Martin Feinstein knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. The founder of Proudly South African, he sits on the board of SEDA and is involved in the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, Enablis and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund. He also happens to be the MD of The Business Place, which has provided a blueprint model for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs in the knowledge that more often than not, they lack the capital to pay for the support they need the most.
Walk-In Support Centre
Started by Investec as a social investment project, The Business Place provides a unique one-stop-shop facility for start-up entrepreneurs. As Feinstein explains, “It’s a walk-in support centre for entrepreneurs, particularly those in the early stages. Each Business Place branch is modelled on a cluster concept where a group of agencies and service providers – such as training organisations, business advisors, accounting services, incubators and organisations involved in small business development – are clustered together in one location.”
The target group of entrepreneurs frequently lacks the basic skills necessary to be successful. “They are usually an owner-manager who has identified an opportunity but is not always equipped to translate it practically. We’ll register them with us and give them a session with what we call a navigator who is not really a mentor but rather like an early stage GPS for business.
The navigator will assess the entrepreneur’s business and identify where their needs and issues lie. They might need help registering their company, with tax issues, drawing up a business plan, tendering for government contracts or knowing where to look for finance. The navigator points them in the right direction,” explains Feinstein.
Workshops & training
The Business Place’s eight sites, which are located throughout the country, get on average 5 000 entrepreneur visitors a month. As a non-profit organisation, there is no selection process and anyone can join. While training programmes and workshops do come at a cost, they are very affordable.
“We run about 50 training events a month, and the great thing about them is that they are delivered by practitioners – lawyers, accountants, other entrepreneurs – so they offer hands-on practical advice,” explains Feinstein. Entrepreneurs also have access to networking opportunities, free internet access, use of meeting rooms and boardrooms at no cost, and free accounting and legal services at sites where this has been arranged with partners.
Feinstein adds: “We’ve built a sophisticated database that allows our navigators to immediately identify opportunities for entrepreneurs – for example, to connect them with other businesses that we know are looking for services from SMBs.”
Business opportunities for SMB’s
In one of its most recent projects, the organisation’s Johannesburg site launched an enterprise development initiative in partnership with Growthpoint, the largest listed property company in South Africa. “It involves identifying a group of existing businesses which can potentially fit into the property services value chain and accelerating their growth by linking them to appropriate opportunities,” explains Feinstein.
The project aims to encourage the development of black entrepreneurs with the skills needed for participation in the property sector. Services to be provided include electrical, plumbing, cleaning, security, painting and other property maintenance services. With a portfolio of 430 retail, office and industrial properties nationwide, Growthpoint’s ability to offer opportunities to such entrepreneurs and fund an initiative of this nature is perhaps unparalleled.
For more information visit www.thebusinessplace.co.za or call + 27 11 836 9000.