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When Luvuyo Rani, a former Cape Town teacher, saw some of his colleagues struggle with new computer technology, he embarked on a new life as a social entrepreneur embracing the informal economy.
Today, he is the chief executive of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, a fast-growing technology start-up that provides clients in South Africa’s townships and rural areas with affordable computer services.
While informal businesses typically do not contribute directly to the fiscus through taxes, Stats SA asserts that it provides livelihoods, employment and income for about 2.5 million workers.
“That represents roughly 17% of total employment,” said Investec economist Lara Hodes. “In a country like South Africa with staggeringly high unemployment and a low labour absorption rate, the informal sector is essential. It keeps many vulnerable households above the poverty line.”
Rani played an instrumental role in the first annual Bootcamp to Boardroom mentorship programme presented by the Cape Town Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO). The six-month programme for 12 social and impact entrepreneurs was held in partnership with the Over the Rainbow Foundation and FURTHER, a human performance business.
Participating in the bootcamp were start-up founders operating in different fields. From IT, cosmetics and education to beauty, coaching and grocery supplies, each founder also had a mentor to help grow their businesses.
“Bootcamp to Boardroom held me accountable to my progress,” explained Unotida Nyoni of Grand Scale Consultancy. This start-up helps other social entrepreneurs to improve their cash-flow and grow their businesses following financial strategy advice, financial literacy education and accounting services.
Besides Rani, who is the diversity chairperson of the EO board, Bootcamp to Boardroom was backed by Western Cape premier Alan Winde.
Challenges faced by Bootcamp to Boardroom entrepreneurs
Participating social entrepreneurs also deliberated on the problems they face, especially in townships where many have no access to incubation spaces that can assist them or test and prove their ideas.
There is also a lack of social capital, or access to market, and especially access to capital funding to scale. However, for those who are able to scale, often the cultural gap is too big. Therefore each participant was assigned a mentor who provided support and guidance on how to take their business to the next level. They were also exposed to industry experts and potential investors.
“I loved the collaboration, the ability to speak to likeminded people and learn so much,” said Tobie Verreynne of Cross Point Life Consultants who helps people to unlock their full potential.
Meanwhile, Siyabonga Shaun Goniwe of Bits and Algorithm, a software solutions start-up, described Bootcamp to Boardroom as “a map” that guides him on his entrepreneurial journey.
“This program has impacted my business far beyond what I could have ever imagined. The connections and doors that have been opened has been tremendous,” added Marlon Alexander of Custom Steel Designs.
According to a media release, EO plans to expand the Bootcamp to Boardroom programme to Johannesburg, Durban and other parts of the world.
The initiative is the brainchild of EO Cape Town Chapter president Julia Finnis-Bedford who is passionate about creating transformation and inclusivity within the EO organisation as well in South Africa. As a group that offers peer-to-peer networking opportunities for established entrepreneurs, she wanted to offer the same to start-ups in the informal sector.