Are you considering starting a business but do not know where to start? Approaching a business incubator for assistance may be a good idea. A business incubator is a programme designed to assist a business in its development and growth phase. Throughout the programme the business owners or entrepreneurs typically receive support in the form of equipped working space, coaching, mentoring, and advice, access to networks, finance and education, depending on the specific program.
For South Africa, the promotion of small businesses remains of paramount importance to creating jobs and a more equitable economy. Incubators in South Africa are largely funded by the government. There are also a few privately-funded incubators. The DTI, in partnership with its Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) is now looking to roll out 250 incubators. However incubators are expensive to set up and run and the government will have to rely on partnering with the private sector to roll out more incubators. The government is also faced with questions of how to both help incubatees find market access and source funding. As well as helping businesses to serve local demand, incubators must also assist businesses to produce goods that have an international demand, if the economy is to grow.
South Africa has a thriving SME sector and there are many companies offering a variety of incubation programmes. These are tailored to deliver a rich practical and educational experience. The entrepreneur is working on his business and it has been argued that this model is better than Business School. These incubation programmes are especially beneficial for the first-time entrepreneur.
It is important for anyone considering entering a business incubator to asses this potential partnership for compatibility with their long term goals. Some programmes provide free assistance while others enter into a profit sharing model. In some cases the entry criteria is the existence of an idea – other incubators require the business to have reached specific revenue. Whatever individual needs a business and its owner may have, there are several incubators that could provide assistance. This list is by no means comprehensive, but should give a sense of some of the options available.
- The African Rose Enterprise Development provides support to emerging essential oil farmers and agro-processing business.
- Aurik is an incubator that invests and builds small businesses into medium sized businesses and then sells them.
- Chemin is an incubator which supports the start-up and growth of SMEs in the downstream chemical industry. Chemin is located in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape Province, but operates nationally.
- Endeavor is a non-profit organisation that identifies and assists high-growth entrepreneurs in emerging markets around the world by providing support for entrepreneurs who are transforming their communities, their industries and their countries with their visionary ideas.
- The Downstream Aluminium Centre for Technology is located in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal Province and focuses on training, skills development and incubation of small enterprises in the aluminium casting industry.
- Egoli Bio assists entrepreneurial life sciences and biotechnology ventures, helping them to survive and grow during the start-up phase.
- Furntech provides training, skills development and business incubation support to potential entrepreneurs and small enterprises involved in furniture manufacturing.
- The Innovation Hub is a science and technology park whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community, by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions. It has created a unique space for high-tech entrepreneurs, world-class businesses, academics, researchers and venture capitalists to meet, network and prosper.
- Shanduka Black Umbrellas is a non-profit company involved in enterprise development and more specifically the support of emerging black business. Black Umbrellas provides a supportive, incubator style environment for emerging, wholly owned black businesses.
- Mpumalanga Agri-skills incubator promotes sustainable agricultural empowerment, development and entrepreneurship of previously disadvantaged individuals and communities in Mpumalanga to create sustainable small agricultural enterprises and lower the risk of financiers, thereby making funding more accessible to small-scale farmers.
- Mpumalanga Stainless Initiative (MSI) is an incubator funded by the DTI and works with SMEs in the manufacturing sector.
- The Nelson Mandela Bay Incubator aims to contribute in the process of creating successful small ICT enterprises in the Eastern Cape. It houses entrepreneurs and supports them with services such as business mentorship, physical infrastructure, industry and investor networking.
- Seda Automative Technology centre’s objective is to develop technology influenced products or services for the automotive industry. Through its partnership with Tshwane University of Technology and the CSIR, the Centre provides technical as well as business development support services to entrepreneurs and small enterprises.
- The Seda construction incubator provides business support services, office infrastructure and other resources to eligible businesses in the construction sector. It focuses specifically on the development of small contracting firms classified under the Construction Industries Development Board (CIDB) as grade 3.
- Seda essential oils business incubator empowers emerging farmers to produce, and in some instances process, high value essential oils. The incubator transfers appropriate technologies to emerging farmers in order to facilitate starting or increasing commercially viable essential oil production.
- Seda Limpopo jewellery incubator develops entrepreneurial jewellers in the Limpopo Province.
- Seda Maphura-Makhura Incubator is a training and technology demonstration incubator which trains local farmers in planting of sunflower and soya beans for the production of biodiesel.
- Seda platinum incubator is a platinum beneficiation and jewellery training and manufacturing incubator, which aims to create an internationally recognised centre of platinum beneficiation excellence and is dedicated to the advancement of skills in the beneficiation of platinum group metals.
- Soft-Start Business and Technology Incubator is a real estate incubator which assisted innovative early stage ICT entrepreneurs with mentoring and support in the strategy and practice of growing a sustainable business, and Bodibeng Technology Incubator, a virtual and real estate incubator which supported high-tech entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses by offering innovative products and services.
- Soshanguve Manufacturing Technology Demonstration centre demonstrates small-scale manufacturing machinery and equipment, to train entrepreneurs to operate and maintain the technologies and to establish new small-scale manufacturing and services ventures. Its vision is to accelerate the establishment and development of low-cost small manufacturing enterprises.
- The Timbali Technology Incubator aims to create a centre for the establishment and support of emerging farmers in the cut flower market
Need further information and guidance? You are welcome to contact me on +27 79 300 8984 and I will be more than happy to help wherever I can!
Good luck with your ideas and new business venture!
Reference: Written by Tendai Tambudze, Sweech South Africa.