Thoughts on my journey as an entrepreneur:
I left full time employment for the first time at the end of 2019, and started my business, after years of dreaming about it, and preparing. I was 35. (I also adopted a baby at the same time, but that’s another story.)
I became an entrepreneur relatively late in life, after going the corporate career ladder route in my twenties & early thirties. This means that I have access to more social and financial capital than the average entrepreneur. This includes personal savings (now depleted, haha).
It also means I have a fairly robust network and list of connections that again, the average entrepreneur does not have. I say all this because here’s the thing: It’s been SO hard for me. And I’m so privileged. For others, particularly black women, it’s insanely hard.
Climbing the corporate ladder and surviving boardroom politics is child’s play in comparison. And this is what gets me: getting one’s foot in the door as an entrepreneur requires so much support. There’s a reason many of those who make it in SA come from the upper middle class.
Particularly those who made it as a young entrepreneur, straight out of university. They may have had family supporting them financially so they could take these risks. They probably didn’t have huge student loans to pay off. Or black tax to pay.
So how do we help those without these privileges gain access? And enable more black women owners, particularly in the media/tech space.
One solution is incubation / start-up programmes that actually work. This is a buzzing space with so much on offer but little of value.
Personally I have been blown away by the support offered by the South African Media Innovation Program (Samip). Every industry needs something like this. The support surpasses anything else on offer to up-and-coming entrepreneurs. This is the way we open doors for those without access.
But even with Samip, I am acutely aware of how privileged I am in this space, again. My personal savings, my networks, etc. Even if I had to spend my twenties building those up while paying off student loans, and paying black tax.
So we need to enable others, especially black women, who don’t have that. Small businesses SHOULD be the backbone of our economy. Say 10% of a population has what it takes to start a business. They hire just one or two others. This is how we break the back of unemployment & poverty.
Two years later I’ve hired four people full time and two on contract. But the battle to keep going is difficult and boy, is the red tape arduous. What is the Department of Small Business doing about this? Why did I have to hire someone to do my Sars, UIF, workman’s compensation & other registrations as it was so confusing?
[Update: Following my own hassles with all the necessary registrations, I see government has launched a one-stop shop to get this done at bizportal.gov.za. I haven’t used it but it looks good and even has a domain-booking service. So if inspiration strikes you can make it a reality right away with a registered business and potential website. Then the hard work begins, lol.]
Anyway, those are my thoughts. We have a program that is working wonders in Samip. What are others that have created good results? How do we emulate this for other industries and other entrepreneurs? And how do we make it SUPER easy for those who want to start a business?
Where are the tax incentives, preferential rates for internet access and so on? Some things are being done by government but it’s not coordinated & Covid dealt us all a huge blow. I still can’t believe we survived.
Ok that’s it from me.
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