I recently felt quite upset at the Black Business Chamber and their organisers who wanted to help grassroots small businesses. Instead they helped some very basic businesses that i feel are disingenous to young people in this country as far as innovation and entrepreneurship are concerned and set us up for mediocrity.
In Response to the article about the Black Business Chambers awards I was severely disappointed. Why? If South Africa is going to promote chicken farmers and uninspiring small businesses as the way forward then there is no hope for small business in this country. The talent does exist in South Africa to promote more innovative businesses but schools and universities don't understand how to train young people to find new ideas that will inspire fresh approaches and innovation. I can recall one entrepreneur who took all the chicken skins that were discarded by retailers and turn them into a crunchy new snack and another entrepreneur who looked at the methods of township chicken sellers struggling toy take the feathers off chicken and designing a whole new methodology to remove the feathers. What the Black Business Chamber has done in promoting small business is scandalous and a total waste of time and resources. Its time we started teaching kids in this country the skills to be innovative and creative and to find the many business opportunities that are available to them.
One of their responses:
I hope you are well. Thank you for sharing your views on the Black Business Chamber and it's recent Grassroots business competition.
I understand your frustration. At the same time, I also do understand what the Black Business Chamber is trying to achieve through the competition.
Below are some of the reasons I do support the competition, namely:
1. There are socio-economic reasons why such type of businesses should be supported to initiate growth.
2. Most of the grassroots businesses cannot access existing business support/ resources because of many known reasons.
I think the Black Business Chamber achieved their goal through the competition. The goal is to support the grassroots businesses in CT. Here are two of recent examples to support my thinking:
1. The owner of the chicken business is now working on setting up a farm to supply restaurants and hotels in WC and EC. I am writing this email now sitting at Marcos African place, just eat the chicken the company want to farm (runway/ village chicken). There is a huge market for the runway chicken.
2. Didiza Productions used to do small TV scripts "here" and "there." But now, the company is now negotiating a contract with the Department of Defence to facilitate and manage the hiring of military equipment and installations by the Film Industry in RSA. This proposal is now supported by the Minister of Trade and Industry (see Minister trip to Hollywood news), Wesgro, WC and KZN Film Commissions, the Military Veteran, and more. I am accompany the owner of the company to attend another meeting with Wesgro tomorrow.
The above are some of the reasons I think, with no doubt, that without this approach, the above businesses could have not seen the light to growth but remain "grassroots" despite potential.
I don't think every business must be based on a new idea only but it can also be working on a basic idea and do it very well.
My experience tells me that the Black Business Chamber must continue with the competition to support the "grassroots" businesses to initiate growth. It is for this reason the Black Business Chamber is relevant to these type of businesses.
To sum up, I think different organizations will always find own ways to promote the culture of entrepreneurship.
I asked the students at RAA who are trained to come up with awesome fresh innovative ideas what they thought. They were as disgusted as me and felt that this kind of competition downgrades young people in this country. They beleive like me that with skills training and decent ideas generation that all young people can become entrepreneurs instead of small survivalist businesses.
The examples given above of small business "making it" are dubious at most in my opinion as i have been around for a very long time and heard these kind of delusional examples many times over.
In conclusion i am advocating for young people in this country to reach their full potential wether educated or not, wether rich or poor, to be skilled in the art of entrepreneurship and to use their full range of creative spirit as a young person instead of becoming small scale chicken farmers ( no offence to chicken farmers)