2 - 4 November 2020 | Hosted by the University of the Free State

False Bay College supports SMMEs: the engine and back bone of SA's economy

In 2019, False Bay vocational education and training (TVET) College won the Productivity South Africa award in the Western Cape for the public sector, and went on to earn itself a place in the top three, in the subsequent national competition.

This win was a highlight of the past five years since False Bay College (FBC) established the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) on its campus.

Mr Abe Oliver

Speaking to the topic Practical innovative start-up support for designers, artisans and engineers at the recent virtual Student Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW2020), the Centre's proud Programme Manager, Mr Abe Oliver (left) said: "This talks to efficiency, how we utilise resources, how we minimise waste, and how we increase the economic wealth for our beneficiaries." But, more importantly, Oliver says, it illustrates that FBC is doing its job, being, as it is, in the business of creating businesses.

He then rattled off some statistics: Since they began in 2015, they have created more than 80 formally registered businesses that are generating an income in excess of R5000 and more.

And of particular pride is the fact that they have created more than 170 jobs. "Job creation is the big challenge from the National Development Plan – SMMEs are the engine, the backbone of the economy. So, how do we create jobs?" He directly addressed student participants on the #SEW2020 virtual platform saying: "To create jobs, we need you as a student, as an aspiring entrepreneur, to take the next step and start your business. Remember you don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great."

The challenge, he acknowledged, is about where to find money, equipment and resources. "I want to tell all would-be entrepreneurs that we, at FBC, have spaces fitted with maker space and mini factories to assist you to start and launch your business." Since its establishment, FBC has trained more than 4 400 students and supported more than 600 community businesses.

Through their engagement with corporates, the College has established partnerships with companies like De Beers, and secured more than R1.4 million in funding that has been distributed to beneficiaries. SMMEs that have been part of the CfE have, over the last five years, generated more than R12-million in turnover.

In conversation with the FBC Technical Manager, one Mr Ncebekazi Mathanzima, Oliver explained how FBC trained students and helped shift their mind set.

"Over five years we've learnt that entrepreneurs want practical, experiential, targeted, transformative training. And so we've packaged a programme that is targeted – that takes an engineer or an artisan with their skills and helps monetise that."

The special FBC mix has four elements.

  • Practical Learning: To help those who have not studied business to understand how to position their opportunity in the market place and to make sure their customers derive value from their product or service. Learning is critical.
  • Mentoring and coaching: Many FBC students come from disadvantaged rural backgrounds, communities or townships. Their parents often push for them to seek employment since schooling has prepared them to be job seekers. To change their vision they need mentors and coaching guides. FBC has partnered with Rotary International since 2017 and has trained more than 100 mentors who provide their services for free.
  • Money: FBC does not finance businesses but links the entrepreneur with financial institutions such the National Youth Development Agencies (NYDA) and with the Small Enterprise Funding Agency (SEFA).

Oliver tells how, at the height of the hard lockdown on 5th June 2020 – WHD Engineering secured a blended loan/grant for R2.2 million. Of this amount, R860 000 is a grant and R1 340 000 is a loan from SEFA for expansion of Ms Olga Davids' business, WHD Engineering (Pty) Ltd (below), based in Bellville. Their motto: Engineers, Environmental Project Consultants and Managers you can trust!

Ms Olga Davids
Olga at WHD Engineering

The CfE guided her through preparing her business plan.

  • The student: Oliver described an aspiring entrepreneur as "the most important equation in the entrepreneurial DNA – the jockey. We provide personal development for the jockey. People buy into people. We help them learn how to deal with sales, with failure, with designers and with customers."

Oliver said would-be businesspeople were often reluctant about even trying, adding that entrepreneurship starts in the mind. To encourage potential students to test the validity of their idea, FBC runs an annual Poster & Pitch –What is Your Big Idea competition. (Look out for this year's 6th offering taking place on November 26). Students with the best ideas in terms of viability receive seed capital to start their business. "This year we have our regular funder, Future Managers and new funder ZAQ."

Brian Carolissen
Brian Carolissen at the Weld Lab

One of their former students, one Mr Brian Carolissen (above), has become a success story that FBC is particularly proud of. Carolissen received funding of more than R100 000 from De Beers to start and build Weld Lab, a manufacturing company that was incubated at the Centre. The Weld Lab designs and manufactures products from wood and steel.

His entrepreneurship journey started in 2017 because, he says, he was "sick of seeing overpriced, poor quality products flooding our South African market".

He saw an article by the CfE manager, Steve Reid, on how to start a business. Having studied Engineering and Related Design: Welding at FBC, joining the College's Centre for Entrepreneurship was a natural progression. "The entrepreneurship centre took me from zero to where I am now. The college helped me start and learn how to run my business: they helped me to register, and taught me how to do invoicing, how to work out mark ups, how to calculate what materials I need..."

From the De Beers funding of R100 000, he creates gift products for them that include, among other things, key holders, educational toys, cell phone covers, cell phone holders and coasters. The funding also helped him secure the machinery he needed to start production.

Oliver says even though his college does not have any formal collaboration relationship with any university, the University of the Western Cape does invite them on an ad hoc basis, to networking opportunities on entrepreneurship. FBC also does likewise.

Alongside FBC, studentpreneurs at the recent #SEW2020 also heard from Orbit TVET College in the North West Province and the Tswhane North College in Pretoria's central business district. Four TVET colleges, in total, participated in the first-ever, combined national #SEW2020, alongside 20 public universities. More information on FBC is available from: www.falsebaycollege.co.za.

This article concludes the series we have been publishing on this platform from #SEW2020.

Charmain Naidoo is an independent writer contracted by Universities South Africa.

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