Early stage investment and support is crucial for the success of new businesses; and a fast-growing solar business in Fourways is a shining example of the far-reaching impacts of the right investment at the right time.
Lamo Solar, the winner of the 2016 Eskom Business Investment Competition (BIC) in the Engineering and Construction sector, has grown from a start-up with a handful of staff to a firm with well over 40 employees in under two years, thanks to the growth propelled by its BIC win.
Tshibvumo Sikhwivhilu, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Lamo Solar, reports that he and co-founder Elmond Khoza had long been entrepreneurs, but their solar business was challenged by the fact that they were young, had no track record, and had little growth funding. “Winning the Eskom BIC gave us immediate credibility in the energy sector; and the prize money allowed us to buy specialised equipment to add to our service offering,” he says.
“As part of our prize, we exhibited at the Small Business Expo 2016, where we met representatives of the Energy and Water SITA. This led to a partnership that has created jobs for 40 graduates – over 25 of whom are women – and allowed us to focus on growing the business. In addition, the fact that we won the competition and were able to demonstrate growth on the back of our investment in additional equipment, supported our successful application for additional funding from the Small Enterprise Development Agency. This funding enabled us to procure more specialised equipment and offer added value services,” he says.
“This early stage support, exposure and networking at the Small Business Expo have been crucial for our growth in the past two years,” says Sikhwivhilu.
BIC 2018 entries now open
The annualEskom Business Investment Competition (BIC), run by the Eskom Development Foundation, is now open for entries from small black-owned businesses. The BIC offers prizes totaling R1.3 million and the winners are announced and showcased at South Africa’s premier small business development event, the Small Business Expo, which takes place from 6 – 8 September 2018 at the Ticketpro Dome, Northgate. In launching this year’s BIC recently, Eskom Development Foundation CEO Cecil Ramonotsi said: “We urge all qualifying black-owned and registered enterprises to seize this chance. There is nothing to lose but so much to gain in the BIC.”
In addition to hosting the BIC awards and showcasing the finalists at the Small Business Expo, Eskom also features leadingEskom Simama Rantaschools at the event. Simama Ranta is the Foundation’s annual competition recognising excellence in entrepreneurship education at South African secondary schools that excel in entrepreneurship education. All secondary schools with enterprise clubs that teach their learners the basics of running a business are eligible.
“Eskom’s long affiliation with the Small Business Expo, including its BIC innovator pavilion, make a significant contribution to our goal of making the event much more than just a showcase for small business, but also a concrete business development tool to support small business growth in South Africa,” says Carol Weaving, MD of event organisers Reed Exhibitions.
“We’re always particularly excited to have the winning BIC innovators aboard at the Small Business Expo, showcasing the high level of business flair South Africans are capable of.”
The expo provides SMEs, businesses and investors with a versatile platform from which to network, explore new business partnerships, build brand awareness, interact with potential customers and investors and gain market exposure. The event also offers three days of in-depth business development knowledge sharing in a series of workshops and talks.