Monday, February 01, 2010

Business Plan Competition draw 6000 Entries

The now annual business plan competition organised by Enablis, First national bank and SEDA, have so far this year drawn a massive 6000 entries from hopeful entrepreneurs, hoping to gain access to the almost R50 mil in prizes and start-up capital provided by the sponsors.

The competition launched in 2006 is increasingly sponsoring larger numbers of entrepreneurs to support entrepreneurship oin South Africa, job creation, the small business sector and of course the wider economy.

Jane Steinacker of Times Live writes:


Despite the almost 50% contribution that the small business sector makes to the output of the South African economy, the sector's contribution to GDP and employment, its growth has stagnated at about 5% for the past three years, says Heather Lowe, head of enterprise development at FNB Commercial.

Lowe believes that it's not only South Africa's culture of employment and entrepreneurship that is at fault, but also small business's limited access to funding and support.

Lowe says early-stage development finance is missing, adding that South Africa has a limited pool of angel investors and venture capitalists to help stimulate the sector.

In an attempt to stimulate the sector, the bank and other institutions with an interest in SME development have for the past five years clubbed together to host what has become the largest business plan competition in South Africa.

Organised by the Canadian-based entrepreneurship development NGO Enablis, the 2009 FNB Enablis Seda Business Launchpad competition offers winners preferential access to a pool of R50-million in funding, as well as a goodie bag that includes a new laptop and bag, Microsoft office software, Microsoft training voucher and Enablis membership.

In its first year the competition received 500 entries.

Five years later, 6000 hopefuls in 10 industry sectors submitted business ideas for consideration.

This year the competition went online, and entrants needed simply to fill in a business plan template to enter.

Long-winded business plans were not necessary. Additional support was provided by the small enterprise development agency (Seda), whose offices assisted entrants with their submissions, says its executive manager for corporate services, Kaybee Motlholoa.

The South African Institute of Entrepreneurship waded through the entries and supplied the competition organisers with a short-list.

"Of all the entrants, about 2500 went through for judging," says competition director Martin Feinstein, adding that if the plan submitted was "worth something, it was going to get somewhere".

In its first year the competition had five winners. This month 19 winners were chosen, and this number is expected to grow. "The day is not far off where we will get close to 100 winners, provincially and nationally," says Feinstein.

This year's winners are spread across South Africa, from Sello Moloantoa's electrical business in Pretoria to Elana Marie Snyman's theatre stage props design and manufacturing business in Stellenbosch.

"We believe we can assist the winners with both financial and non-financial support to accelerate their path to success," says Feinstein, who calls upon the services offered by the sponsors of the competition to assist.

These include FNB, the lead sponsor and funding partner, the Seda, Microsoft, Khula enterprise finance, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, Western Cape provincial government and Red Door, Mpumalanga provincial government, Eastern Cape Development Corporation, SA Institute for Entrepreneurship, Softstart BTI, Raizcorp and INSEAD, which is the mentorship partner.

Enablis and its partners continue to invest in the competition with a view to assisting as many entrepreneurs as well as 18 to 24- year-olds who Feinstein believes have "bleak prospects for the future".

"We want to help entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses for themselves," he says.


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