Fifteen small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) from across the Free State were recently given an opportunity to showcase their businesses in front of potential private sector investors and government agencies.
The entrepreneurs, who operate in the agriculture and agro-processing sector, steeled their nerves to market their business in the hope that a member of the audience would see value in their offering. The pitching event came two months after the province held its inaugural agro-processing summit in April.
The provincial MEC for Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Dr Benny Malakoane, said he hoped that as the event was the first of its kind, it would yield positive results and endless possibilities for the entrepreneurs.
“We hope to see a platform of this nature happen every quarter if not more frequently,” said Dr Malakoane.
The entrepreneurs who were given the opportunity to pitch their businesses to potential investors were selected from the department’s database of small businesses and had previously requested funding from the department.
Dr Malakoane spoke firmly against talk shows that don’t yield results while giving some advice to everyone involved in the process. “It doesn’t help to hold a talk shop. Clarity is of importance in the business sector, and investors need to be clear on whether they’ll be able to assist the entrepreneurs or not, and to what extent they will offer assistance,” he said.
“Investors should make it clear whether their assistance will come in the form of money, advice, mentoring or skills transfer,” he added. “Don’t make commitments you can’t fulfill. This is a very serious business and should be treated as such.”
Dr Mbulelo Nokwetu from Free State Development Corporation said one of the criteria for receiving funding was if the business could help curb the unemployment rate in the province, which currently stands at 35 per cent.
Growing jobs, growing businesses
“Funding opportunities will be based on the province’s strategy to create jobs,” he said.
One of the entrepreneurs was Ntsiuoa Kobo from Thitapoho Farm in Tweespruit, who was looking for “support that will help grow the business from where we are currently standing”.
Kobo’s cooperative runs a diversified farming enterprise producing leather products, herbs, essentials oils and vegetables. Thitapoho Farm, according Kobo, uses seasonal labour during the harvesting season.
She spoke of challenges the cooperative faced, “like climate patterns, labour issues and funding”.
Dumisani Mngadi from the South African Bureau of Standards said there was great potential in the SMMEs present. “We are looking at compliance in terms of the products the entrepreneurs produce,” he said.
Tshepo Moremi from the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform was happy to see there were a lot of businesses with the potential to become big role-players in agro-processing.
By the end of the event some potential investors had shown an interest in following up on some of the pitches, requesting contact details or offering skills development.