BUSINESS: World Entrepreneur Day 2011
Recent Gauteng Business News
A South African perspective
As the world celebrates the diversity and ingenuity of entrepreneurs on 15 April 2011, we are reminded how crucial entrepreneurial development and growth is in any economy. Aside from the obvious economic impact, Ivan Epstein, the CEO of Softline, part of the Sage Group plc, says that entrepreneurs add a certain flavour to the landscape that is unique and specific to the culture that builds a country.
The South African small business landscape compares favourably with that of the UK, comprising of hundreds of successful small companies that are creative and unique in their own right, as do France and Australia. “South African entrepreneurs have a contagious ‘can do’ attitude. The local landscape is an eclectic emerging market that has first world infrastructure such as its judiciary and economy with some third world elements that sets the scene for a landslide of opportunities.”
Many people limit their thinking by keeping themselves trapped in a mindset that was shaped by the past. “More entrepreneurial ideas are emerging from within informal settlements who are embracing their environments and pursuing opportunities that offer a service or a product that addresses a need in a creative and unique way. I know for example of one entrepreneurial venture that utilises basic means to deliver bread in Alexandra. This epitomises creative thinking, a core trait of entrepreneurship.”
The prevailing skills shortage is front of mind in South Africa, but in some instances the ‘University of Life’ provides unrivalled skills and experience according to Epstein. He says local entrepreneurs are quick to adopt new technology and are trademarked by their willingness to take risks, especially among the youth, as they have everything to gain.
A wealth of information is available to new entrepreneurs in the form of case studies and guidelines from established and successful entrepreneurs, even going as far as mentoring sessions that are aimed at nurturing and enabling success. Epstein says the barriers to entry should never be an excuse for not embarking on an entrepreneurial venture though. “Support the idea with a solid business plan, a lot of heart and passion and be prepared to work really hard to get it off the ground, and you are sure to succeed.”
The current economic environment may well contribute further to the start of an entrepreneurial business as many people across the globe have faced the reality of retrenchment. Epstein believes that the upside of this potentially difficult situation is that it often breeds entrepreneurial opportunities. “Fuelled by necessity, many highly skilled individuals can channel their skills, experience and knowledge of an industry to fill an identified gap, by starting businesses that will compliment or add to the economy.”
“If an entrepreneur comes forward with an innovative idea that they can capitalise on, they are sure to make headway in this country. Every multi-million Rand company started out small and the majority of them have roots in an idea and opportunity or a challenge that was transformed into a successful business enterprise.”
He says we are fortunate that South Africans proactively lobby for entrepreneurship. “The provision of tax and capital assistance as well as the establishment of necessary bodies to fund, educate and further the entrepreneurial drive is a sure indication of their intent. There is always room for improvement and we are expecting the growth of entrepreneurship to further stimulate our economy.”
Very simply, Epstein believes that there are many businesses that will support entrepreneurs, if they are able to deliver a product or service that will address a need, effectively and innovatively. “It is business after all.”
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