Kyalami, Johannesburg, The SAB Foundation held its inaugural Innovators’ and Entrepreneurs’ Conference at the SAB Cyril Ramaphosa World of Learning on the 25th June 2013. This 3-day conference served to provide an eco-system of support for the beneficiaries of the SAB Foundation.
Over 100 entrepreneurs hailing from various corners of the country attended the conference. This included most of the beneficiaries from the 3 funds of the SAB Foundation, namely the Tholoana Fund, the Growth Fund partnership with Endeavour as well as recipients of the Innovation Awards since its inception in 2011. These entrepreneurs are all involved in different activities namely tourism, hospitality, ICT, farming, pharmaceuticals, retail, and the age groups range from 21 year olds to 60 year olds. The SAB Foundation covered the accommodation as well as the travel costs for most of the attendees.
The first day comprised of various plenary sessions conducted by subject matter experts which were aimed at providing assistance and guidance to the entrepreneurs. Some of the topics that were covered included “Law for small business in South Africa” which was conducted by the Director of Bowman Gilfillan, “Fundamentals of Supply Chain” provided by a volunteer from SAB as well as “Access to Finance” amongst others.
These sessions were well received by most of the entrepreneurs and they found them extremely valuable in terms of how they could grow their businesses from strength to strength. It was a full day of learning and after the day’s sessions the entrepreneurs learned how to use networking as a tool to grow their business and practiced some of those skills at the pub and dinner held at the World of Learning in the evening.
The second day was designed to allow the entrepreneurs to have one- on-one clinic sessions with some of the presenters. It began with two one hour plenary sessions including Jayshree Naidoo’s “Entrepreneurship & Innovation Masterclass”, and thereafter they could split up and attend the various clinic sessions with subjects such as Advanced Finance, Psychological services and Social Enterprise clinic.
There were about 16 clinic presenters and each one was available to meet with entrepreneurs and they tried to assist the entrepreneurs by answering some of their specific business related questions. The demand as well as the feedback from the entrepreneurs demonstrated the value of such sessions. That evening, the SAB Foundation invited the attendees as well the presenters to a dinner held at Chief’s Boma. It turned out to be a relaxed yet fun outing for the entrepreneurs as well as an opportunity to network further with each other.
On the last day we held a structured networking session between the entrepreneurs and funders / service providers for SMME’s. Some of the organizations represented on this day included the DTI, IDC, NEF, Angel Fair as well as the Bertha Foundation.
The entrepreneurs spoke to the representatives from these organizations- most of them pre-chosen based on the industry, scale and requirements of the entrepreneurs. The feedback from the presenters was that the model was a good one and that they noticed a lot of synergies and similarities in the businesses. This session created the opportunity for an informal introduction of our entrepreneurs with prospective funders and those who could direct them to organizations where they could get further assistance in terms of grant funding etc.
As this conference was the first of its kind, we were glad to receive great feedback from both the attendees and the presenters. It was a success in general and we are very grateful for the support from our presenters, especially those who provided their services for free or reduced rates and we really appreciate the support of all those entrepreneurs who attended and participated.
We look forward to hosting more of these in the near future and we will continue to encourage networking, collaboration and the sharing of the entrepreneurs’ journeys with one another to increase insights and offer further opportunities of growth and innovation. Zanele Ngoqo, SAB Foundation Programme Coordinator