SMALL businesses in the Eastern Cape are set to benefit from Woolworths' multimillion-rand enterprise development programme after the retailer announced it was intensifying efforts to support local business.
Woolworths has now intensified enterprise development support to 40 small enterprises, which all receive business development support and financial assistance from the retailer.
Some of the 40 businesses are already Woolworths suppliers.
In the last financial year, more than R4.3-million in loans was disbursed to these small enterprises, while emerging entrepreneurs were also able to access business opportunities worth R157-million from the retailer.
More than 5000 people are either employed or supported by the owners of these small enterprises.
"Woolworths is committed to identifying opportunities for suppliers to grow with the business.
"In addition to giving suppliers access to the marketplace, Woolworths also supports emerging suppliers with training that covers best practice in technical and business management skills, organisational development and financing where possible," Woolworths enterprise development manager Litha Kutta said.
The Woolworths enterprise development programme supports BEE supplier partners and develops new enterprises to enter its supplier base. Through this strategy, Woolworths assists emerging black-owned suppliers to become sustainable businesses.
One of these enterprises is Eastern Cape community initiative the Greater Uitenhage Sewing Co-operative (Gusco) in Nelson Mandela Bay. It supplies Woolworths with reusable bags.
Kutta said Gusco had been supplying the retailer since September 2005.
"Formed by the Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative [UDDI], Gusco is an amalgamation of several informal community sewing groups," Kutta said.
"Woolworths was Gusco's first big retail client and remains a key customer. The success of enterprise development projects like Gusco has encouraged us to continue our efforts to support South Africa's emerging entrepreneurs." Gusco administrator Nomalungelo Klaas said if it were not for Woolworths' enterprise development programme, she and most of her colleagues would be "sitting at home doing nothing".
"The programme has helped us grow our initiative and create employment," Klaas said.
The latest addition to the programme is a husband and wife team who have turned a business making plastic bags into a thriving manufacturer of luxury paper bags for Country Road and Trenery – luxury brands owned by Woolworths.
Classique Bags, based in Johannesburg, produces and supplies recyclable paper shopping bags for Trenery and Country Road stores.
Manager and co-owner of Classique Humeira Kazi said through the Woolworths enterprise development programme, the family business received a R100000 loan to secure separate premises and additional equipment to accommodate orders.
"Today we have a staff complement of 21, of which four have been with us from the very beginning. All our employees start out unskilled and receive on- the-job training. Our family approach extends to our staff in that we are not only a family-run business, but a business family."