5 Ways a Business Accelerator has empowered black, women industrialists in the manufacturing sector

Transformation and the empowerment of women, particularly black women, in business are phrases that have been bandied about for many years in South Africa. Strides have been made, but progress has not always been as rapid as envisioned, with many women still not benefitting from opportunities in some sectors. However, the Durban Chemicals Cluster through its local Business Accelerator is blazing a trail in providing small black-owned, regional businesses in the industry with the necessary resources to fast-track them into sustainable, profitable enterprises.

“Big business, like FFS, H&R, NCS Resins, Ferro Dispersions, Ferro Coating Resins, Sherwin-Williams and SAPREF together with eThekwini Municipality, have been working together on the Accelerator for over five years now and every year small black-owned enterprises are empowered, transformation is enabled, and localisation is driven to the benefit of all parties,” says Meghan King from the Durban Chemicals Cluster. “By taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Business Accelerator in the Durban Chemicals Cluster, black women can put their businesses in the fast lane and the good news is that applications for 2022 are now open”.

She highlights five ways that black women in the manufacturing sector have realised the benefits of being involved in the Business Accelerator:

1. Big Business Contracts: Participants can pitch their value proposition to potential clients and funders. For example, Portio Dlamini, CEO of Emakheni Cleaning and Industrial Solutions, who participated in the 2019 Accelerator, said that the Accelerator brought a significant shift to her business, especially regarding business growthand market penetration. “It enabled us to operate professionally, service more clients, improve our systems and tackle bigger projects, all while employing and up-skilling more people.” As a result, Emakheni managed to secure two large cleaning contracts, one with Ferro Dispersions and one with Unilever after participating in the Accelerator. 

2. Cash and Preferential Loans: Empowerment through financial support is key to the Business Accelerator – SMEs can win big through both cash prizes at the Dragons’ Den event and preferential loans secured through partnerships built over the longer term. “Emakheni was also granted a loan for capital investments,” says Portio, “which we used after securing the two office cleaning contracts with Ferro Dispersions and Unilever. In this way, we were assisted in building our business.”

3. Top Leaders as Mentors: The industry’s best are there to walk the SMEs through the Accelerator so that they’re set up for success. “As a part of the Business Accelerator’s upgrading and mentorship support, we have been working closely with a manufacturing industry expert to implement lean thinking and production methodologies in the factory to stabilise production and drive efficiencies,” says Xoliswa Hlongwane, Owner and Founder of XO Collection. “As a result, our production planning and scheduling have improved, and we can more accurately assess our capacity and performance levels. Despite the impact of COVID-19 and the KZN civil unrest, our team has been working at capacity and staff members have not been put on short-time.”

4. Collaboration and Partnerships: The aim of the Accelerator is to identify high potential, black-owned, local businesses within local manufacturing sectors and bring them alongside large-scale firms that are potential customer For example, MAD Design Studio is owned by the creative husband and wife duo, Mholi and Nqobile Mthembu. After entering and progressing through the initial stages of the 2021 Business Accelerator, their business caught the attention of Homewood and Mr Price Home, two prominent South African retailers, who have subsequently expressed interest in a design and manufacture collaboration.

5. Business Case Development: Since partaking in the 2021 Business Accelerator, Ecogift has received skills development training and business case development mentorship, become fully tax compliant, submitted their National Bargaining Council (NBC) application, and has recently been approved for a technology transfer grant. Nozipho Dube, CEO of Ecogift adds, “We are so grateful for this opportunity that has seen us amass a range of essential skills including benchmarking, lean thinking and production methodologies and compliance. I would recommend that every small black business, serious about their future in the Chemicals industry, enters the Business Accelerator NOW.”

“This opportunity is open to all black-owned SMEs, but we’re hoping to see our women step up to take advantage, particularly in women’s month,” concludes Meghan, “so if you are serious about growth and success, enter now by submitting your details here Accelerator Application Form (https://durbanchemicalscluster.org.za/business-accelerator-2/) .”

For more information, download the Small Business Accelerator information pack here: https://adobe.ly/3ccBGKi

Nozipho Dube, CEO of Ecogift

MAD Design Studio is owned by the creative husband and wife duo, Mholi and Nqobile Mthembu