Information and service provider for emerging and existing entrepreneurs The Business Place (TBP) has broadened its range of support services to begin providing established business operators with greater access to market opportunities through the Enterprise Development Initiative (EDI).
This is in recognition of the fact that access to real opportunities is a key obstacle that many of its clients encounter. TBP has up to now tended to focus on supporting clients in the early stages of developing their business.
The EDI was launched in two phases. The first phase was in April 2007, in partnership with industrial developer Growthpoint Property Management Services.
The second phase was launched in August 2007, in partnership with the municipality of the City of Johannesburg.
The initial results of these two phases include 23 clients being registered with the City of Johan-nesburg Enterprise Development Initiative’s supply chain. Five contracts were awarded during a three-month period valued at over R500 000 and 32 new jobs were formed through the awarded contracts.
The EDI is an industry-specific project of the TBP’s Opportunity Exchange (Op Exchange) programme. It is designed to enable companies to gain access to its extensive network of operating small, medium-sized and microenter- prises (SMMEs).
A primary objective of this programme is to work with an industry-leading company to customise a project that meets the company’s specific enterprise development objectives, while providing clients with a framework for expanding and developing their businesses.
The Op Exchange programme was launched in early 2007 to help SMMEs overcome the hurdles in various company procurement procedures so that they can successfully gain access to new opportunities. The objective of the Op Exchange programme is to link the TBP’s extensive network of existing SMMEs to tangible business opportunities.
The Op Exchange programme has led to the formation of programme partnerships with two different regional industry leaders. It has hosted over 18 networking sessions covering five key sectors, namely construction and facilities, transportation, arts and culture, supply and ser- vices, and tourism.
These workshops generated interest from over 500 new clients, of which 40% were already operating in the industry. Through this platform, the TBP has successfully linked seven clients to contracts valued at more than R700 000.
Part of TBP’s objectives is to integrate tracking and impact measurement systems of clients. This enables it to pinpoint what happens to a client that has used its services and to see how good a suggested plan of action was towards helping the client achieve its goal.
TBP network operations manager Marcel Newsome explains, “TBP sees a range of different levels of clients. Those with start-up ideas account for 65% of its clients, those already in operation and struggling 25%, and 10% are those clients that are operational and stable.
“In the early stages, we identify where they are and what the next practical step in the business process would be for them; whether they should be attending one of the workshops or training sessions offered by TBP. TBP has over 20 of them on offer. We identify whether the client should be referred to other service providers, or a technical agency, or where to access equipment or write up a business plan or research the plans themselves.”
While the public and private sectors have placed much emphasis on enterprise development, often the strategies that are employed do not filter down to SMME level. During focus group studies TBP conducted with its existing client base, business operators often cited the lack of understanding of ‘how to get a foot in the door’ as an obstacle to success.
Newsome explains: “TBP provides easy access to information and a networking hub, and directs its clients to the right place at the right time. The survival rate of SMMEs is very low and the biggest challenge for them has been the hunt for accessible and the right information at the right time.”
Newsome says that clients are constantly seeking a place where they can find answers and solve problems that are crippling their businesses.
TBP is a walk-in information centre. It provides one-on-one consultation with knowledgeable navigators. It provides access to relevant information, free resources and referral to credible service providers.
The workshops are affordable and provide participants with information on ideas and relevant topics. The centre also provides access to business training appropriate to the individual’s stage of development, networking opportunities, free Internet access and use of meeting rooms and boardrooms. In addition, it provides free accounting and legal services.