THE challenge for start-ups or expanding businesses is not about getting access to funding, but rather about their understanding of how to access it, says Standard Bank Small Enterprises manager Mzi Baleni.
Presenting a seminar on how to access finance at the My Business Expo at the Boardwalk Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth yesterday, Baleni said on average 200000 successful start-ups in the country were established each year, with the potential to create at least 800000 jobs. "Entrepreneurs should first go to either the Eastern Cape Development Corporation or Small Enterprise Development Agency to help them prepare for financing before they approach the banks. These organisations help entrepreneurs make their business plans viable," Baleni said.
"We are not in the business of repossessing. It costs banks more money to do that. Our primary function is to lend money."
Held across the country and sponsored by Microsoft, the My Business Expo will add Port Elizabeth as a venue to its yearly calendar, National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) founder and chief executive Mike Anderson said. The NSBC, whose slogan is "small business is big business", is a free organisation for SMMEs.
"The business environment is not easy and the casualty rate is very high in South Africa. However, if you keep moving and never give up, you will arrive at where you want to be. Set big goals, but take tiny steps to get there. If a goal does not excite you and make you a bit nervous, you need to think bigger," Anderson said.
One of the tips given by Anderson to the hundreds of delegates attending the expo was to embrace failure and to learn from it.
"I lost everything a few years back but I was excited when this happened because I knew I couldn't go any lower. It is very difficult to get funding after a failure and the banks need to change their thinking about this. About 80% of people starting a business fail within the first 1000 days."
He also said "sales are everything – if you have an abundance of sales, cash will flow".
Business strategist Gavin Sharples told delegates people were persuaded more by passion than logical proof.
Describing sales as "the most fun you can have with your clothes on", he said entrepreneurs and owners determined what they did every day and therefore set their own sales targets.
NSBC head of creative and social media Leanne Rhodes said "word of mouth" had now become "world of mouth" which allowed small businesses to have access to a huge audience on the various social platforms at a minimal cost.