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Two years in review 2003 - 2004

The start-up process:

We started with research work in late 2002. The main questions were: what is the culture for entrepreneurship in a country where the majority of people were prohibited from unfolding their creative potential and individual identities? Can we transport our experience as American and European business developers or do we need to adapt to different models of operating? Who should we focus on and what do potential entrepreneurs need and want to create enterprises and livelihoods?

We soon learned that African women represent great hope for the successful implementation of the much talked about transformation process spanning grassroots levels all the way to an elite of innovative, energetic and fearless entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs in South Africa are often driven by necessity of being the single provider for their families, contributing to their communities and being used to overcoming whatever obstacles faced.

We learned that a pool of talent exists in this country along with a reservoir of valuable and innovative business ideas. We decided that thoroughly evaluating new business concepts and carefully selecting and supporting entrepreneurs and transformation leaders, successful new ventures could be created, generating income and jobs and through that making a contribution to alleviating poverty.

From late 2002 into early 2003 we met with a variety of women and men from diverse backgrounds in major cities and local communities and discussed their business ideas.

To aid in the process we developed a business planning process tool (guidelines) which we circulated and used to structure and measure business planning and start-up progress.
During the first six months before starting our organisation, we reviewed 14 start-up ideas and business plans ranging from one page to sixty and covering for - profit, social entrepreneurship and non-profit organisations.

The entrepreneurs encountered came from diverse sectors and backgrounds. There also was a wide geographic spread involving start ups in Gauteng, Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Nala - Partners started formal operations in the second quarter 2003.

Lessons Learned:

This was a time for important learning and helped us to fine tune our programme and focus: What did we learn and adapt to:
  • The Western model of entrepreneurship based on fierce individuality at almost any (social) cost as the basis for entrepreneurship needs to be adapted to (South) Africa.

  • The context of history, community, collective mindset needs to be considered in the process of business planning and financial modelling.

  • Support in terms of training, self esteem and leadership development and business mentoring is critical and needs to be ongoing.

  • African women entrepreneurs are viewed as key for growth and economic development. Government and other support organisations have made major commitments to supporting African women entrepreneurs.

  • Balancing optimism and entrepreneurial zest and the necessity for creating income with entrepreneurship training, a disciplined and methodical approach to research, business planning and positioning for long-term growth are essential and require systematic mentoring support.

  • There are similarities to Germany after 1945: Aufbruchstimmung – a mood of new beginnings, fuelled by a spirit of ‘can do’ in the face of massive change and few resources.

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