managing director at Cutting Edge Business Solutions, said Shinga, had stood out as a mentee that had shown significant progress through the mentorship programme.

“Shinga’s business currently employs 29 people in permanent positions. Her company has its own logo, letterhead and a website that will soon be accessible.

“We plan to continue changing the lives of business women through mentorship and coaching projects and wish the mentees all the success in their business endeavours,” he said.


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