Talk focuses on entrepreneurship

CARL COLLISON

The Western Cape Funding Fair, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday May 25, aimed to facilitate face-to-face contact between entrepreneurs and various funding institutions across the province.

Initiated by Deloitte and the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the fair featured a panel discussion titled “Starting a Business – An Entrepreneur’s Perspective”.

The panel was made up of Nick Ferguson, a property developer; Sibusiso Tshabalala, a charcoal supplier to the Pick * Pay group; Paul Raphaely, owner of NoMU, a range of food and lifestyle products; Fred Robertson, co-founder of Brimstone Investment Corporation Ltd, a black controlled and managed investment company; and Craig Whyte, CEO of Artlab – all of whom agreed that passion and belief in what they were doing were essential ingredients for entrepreneurs starting out.

Mr Whyte said: “Success comes through defining what your business is and what it is you want to do. If you don’t have a passion and vision, then it’s impossible.”

Mr Raphaely said: “If you have a vision that you’re going to do something better than someone else, you should do it.”

Mr Raphaely, whose business currently exports to 30 countries, said he established his business with little more than R12 000.

“If you want to produce something good and think you can improve on something, South Africa is the most verdant, fertile country to do so,” he said.

There were, however, he pointed out, some pitfalls to being an entrepreneur in South Africa.

“We are, as a country, dealing with 20 years of heartbreak, where we’re seeing that things haven’t necessarily worked out the way we thought it would. Even graduating from university is not a guarantee for getting a job. Still, entrepreneurship is not for everybody. At least 50 to 60 times a year, my wife and I look at each and think, ‘what were we thinking?’” he said.

Mr Robertson, however, countered: “Yes, there will be some failures, but we can’t tell people they must not dream. It’s not just about profit and money. Even those who run NGOs are entrepreneurs. It’s about passion and love.”

Mr Whyte agreed, saying: “In South Africa, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and we have to encourage it as much as we can.”

Offering aspiring entrepreneurs some practical advice, Mr Tshabalala said: “Anyone wanting to start a business must have funding. So don’t be afraid to approach the big bosses for funding. Tell them what’s on your mind, but be sure your idea is protected.

“Also, make sure you have partners. This makes finding funding easier,” said Mr Tshablala.

“Whatever you’re doing or want to produce, you have to have passion to make it succeed.

“To make it, be willing, be hardworking and be hands-on.”