Wednesday, December 8, 2010

being black!

Ntuthu and Lira are 2 young female entrepreneurs with a good business concept. They sanitize and clean computers, telephones, fax machines, screens etc...anything in the office/workplace where more than one person touches with their hands. They have studied through the RAA school for entrepreneurship and they have received some start up funding. Sounds good right? Well there is a problem with this picture. They are black and there is one big downside. Most businesses they need the work and contracts from are white owned and controlled. And yes it is damn hard for them to open any doors unless some white guy helps them. If you think I am just ranting on about this as a race issue then you are correct. Its much easier to be a small business and white in South Africa as you may have some contacts that will popen doors, or people just assume trust because of the colour of your skin. Black business and truly black ideas struggle much more than white businesses do. The question is what can be done about it. When people like Ntuthu and Lira or Vuyisile from the stick fighting company knock on your door you have to understand that this is a massive step these young people are taking. A step in self confidence, belief, and trust. Its the way you say no or the way you dismiss them. They are not there to beg for a job. They are selling themselves as much as their products/services. The country is always talking about increased entrepreneurship and small business but in reality we arent giving these people a chance. I sent Ntuthu and Lira around my complex and it was not that they received a no, it was dismissive and degrading. Yes, they will make mistakes, and yes they may need some guidance and mentoring. But how else will they make the transition from job seeker to job creator. There should be a policy in every company, that if a young black entrepreneur knocks on your door trying to sell themselves and their businesses the company should hear them out, give them some decent feedback, and now and then bet on them...give a few of them a chance. Even a trial period will teach them valuable lessons. Perhaps Minister Patel in his NGP paper could have added a practical idea like this...all companies are not only measured on procurement but also on how many small black owned businesses they let through their door to pitch their services to.