R20-million has been earmarked to fund a competition to help SME start-ups to grow.
Enablis and First National Bank, together with Microsoft, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) have launched South Africa’s largest SME business plan competition for startups and small and medium businesses that want to grow to the next level.
The R20-million FNB Enablis Business Plan Challenge, in partnership with Seda, aims to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to access a pool of funding designed to provide loan guarantees and equity finance to businesses that traditionally have found it difficult to secure finance.
The funding is provided by Khula Enterprise Finance and the Canada Fund for Africa.
More than 20 business and government organisations are partners in the initiative.
The competition is also running a series of national workshops to help entrepreneurs with their business plans.
A team of business advisers will evaluate each business plan, with 60 finalists being selected to present their business plans to a panel of judges. The competition is organised into 10 industry sectors, with a judging panel for each sector.
The competition is open to entrepreneurs in these sectors: tourism & transport; manufacturing; construction; information & communication technologies; mining beneficiation; media; energy; property & retail; services; and agriculture.
Business plans can be submitted for ideas or existing businesses in these sectors, or for products and services that are directly related to these sectors.
The 20 winners will go through to the funding evaluation stage, and will also receive a selection of prizes including Proline laptop computers from Pinnacle Micro, a business stationery kit from PostNet, an extensive business library from Pan Macmillan and free membership of the valuable Enablis entrepreneur network.
The competition funding pool is double that of last year, and the number of industry sectors has also been doubled from five to 10.
Connie Nkosi, chairman of Enablis South Africa, says the competition filled a critical gap for entrepreneurs who often struggled to get someone to properly evaluate their business plan.
“For the third year running, Enablis, together with its partners, is opening a door of opportunity to entrepreneurs with good business ideas and expansion plans. This is what we mean when we say Enablis empowers people and ideas," she says.
In Gauteng, the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) will partner with the competition to run additional workshops to assist entrepreneurs in the province, as well as distribute entry forms to ensure as many Gauteng entrepreneurs as possible can enter.
The CEO of GEP, David Morobe, says: “GEP is proud to be the Gauteng provincial partner for the competition. Together we will assist our entrepreneurs to develop winning business plans and improve their sustainability.
“Our success as a province depends on the energy and success of our entrepreneurs and SMEs, and this competition will create more opportunities to identify and support them."
The CEO of Seda, Wawa Damane, says the competition would provide a strong incentive to SMEs to think more strategically and systematically about their business plans. “The competition is a new contribution to our efforts to help start-ups and early stage businesses launch and grow in a sustainable way."
Heather Third, business and marketing officer at Microsoft, says: “Technology and entrepreneurship go hand in hand, and we encourage entrepreneurs to enter the competition and think strategically about how they can use information and communication technologies in their business plans to be more efficient and to enhance their marketing impact.”
The closing date for the competition is August 31. Enterprise Support, a national network of business advisers linked by an on-line small business support system, will be responsible for the evaluation of the plans to select the 60 finalists, six in each of the 10 industry sectors.